The Prop Store (formerly the Prop Store of London) had a great booth at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, with a wall full of production-made and screen-used props and costumes.  The most recognizable to sci-fi fans is probably this nice condition Uhura dress from the original Star Trek season 1 or 2.  (I am assuming they have good provenance for this one as a real Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura costume or they wouldn’t have it on display, but you couldn’t see any tags from its display to tell just by looking).  It also has appropriate arm rank braids and William Ware Theiss’s unique sunburst design.  A pretty costume in person!

 

Uhura costumes of any variety are rare, as they didn’t change her wardrobe throughout the series and movies as much as her male counterparts.  This piece was not for sale at Comic-Con but on display from a recent buyer.  Here is a close-up of the delta patch:

The Prop Store representatives told me they try to sell a shirt at their booth that matches something on display, and this year’s shirt is appropriate and clever (see top of article above)–“Comic Khan 2011”.  And here is the Khan vest on display from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of my favorite films I saw in the theatre as a kid:

Definitely a rare and a sought after style because of Khan’s position as the best villain of the Star Trek universe.  But if you can afford the $30-35,000 for this vest (I heard two different sale amounts), you can afford to wait for the studio to sell off its studio pieces one day, or for the buyer from a previous Profiles of History auction to put his/her more complete costume set on the market again.  For this kind of money a buyer should examine the piece in person and make certain he/she knows what he/she is getting.  My concerns with the jacket at this price level:

  • I think the Prop Store piece is a back-up piece that may not have made it to filming.  The piece is incredibly clean compared to screenshots, as if it was a back-up that was not used, and not completely distressed with singe and wear marks from early scenes (the character was supposedly wearing this for years in the story) or blood and battle damage from later scenes, or it has been extensively cleaned.  Yes, it has the cut marks that match both the screencaps and other costumes that have surfaced, but other details of distressing are missing.  My money is on it being a back-up, since, for example, you can see from handling other outfits from the same scene–the Khan crew outfits–that the distressing used for even background pieces is not something that could just be washed off.  Those marks are painted or dyed and they are permanent.  
  • The Prop Store piece includes no typical indicia of a hero piece.  Is it rare and clearly identifiable for the character of Khan?  You bet.  But my understanding is this piece has no sewn tag stating Ricardo Montalban’s name, indicating to me you cannot unquestionably state it is more than a stunt Khan piece.  Every Khan crewmen costume I have seen has a clear sewn in tag with the name of the actor or actress.  This has a paper tag (with name misspelled, which can be found on even confirmed costumes from time to time), but these are easily created, and do not establish provenance.  Still cool and rare, just no proof offered of it being a “hero” piece worthy of such a hefty price tag. 

This Prop Store piece is the fifth Khan costume lot we’ve seen publicly.  The studio owns two versions it uses for its Star Trek tour, and Profiles in History sold one in 2002 that appears from photos to match closer to movie screencaps, and contains the several collateral decorative pieces–key pieces that in my view make the outfit, including the necklace made from a destroyed Starfleet belt buckle–the coolest part of the whole costume.  (I haven’t seen these close enough to know whether these are real, replicas, heroes or stunts, but believe at a minimum the Profiles sale lot is the real thing).  Here is the 2002 sale lot:

Here are the two from the Star Trek tours:

Profiles in History sold a different Khan costume last year, a neat mask and turban set from Khan’s opening scene (notably with clear labels stating “Ricardo Montalban” and “Kahn” (sic).  This Prop Store vest makes number five.  Are there more Khan pieces out there?  Could be.  But more items surfacing should drive the price down, not up. 

The Prop Store would do well to have someone like Tom Spina make a creative display for it as he did with the recent Profiles in History opening scene Khan mask and turban set, which although not used for the entirety of the movie, displays much better compared to the piece on display at Comic-Con.  On its simple black half form, the Prop Store vest looked sort of like an old, yellow, velour consignment shop piece from the 1970s compared to how cool it should display. 

The Khan piece I’d like to get my hands on?  Khan’s necklace or his slick metal accented gloves, one of which sold through Profiles in History in 2002 with the mask and turban set that sold last year without the glove:

Ultimately, I think Khan is univerally the best Trek villain because of Ricardo Montalban’s voice and charismatic acting, not his costume.  I don’t think this costume is intrinsically cool, especially after viewing this in person, as are so many other costumes in the Star Trek universe.  And for the asking price, you could buy a whole bridge crew of Klingons or Romulans.  More bang for the buck, in my view.

But Prop Store had more than just Star Trek on display (although that would have been enough).  They also had this superb Abe Sapien latex mask from Hellboy II: The Golden Army:

Abe Sapien is one of the best creatures in one of the best comic book film franchises, created by the great Mike Mignola.

They also displayed several other pieces such as prop weapons, a lot from Gladiator, and pieces from Pan’s Labyrinth, the Terminator series, the Raiders of the Lost Ark series and Superman II.  And last but not least was this beautiful, recognizable head of our favorite golden protocol droid, C-3PO from The Empire Strikes Back.  A great mask no matter how you slice it.

 

The Prop Store sells props and costumes from its Los Angeles and UK offices, via its website at www.propstore.com   I look forward to seeing what they have on display next year!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com