Last weekend Julien’s Auctions sold an original Star Wars prop at a price that puts it among the highest prices ever for the public sale of a Star Wars movie prop, and it’s not going to be the last time you see it, like you’d find with most auction sales. We have covered previous auctions here at borg.com for higher selling items (like the original Robby the Robot last November that sold for $5.375 million), and this latest prop didn’t catch up with the pieced together R2-D2 that sold at Profiles in History’s auction last June for $2.76 million, but it’s still impressive. This time it was a Han Solo non-firing prop blaster from Return of the Jedi that resulted in the auction’s big win. It sold at $550,000, which included the auction house “kicker” or buyer’s premium of a hefty $100,000. The winning bidder? Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which added this to their Star Wars collection that already included a Luke Skywalker lightsaber said to have been used in The Empire Strikes Back, purchased last year at auction for $450,000. With most auction lots landing in private hands never to see daylight again, this is a rare instance where fans may get a chance to see this on display in person.
No other franchise touches Star Wars when it comes to auction prices paid for screen-used memorabilia, and the cream of the crop has been props associated with named characters. Pieces of Star Wars costumes, some associated with the bankrupt Planet Hollywood chain, have sold at auction over the years, mostly incomplete, including a Chewbacca mask (for $120,000 in 2007 at Profiles in History), Darth Vader components (like a mask, for $115,000 plus premium, at Profiles in History in 2003), C-3PO parts (like his head, for $120,000 in a 2008 profiles in history auction), multiple Imperial troopers, Princess Leia’s slave outfit from Return of the Jedi (for $96,000 at Profiles in History in 2015), and the aforementioned R2-D2. Screen-used models also have fetched a hefty sum, including the filming miniature model of the Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship from the opening scene of the original Star Wars that sold for $465,000, and a miniature filming model of a TIE Fighter that sold for more than $400,000.
Another Han Solo blaster, a prop weapon that fired blanks unlike the Julien’s prop but was also from Return of the Jedi, sold as part of the Stembridge Armory Collection back in 2007 for $201,600. The Julien’s blaster had the distinction of being owned by Return of the Jedi art director James Schoppe, the kind of provenance high-end collectors flock toward. Another Luke Skywalker lightsaber, from the original Star Wars, authenticated by producer Gary Kurtz, sold in 2005 at Profiles in History for $200,600.
Designed by the master of modern sci-fi movie set decoration Roger Christian, the Han Solo blaster prop was custom-made, built on a metal working non-firing model version of the German Mauser C96 (“Broomhandle Mauser”) from MGC (Model Gun Corporation) of Japan, with additional found parts, greeblies, and cast resin pieces added. A Biker Scout blaster sold at the Julien’s auction this weekend for $90,625, including buyer’s premium, and an Ewok prop axe sold for $11,250, including buyer’s premium.
Julien’s Auctions held the sale–its “Hollywood Legends” auction–in Las Vegas, Saturday, June 23, 2018. The sale included various pieces from Schoppe’s personal collection, plus other items, including one of three 1949 Triumph Trophy TR500 motorcycles used by Henry Winkler as The Fonz on Happy Days (selling for $179,200, including buyer’s premium).
In Star Wars canon, the “BlasTech DL-44” blaster was used by Han Solo to kill Greedo in the famous “who shot first?” scene in the Mos Eisley cantina, which George Lucas infamously revised for his special edition release of the original trilogy to show Greedo firing first. This is not the actual prop from that scene, however, but it was the style of signature prop side-arm Harrison Ford carried throughout the original trilogy. Solo would carry the weapon in the Star Wars saga up to his death in The Force Awakens, but fans would only learn last month during Solo: A Star Wars Story that the blaster originally belonged to Han’s pal Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson, who modified it before passing it along to the famous smuggler. As studios always create multiple copies of a prop for production, this means now several more screen-used versions of Han Solo’s blaster exist.