Will 'Star Wars' memorabilia go up in value? Collectors, auction houses sound off

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Collectors and auction houses immediately perked up their ears upon Tuesday’s announcements that Disney is buying Lucasfilm and a new Star Wars movie is slated for 2015. Will the value of Star Wars items — and especially those hybrid pieces of Disneyland memorabilia advertising Star Wars – go up? Those devoted fans — Star Wars junkies who have clamored after all things Jedi such as figurines, posters, costumes, and yes, lightsabers — voiced their support and skepticism to EW.

“The buzz among both fans and collectors appears pretty unanimous: Excitement! I think a lot of collectors see the acquisition as assurance that the Star Wars property will live a long, healthy life in Disney’s hands, which by extension will keep the rarer and more sought-after pieces in their collections in demand,” said Pete Vilmur, a longtime collector, former senior editor at Lucas Online and co-author of the books The Star Wars Poster Book, Star Wars: The Complete Vader, and The Star Wars Vault: Thirty Years of Treasures from the Lucasfilm Archives. “With Star Wars likely to be experienced at the theme park level, and with new films on deck, there will be a constant stream of new fans and collectors entering the market as soon as nostalgia, and some disposable income, set in. So yeah, there’s a lot to be optimistic about if you’re a Star Wars fan and/or collector!”

Vilmur noted that there may be elevated interest in Disney-Star Wars crossover merchandise, such as retro posters advertising Star Wars days at Disneyland, following Tuesday’s announcement, but that they would likely fade back to pre-announcement levels after a short time.

“It’s possible that collectors who value the history of the saga may lend some added attention on the Disney-Star Wars hybrid merchandise, since these pieces have now taken on a bit of historical interest,” said Vilmiur. “Before too long, one can imagine, there will be a split among collectors of this type of material that divides the ‘vintage’ and the ‘modern’ – labeled ‘Lucasfilm/Disney’ and ‘Disney/Lucasfilm’!”

Long term, though, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm will only broaden an existing fan and collector fan base, Vilmur said.

“It can be argued that the warm fuzzy memories adults have of their first trip to a Disney theme park as a kid has fed their appetite for Disney merchandise as parents,” he added.

The Disney-Star Wars items that may be eye-wateringly popular among collectors? Star Tours posters greeting guests at Disney theme parks, pins, posters, and cast member pieces, plus limited edition Star Wars character statues produced for special Star Wars Weekends.

Darren Julien, president and CEO of Beverly Hills-based Julien’s Auctions, which specializes in Hollywood memorabilia, said the acquisition will only add to the value of Star Wars items. A Star Wars practice lightsaber (pictured above) is coincidentally up for auction as part of the company’s Icons & Idols Hollywood auction taking place Nov. 9 and 10.

“Disney will put a modern spin on a classic, something that’s extremely popular. The original items from the original Star Wars films will always be most valuable,” said Julien. “The ones that are the most iconic bring the most value. The first three Star Wars films are always the most valuable in terms of memorabilia.”

During the filming of the first three movies, Julien said, there wasn’t a sense of just how valuable those items were. People would walk off the set with pieces from the films. “Now, because those items have tremendous value, the studios especially put in their contracts that the right to the memorabilia belong to them.”

Both Disney items and Stars Wars memorabilia hold their own increasing value individually, Julien added. For instance, checks made out by Walt Disney himself have sold at auction through Julien’s for $5,000, drawings by Disney have sold for $10,000 to $15,000, and posters for the original Star Wars trilogy have sold for $10,000 to $20,000, and will increase in value, Julien said.

Fans, early on, started collecting Star Wars memorabilia out of passion for the original movies, not financial gain, but the items will only gain in worth, Julien said. A Carrie Fisher miniature from Empire Strikes Back gifted to her by George Lucas himself sold at auction at Julien’s 10 years ago for $40,000, and could easily go for $150,000 to $200,000 today, he said. A fighter ship model that Carrie Fisher gave Julien’s, also gifted to her by Lucas, sold at auction for $40,000 in 2002, and would also likely sell today for between $150,000 and $200,000. Art auction house Christie’s recently sold at auction a storm trooper outfit for more than $300,000.

“The items that are sought after most are from ‘the good old days,’ but no one really knew what they had. It’s hard to know what the future will hold. With the movie in 2015, in five, 10 years after that, those items will be valuable, but not as much as the original,” he said. “The people who bought original items emotionally are far better off from a financial standpoint. Up until the last 10 years, most of the items from the original Star Wars were emotional purchases, not as a financial investment.”

Both Vilmur and collector Tom Hodges, an artist who worked for Lucasfilm from 2004 through 2011 on projects including The Clone Wars web comic for starwars.com, agree that early material, especially low-production items related to Lucas’ original 1977 Star Wars, are always in high demand. That means high-end art prints, toys and figures.

“I’ve gone from collecting a lot of things, in the hundreds, to being more focused. It went from master replicas, and everything published book wise to focusing on storm troopers, clone troopers and Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the bounty hunters,” said Hodges. “From a personal viewpoint, the Disney/Star Wars mash-up stuff, like Mickey Mouse as Anakin, or as Luke, that stuff is going to disappear. It’s going to fly off shelves, if it’s mass-produced. Plus, eBay will be loaded with this stuff. The value on the older stuff, from the ‘70s, early ‘80s, will probably go through the roof. I love the original films. I saw the first Star Wars opening weekend. I saw Empire Strikes Back on opening day.”

Hodges, though, speculated on how an over abundance of merchandise made by Hasbro for Lucas’ later prequels, especially 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, makes those items less collectible. A Mickey Mouse lightsaber, for instance, at a Disneyland gift shop bought for $20 would be worth $20, as a mass-produced collectible, but it would still likely not be available in regular toy stores, upping its rarity. Disney should limit production on those items, Hodges said.

“The whole situation is so new, and you’re going to wonder if it’s going to hurt the market for a while,” said Hodges. “With Superman, the 1992 issue, #75, when Doomsday killed Superman, everyone bought five, six, seven copies of the comics. Most of those comics now are in $1 bins. It went through 10 or so printings, but the later printings are more valuable now, since fewer people bought them.”

Julien added that a worldwide demand for Star Wars memorabilia, including in Asia, has also surged over the years, making the market even more competitive.

“They’re huge into sci-fi, Star Wars, in China, Japan. That market has really increased the value, because they’re collectors themselves,” said Julien. “They are a bit more fanatical about items than in the States, and they’re willing to pay a lot more.”

For more film news

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