An item was listed on eBay yesterday, marketed as an original tricorder prop from Star Trek: The Original Series, with an opening bid amount of $12,000, which has raised some concerns in the Star Trek collecting community as to it’s authenticity:
“Star Trek TOS Original Series Tricorder Prop (1966-69)” (eBay Item #280203748990)
Higher Resolution Archive: Star Trek TOS Original Series Tricorder Prop (1966-69)
Another collector had brought this auction to my attention privately, and before making inquiries with Trek collectors, I personally found several “red flags” with the auction itself, in terms of how it is marketed.
I started an inquiry about this auction on the Star Trek Props, Costumes, and Auctions forum (see “Star Trek Tos Original Series Tricorder Prop (1966-69)“), and the eBay seller, gbgur01, was evidently a member of the forum as well, via the username gbg1701, and he responded promptly by posting a response to my topic.
My advice to the seller was to “pull the auction and have it properly authenticated. If it is authentic, as you believe, you will achieve a higher sales price. If it isn’t, you will have saved another collector from being defrauded.”
The seller was subsequently banned from the forum at the discretion of the administrator, but this is a summary of my own observations as posted in the topic:
1) A savvy original prop collector (which the seller clearly appears to be) would not likely list a five figure important and iconic prop such as this for sale on eBay – it makes no business sense. Such a piece would be consigned with a reputable auction house, and subsequently, be required to stand up to the further public scrutiny of the collecting world. A seasoned collector would take the time, energy, and expense to have it professionally authenticated by the top expert(s) in the field. The more solid provenance, the higher the market value. With a prop such as this, provenance is everything.
2) The marketing description in the auction is dense with text, information, and opinions, but when it comes down to it, all there seems to be in terms of provenance is a COA from a long defunct auctioneer. Most of the comments provided by the seller have no relevance to provenance and authenticity, and in many instances are distractions and misleading (namedropping other auction houses, talking about extensive research and reference materials, and references to other tools that are apparently not applicable or employed with regards to the prop actually offered).
3) No mention is made of the many fake TOS pieces in the marketplace, the unfortunate reality that an iconic piece such as a tricorder is more likely fake than authentic, and that such pieces have been falsely authenticated by prop dealers, experts, and even current and reputable auction houses.
4) The seller showcases the values realized for presumed authentic examples of such a piece at Profiles in History, yet the seller lists his on eBay for well below the true market value of a genuine piece – still a remarkable sum of money for any prop – yet it comes across as a sales tactic to induce a novice or casual collector into believing that they can buy this piece and consign it with Profiles and make a lot of money.
6) Citation of the Business Wire as well as the “Movie Poster Almanac” as authorities on the reputation of the seller’s source, Heather Holmberg Auctions, as an original prop expert, when those entities do not in my opinion have the capacity to do so.
7) The boilerplate, “As Is” sales policy borrowed in part directly from the Profiles in History catalog and amended gives a potential buyer no recourse in the event the piece is not authentic.
I have since read a discussion topic on the on the Trek Prop Zone forum, “Is it real, or is it MEmorex?, Screen Used TOS Tricorder?“, in which several collectors familiar with the seller and/or the specific piece and/or Mark English pieces and/or genuine pieces believe it is anywhere from possible to certain that this piece currently at auction is not authentic, with evidence and information shared in support of such opinions.
One member posted an eBay auction from June 2006 with nearly the same title (sans -1969), “Star Trek TOS Original Series Tricorder Prop (1966)” from the same eBay seller, which appears to have sold for $15,000 to a private bidder.
Based on the photos from the two auctions, it is difficult for me to determine if they are the same piece, in that there is no direct front shot of the piece in the current auction to compare with the old auction.
An archive of the June 2006 auction can be downloaded in PDF format here:
More details and opinions can be found on the two discussion forum topics on the two forums referenced above. I am no expert on Star Trek props, but I thought it was important to report on the online discussions about this auction, the questions and concerns raised, and the sales policy of the currently active auction. Interested parties are now equipped to pursue additional information and insight via these resources.
Jason De Bord