As written in yesterday’s article, “eBay Auction: Star Trek TOS Original Series Tricorder Prop“, 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).
Alec Peters of the Star Trek Prop, Costume, and Auction Blog wrote an article about this auction on his blog today, “Alledged TOS Tricorder on ebay – Mark English replica?“.
As noted in my original article, the piece offered in this auction is also under discussion on two online forums dedicated to Star Trek props and costumes:
- The Star Trek Props, Costumes, and Auctions Forum:
- The Trek Prop Zone forum:
eBay Seller Response
The seller who listed the Original Series Star Trek tricorder on eBay contacted me about my article this afternoon, and I offered him an opportunity to provide a response and/or reaction to the questions about the piece, and to provide additional information. He has posted this as a Reader Comment in the original article, but I wanted to give him full exposure by reposting it here in a separate article.
February 26th, 2008 at 6:30 pm e
As the seller of the TOS Fiberglass Tricorder on ebay; I appreciate this opportunity to post some intial reaction to your comments and observations listed in the blog.
1. Regarding the business sense associated with using ebay as a sales vehicle; I would point out that many of the most respected auction houses now conduct simultaneous ebaylive broadcasts of their auctions to reach a larger number of participants. Some of the most noteworthy Profiles Star Trek sales for much larger dollar amounts were carried on ebay; and ofcourse we also have the regular ItsAWrap auctions which have certainly featured higher-end items drawing near-to and in-excess-of my starting bid amount.
2. By using ebay as opposed to Profiles; I avoid a multi-thousand dollar consignment charge that would have been payable to Profiles should the Tricorder sell; and I also can hold an auction at any time of my choosing … as opposed to being forced into a fixed quarterly or more auction schedule timeframe.
3. Since this Tricorder does not have the impeccable provenance of an item that comes directly from a Dywer or Jefferies collection; I don’t anticipate that it would sell at the extremely high end of the price range observed for those sales; and thus would not anticipate a significant variation in closing bid amount in a non-ebay venue.
4. By using ebay; I am actually able to provide the potential buyer with many (approx. 10) high resolution photos of the piece from different perspectives; and the provenance certificate. While if the item were offered in a Profiles catalog; it would typically be presented with just a single small lower resolution picture.
Thus, ebay enables closer scrutiny of the design and construction details.
5. The admittedly lengthy “marketing description” was truly intended to provide the auction viewer with some background on myself; to also provide a detailed description of the condition of the Tricorder with in-depth discussion of potential flaws or blemishes” – full disclosure; and also very importantly I hoped to give some general insight / overview on the whole field of TOS prop authentication in order to benefit the novice reader. By indicating that authentic pieces are known to feature certain, sometimes significant variations on materials and components; I believe I convey that the authentication process is not cut and dried and this would tend to cause most readers to exercise more caution when making a purchase. I also point out that there are erroneous expert opinions about TOS prop design (and I cite a couple of examples) … so again; pointing out that there are different opinions and conflicting views would tend to make a reader more cautious in my opinion.
6. I do not ever imply that this piece can be easily resold for many times its starting bid; and that was not the intent at all in providing the Profiles sales and pre-auction estimate data.
I am using the data to establish my bid amount is within the acceptable range for other authentic TOS Tricorders. At the low end of the 2001 range. Since it is a significant dollar amount; I wanted to provide some historical data to confirm that I didn’t pick the number out of the air. And I think most would obviously know that the pieces with the highest levels of provenance (the Dwyers and the Jefferies) are the ones that leap out of the range into the $30,000 to $40,000 league. The items with less direct ties to the Desilu soundstage (which is the situation for almost all of the authentic TOS material in existence, since these props and costumes have been in circulation outside the studio for 30+ years) would obviously sell for much lower values in accordance with their weaker provenance.
7. With regards to the indicated AS-IS sales policy; since it is established fact that every major action houses inserts the very same legal disclaimers in the opening pages of all of their auction catalogs (I took those lines from a Butterfields catalog), why should an individual seller be disallowed from using the same language? Since the closing bid amount for the auction has the potential to fall at a very high dollar figure; and most individuals do not have large amounts of cash on hand at all times to guarantee a high dollar amount refund; or a buyer might seek a refund for frivolous reasons; I think it’s reasonable to reserve the right to deny a return. However, as I’ve indicated to those who’ve bought or traded significant high-value items with me in the past; I obviously consider something like this Tricorder to be highly desirable and something that would be welcome back in my collection. If there was a desire on the part of the other party to return the Tricorder; I would at a minimum be very likely able to offer him/her a trade for items with impeccable provenance from my IAW purchases should I not be able to provide a cash refund. However, as a condition of sale I reserve the right to deny a return. Even IAW with its absolutely impeccable provenance directly from the Paramount Star Trek warehouse says at the bottom of all of their ebay auction descriptions that “All sales are final….The items listed for sale in this auction are sold as is …. It’s A Wrap! LLC. and CBS Paramount Television/Star Trektm makes no claims regarding the condition of the items listed on this site.” If IAW and all major auction houses can invoke “All sales are final” and “As is” sales; individual sellers should have that capability also.
8. This Tricorder does have provenance from an auction house that was very well respected as a source of authentic memorabilia in the ’90s (I included a period news article in the ebay listing to help substantiate that); and many well known dealers from that time (like Odyssey auctions, who published the Autograph Collectors Magazine – now Autograph Collector; or Camden House Auctioneers, or Heather Holmberg collectibles.com) held many entertainment memorabilia auctions on a regular basis with prestigious items available and are now not conducting sales. The fact that the auction house is not currently in operation should not reflect adversely on the integrity of the provenance as you imply it does. It is also well-known that these dealers relied on input from expert Star Trek authenticators such as Greg Jein at the time of their sales; as I have been told by folks directly involved with these sales.
A few additional thoughts from me…
In regards to the tricorder you auctioned on eBay in June 2006, was that the same or a different piece? Did it sell at the time?
In regards to high resolution photos, could you e-mail me high resolution photos from both the June 2006 auction and the current auction, as well as a high resolution photo straight on of the front of the tricorder currently listed on eBay (one is not present in the current listing)?
Regarding auction houses, though they may promote their events and allow bidding online as an option using eBay Live Auctions or eBay as a tool, that is, in my opinion, a very different proposition from an individual selling one item on eBay. With It’s a Wrap, I don’t view them as an auction house but a studio reseller, and selling near exclusively on eBay is the traditional business model for that type of dealer.
Though the photos in catalogs and online are very limited and leave a lot to be desired, in my experience, some (not all) auction houses will provide additional photos and information upon request, and, more importantly, one can go to the event and inspect the piece hands on.
Also, while they may charge the consignors 10-20% of the price realized, they invariably get higher prices compared with an individual selling on eBay.
Please don’t interpret this as second guessing your private business, it was just one observation among many that made me concerned about this piece, along with and compounded by the assessments from the experts on the forums in regards to authenticity.
As I explained in my e-mail to you, I am no expert on Trek props, so my concerns are related directly to the way the piece is marketed, the fact that in my personal opinion authenticity had not been proven, coupled with the high value established by the minimum bid about and the no returns/”as is” sales policy. My hope is that any potential buyers will do appropriate research, and more, I would personally like to see you pull the auction and have the piece authenticated or debunked by an expert, but that is just my own opinion.
My entire view on not just your specific case but in the hobby in general is that collectors selling items – especially high value items such as this with known fakes in the marketplace – absolutely use all resources at their disposal to have it authenticated, if it is marketed as authentic and original. I am sure you can respect that, and I have attempted to be respectful and reserve judgment in your case.
Having said that, the auction is still live, so my priority is to reach hobbyists with a message of caution and consideration. More, if opening a dialogue and discussing a piece publicly offered at auction leads to more facts and information becoming available, that is in everyone’s best interests. If a piece can withstand public scrutiny and prove out to be authentic, in my opinion it is that much more valuable of a piece as a result of the exercise.
Just so you understand my own personal view of authenticity in general, I believe that a piece is “inconclusive” until either proven authentic or proven inauthentic. I believe both need to be proven, while some adopt a point of view that if something cannot be proven real, it is fake by default, which I fundamentally disagree with.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond, and perhaps you can also address some of the questions raised on the Trek Prop Zone topic specifically about authenticity and Mark English replicas.
Jason De Bord