Mr. Jim Supica, newly appointed Director of the National Firearms Museum, was kind enough to read the article published this week (see Ellis Props “Star Wars Luke Skywalker Lightsaber”?) about the lightsaber on display at the museum, originally sold by Ellis Props in their liquidation sale, characterized as an original prop from the Star Wars trilogy.
In order to highlight Mr. Supica’s comments, I’ve copied them here with hopes that perhaps those with material information and insights may be able to assist in the assessment of the provenance and authenticity of the piece:
I enjoyed seeing your posting and research on the light saber prop displayed at the National Firearms Museum.
The piece in question has been in the museum for approximately six years. The owner reports it as coming from the Ellis Auction of movie props that you discuss, which the hang tag would seem to corroborate.
We have not been able to obtain a copy of the auction catalog for our files (and would love to have one if anyone is interested in donating a copy). Our Senior Curator has viewed documentation indicating that this piece was sold as “Luke Skywalker’s back up light saber”.
We also have a similar piece from the same source that was sold in that auction as “Obi Wann’s (sic) light saber made for the Star Wars movie”, which is in storage in our vault. It is the longer 3-cell model Graf-flex, and appears relatively unmodified. (I have a picture of that available, if interested, but couldn’t figure out how to post it).
Our understanding is that both were represented in the auction as having been from the 1977 Empire Strikes Back film, as indicated by hang tags, and not used in any of the subsequent Star Wars movies.
Beyond that we have no additional provenance on the pieces.
There have been others who have questioned the authenticity of this piece. Our Senior Curator Phil Schreier reports “Supposedly, all the light sabers are at Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’s estate in California. The film was shot principally at Shepperdton Studios in Surry, England. Most, if not all, of the studio props were supplied by British prop houses (Bapty’s?) I have never researched the Ellis history to see if they actually supplied any props. The auction, as we can see from the blog, publicly advertised ‘Star Wars’ props. As far as I know, no one has formally cried foul over the sale or descriptions.”
Both artifacts are cataloged by the NFM as “back up” props for Star Wars, based on the auction descriptions.
The National Firearms Museum is of course committed to accurate representation and preservation of the history associated with the firearms and other artifacts we display.
We’d be interested in hearing from other folks who may have more information on these specific pieces or the auction where they originally sold. Additional information can be sent to the National Firearms Museum at the address below.
The National Firearms Museum located at 11250 Waples Mill Rd., Fairfax VA 22030, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the year except major holidays. We have around 2400 firearms (and maybe one light saber) on display in historical context, and there is no admission charge.
We hope to announce special extended Holiday Hours for the Thanksgiving through New Years period in the near future.
Our website is http://www.nationalfirearmsmuseum.org
Thanks again – Jim Supica, Director, National Firearms Museum.
P.S. – Your information on authentication of props is interesting and helpful. A few years back, I did an article on evaluating historically attributed firearms that may be peripherally related. This article will soon be revised for the NFM website, but for now it can be viewed here:
Again, I thank Mr. Supica for participating in the discussion and sharing the links to the very interesting article at the Armchair Gunshow website.
With regards to the referenced Obi-Wan Kenobi saber, I do know that the original lightsabers made for the character and used in the film were built around a WWI British rifle grenade (No. 3 Mk 1), as discussed in detail on the Parts of Star Wars website (LINK).
Also, I believe the majority of prop weapons produced for the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, were supplied by Elstree Props and Bapty, but others can speak to that with more authority. I have personally never found any sources to verify or support the premise that Ellis Props produced, supplied, or rented props to the production of the first film, or any of the films in the original trilogy.
If Mr. Supica e-mails me the photo of the second lightsaber referenced, I will publish an update.
If anyone has any insights that they can share, please feel free to publish a Reader Comment below, contact me, or contact Mr. Supica directly with information.
Jason De Bord