Reporter Joseph Barratt authored a news feature in this past weekend’s “Herald on Sunday” (published online by The New Zealand Herald) titled “Fraud of the Rings?” which focused on Troika Brodsky and his collection of original movie props used in the Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. The collector was both surprised and dismayed by the story that was published, questioning his credibility and the authenticity of the pieces in his collection created by Weta Workshop and sourced from highly publicized, direct from the studio sources (New Line Cinema Auctions and a Hasbro sweepstakes contest).
Because the “Fraud” story has in the past few days taken on a life beyond the source, I felt it was appropriate to give the collector an opportunity to provide information to the public with which to defend his reputation and the legitimacy of these important pop culture artifacts in his collection.
The “Fraud” story has been picked up by other online media as well as fan-based discussion forums this week. Troika has contacted the news organization in an effort to correct and clarify the article without success, with the exception of the correct spelling of his name in the online version of the story.
I have personally known the collector featured in the article for many years. I have offered him an opportunity to respond – publicly and in his own words – to the article published Sunday.
Below is Troika Brodsky’s statement:
I was recently contacted by Joseph Barratt of New Zealand publication Herald on Sunday asking if I would be willing to speak with him about my collection of original movie props from the Lord of the Rings films and my continued interest in acquiring more. Mr. Barratt told me he was “interested in doing a story on [my] hunt for items from the Lord of the Rings production. The idea would be to let people know they might have gems just sitting around at home. I think it would also be a great way to raise the profile of your search for items”. I agreed to help Mr. Barratt with his article because I loved the idea of being able to share some of my collection and knowledge of the pieces from a fans perspective with other fans of the Lord of the Rings films and this seemed like a nice way to talk about my story as a collector of these items over the last seven years.
Mr. Barratt emailed me a series of questions that he was asking for answers to in order to write his piece. Examples of the questions Mr. Barratt asked are: “What sort of items are you looking for?”, “How much are some of the different items worth?”, “How long have you been collecting?”, “What got you into collecting Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit items?” and “How big is your collection?” I responded to Mr. Barratt with a roughly two-thousand word response that answered his questions as thoroughly and honestly as I could and expanded upon that by discussing the differences between the stunt and hero props that Weta created for the films as well as the specifics of how I knew for certain that the specific pieces in my collection that I was discussing with Mr. Barratt were in fact, irrefutably authentic.
While I told Mr. Barratt that my collection included between 25-30 original pieces, I specifically only discussed six of my original film props. I told Mr. Barratt about a life-sized Ringwraith “maquette” and a life-sized Lurtz (Uruk) “maquette” in my collection that were created by Weta and originally sold directly by New Line Studios Online Auctions that came with Certificates of Authenticity from the studio. I also mentioned that I was ultimately able to correspond with Richard Taylor from Weta about the pieces and he was able to confirm, in detail, exactly which costume and prop parts on both “maquettes” were originally used during shooting and what was created specifically for the pieces. I have this in writing. The only other specific film props in my collection that I shared information about with Mr. Barratt were four weapon props that originated as the Grand Prizes in a US-only, 2003 cross promotion between New Line Studios and Hasbro.
This was a highly publicized and well-documented promotion where the Grand Prizes were authentic weapon props used on the set of Lord of the Rings. These Grand Prizes were even on display at Toys R Us in Times Square during the 2003 Christmas season to help promote the release of Return of the King film. The props are as authentic as they come. They came directly from the shooting set (I confirmed this with the person at Weta, via email, who shipped the pieces off to the promotion,) were then placed in lockable acrylic cases, and then placed in custom made wooden crates along with paperwork from the company running the promotion (Alcone Marketing Group) as well as a Certificate of Authenticity signed by the Producer of the Lord of the Rings films, Barrie Osborne. I purchased all four of these props from the original winners of the Promotion. Ascertaining authenticity of production used film props can often be very difficult or downright impossible. In the case of these Hasbro/New Line contest props, there is simply no way to dispute their authenticity. They truly represent “as good as it gets” in terms of provenance and in addition to my two life-sized “maquettes”, these are the only pieces in my collection that I specifically discussed with Mr. Barratt.
In addition to sharing the details of my collecting and collection with Mr. Barrat, as well as a nice introduction into the world of original prop collecting, I also shared quite a bit about just how huge of a fan of both the Lord of the Rings films (and books) I am as well as the incredible work that the artists at Weta did to create these amazing artifacts that I have spent seven years collecting. The story of what Weta accomplished on these films has been told again and again, but it is that story and that artistry that motivated me collect these pieces. They are truly works of art and the ability to see that up close is an incredible thrill. I also shared with Mr. Barratt my desire to publicly show some or all of my collection in conjunction with film screenings of the trilogy in an effort to both raise some money for some local children’s charities where I live and to simply share these pieces with other fans. It is not my desire to horde these pieces away. Nothing makes me happier than being able to see the same excitement I get from these pieces on the faces of other folks. I expressed all of this to Mr. Barratt as well as my hope to some day get the blessing of Weta and Peter Jackson’s production company directly, to display my collection. I shared all of this with Mr. Barratt based upon the belief that he was being honest with me about the story he claimed he was interested in telling in his article.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that Mr. Barratt’s article, focusing on me and my collection was published with the headline “The Fraud of the Rings?” and an opening line stating that “Peter Jackson’s production company has cast doubt on the authenticity of one of the world’s largest collections of Lord of the Rings memorabilia”. It appears to me that Mr. Barratt had a sensational title in mind upfront and decided to craft a story to fit it. At no point in his article do I actually see evidence that Peter Jackson’s production company has actually cast doubt on my specific collection. I do see an article written by Joseph Barratt and published by The Herald on Sunday that appears to have the specific intent of casting doubt on my collection. Weta refused to comment and Mr. Dravitzki from Wingnut simply appears to be saying that it is his belief that most original props from the films are still in their possession (very true, and remarkable considering they created over 20,000), that there is a tremendous amount of fraud in the prop collecting community and that people should be careful not to be taken advantage of (very, very true) and that he really couldn’t say anything one way or the other regarding what is in my personal collection without knowing more (which makes complete sense and also goes to show that the author of the article chose not to tell Mr. Dravitzki about where I claimed my props to have come from). Mr. Barratt’s article also state’s that the amount I paid for my stunt Sting sword was “about $50,000” which is fact a number and a ballpark figure that he created. I certainly said that I paid quite a bit, but at no point did I share with Mr. Barratt what I actually paid for this piece.
In my opinion, Mr. Barratt appears to have sought to do nothing more than create the appearance of scandal by ignoring facts and picking and choosing quotes to attempt to craft a story to fit a headline. What I believe I find the most surprising is that I really would think that Mr. Barratt’s readers in New Zealand (and now everywhere else that his article has been linked to) would be far more interested in hearing about the story of a Lord of the Rings fan that has successfully dedicated themselves to collecting some of the most iconic props seen throughout the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I think with the two new Hobbit movies in pre-production, that a story highlighting the continued and enduring appeal of Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking original films would be of interest to readers. Mr. Barratt missed a great opportunity to tell an interesting story about one Lord of the Rings fan’s personal connection to the original props created for the films and instead chose to write something that apparently was meant to cast doubt on the legitimacy of my collection and my reputation. Despite sharing some very specific details about the iron clad provenance of the film props I was discussing with him, at no point did Mr. Barratt follow up to ask me anything on the topic of fraud or otherwise question the authenticity of my pieces, yet that was clearly the focus of his article. I have asked the Editor of The Herald on Sunday to retract the story but so far he has responded that he is simply looking into my complaint.
The Original Prop Blog provided coverage of the public (not for profit) display of some of Troika’s pieces in 2008 (see Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra “Lord of the Rings” Event, Original Prop Exhibit Photo Recap), including some of those pieces originally given away as sweepstakes prizes in highly publicized and studio sanctioned contest held by Hasbro.
In fact, a simple Google search will bring a top result of the individual behind the Hasbro promotion (see Bill McCarthy, LinkedIn), should the reporter have wished to obtain verification:
Director of Trade Marketing
(Public Company; HAS; Consumer Goods industry)
2002 — 2007 (5 years )
Responsible for growing sales, profit and market share for Hasbro’s board games and puzzles. Specific activities included promotions, partnerships, celebrities, licensing, in-store merchandising, customer presentations and business development support. Significant successes include:
LORD OF THE RINGS: Negotiated agreement with New Line Cinema to support Hasbro’s Lord of the Rings licensed games, Monopoly, Risk and Trivial Pursuit. The sweepstakes, “Win the Sword of Aragorn” offered 9 actual props from the Academy Award winning film including the Sword, the bow of Legolas and the Ax of Gimli. Prizes were pictured in a poster-size entry form in the games as well as on Hasbro’s web site. The actual props were on display at Toys R Us Times Square for the film premier. Sweepstakes response rate of 36% demonstrates the popularity and power of the campaign, resulting in sales double what was expected.
Another top Google search result on key terms is www.LordOfTheRings.net, which has a contemporary notice of the sweepstakes:
New Line Cinema and Hasbro Present Sweepstakes Event
Dates: Now Through February 9, 2004
This holiday season, Hasbro is offering consumers the rare chance to win authentic stunt props used during the filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Game pieces can be found inside specially marked “The Lord of the Rings” versions of Monopoly, Risk and Trivial Pursuit. Each game piece comes with a unique code that can be entered on line for entry into the sweepstakes.
Eight grand prizes will be awarded beginning December 22. Each week, a different prize will be awarded until the final prize drawing on February 9, 2004.
The grand prizes are: The Sword of Aragorn, “Strider Sword”; The Sword of Gandalf, “Glamdring”; The Axe of Gimli; The Bow of Legolas; The Sword of Frodo, “Sting”; The Sword of Eowyn; The Sword of Theoden; and The Sword of Faramir.
Using the date of February 2004 above, a quick search of”Hasbro.com” at Archive.org allowed me to find the original sweepstakes rules with just one minute of research (Archive). Below is an excerpt describing the pieces:
Prizes/Approximate retail value (ARV): (8) Grand Prizes (1 Per Drawing): One of the following authentic props from the film “The Return of the King” (together with certificate of authenticity): The Sword of Aragorn “Strider Sword”; The Sword of Gandalf “Glamdring”; The Axe of Gimli; The Bow of Legolas; The Sword of Frodo “Sting”; The Sword of Eowyn; The Sword of Theoden; The Sword of Faramir; (Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”): $1,000). Each prop will be permanently encased in an acrylic container. (1,000) First Prizes: Movie Poster of the film “The Return of the King” (ARV: $10). (10,000) Second Prizes: Top Trumps “Lord of the Rings” Card Game (ARV: $5). Limit one prize per person.
In other research of online reporting of the event, such as with this news brief, more details were made available about the authenticity of the pieces:
Hasbro Unsheathes ‘Lord of the Rings’ Weapons
New York, NY — If you’ve ever wanted to take a stab at collecting “Lord of the Rings” memorabilia, a contest to win the cast members’ swords might be a good way to start your collection.
Gamemaker Hasbro is holding a sweepstakes that will give away the weapons used by Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, Frodo and others from the film.
The gamemaker is giving the swords away in connection with the release of “Lord of the Rings” themed Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Risk games.
Each sword, bow or axe comes with a certificate of authenticity.
But if that’s not enough proof they’re the real deal, a spokeswoman for Hasbro says the blades even have nicks and cuts in them from when the cast used them in battles.
Fan site TheOneRing.net also featured a story on their website in late 2003 about the display of the prizes at Toys R Us in Times Square. Below is a link to the images published in conjunction with the article:
With regards to the official studio auctions held by New Line, there is also relevant information easily found via Archive.org, as seen with the link below to the completed auctions of the public sale of original Lord of the Rings props and costumes:
In any event, I am always appreciative of the mainstream media showing interest in exposing fraud within our hobby. Unfortunately, in this instance, the news organization has raised the question of fraud with regards to pieces sourced from studio sanctioned events owned by a collector who openly provided a great deal of information to assist in crafting the story. Again, given the “fraud” framing of the “Herald on Sunday” feature, I thought it would be appropriate to provide the subject an opportunity to make a public statement with regards to the story and consequential buzz that has manifested across the Internet in the past few days.