I’ve been tracking the public auction of prop helmets characterized as “prototype” stormtrooper helmets made for Star Wars: A New Hope for many years now, going back to 2008 wherein I first published an analysis of these helmets floating around the marketplace at the time, as well as some context with regards to their maker, Andrew Ainsworth. In the same article, I published archives of some of the past offerings of these helmets at public auction, including one from Profiles in History in their “Hollywood Auction 21” a decade ago (which passed as unsold at the time). I thought maybe we’d seen the last of these following a lot of public controversy, when finally last year both Christie’s and Nate D. Sanders put them up for sale and then withdrew them from auction, but with the latest Profiles in History “Hollywood Auction 74”, we have yet another one, only now they’ve done away with the “prototype” moniker and call it a “ridgeback”. In any event, the piece went unsold at this week’s auction, so maybe the collecting market is still not buying it?
Below is a chronological listing of the pertinent articles published on the Original Prop Blog about the “prototype” stormtrooper helmets over the past seven years (see category: “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmets (AA, Andrew Ainsworth)):
- June 24, 2008: “Star Wars “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmets”
- August 1, 2008: “Star Wars “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmets Update: High Court Ruling Excerpts on LFL v. SDS Case”
- March 16, 2011: “Facebook Hosts Ongoing Public Debate Over Original Sculptor Credit for Star Wars Stormtrooper (Andrew Ainsworth or Liz Moore & Brian Muir)”
- June 16, 2014: “Christie’s Withdraws “Prototype” Star Wars Stormtrooper Prop Helmet with Andrew Ainsworth Provenance from Upcoming Auction”
- June 18, 2014: “Update: Additional Images of Christie’s Withdrawn “Prototype” Star Wars Stormtrooper Helmet”
- July 24, 2014: “Daily Mail Piece on Nate D. Sanders “Super-Rare Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmet from Andrew Ainsworth’s Work on Star Wars”
- July 28, 2014: “Nate D. Sanders Withdraws “Prototype” Star Wars Stormtrooper Prop Helmet with Andrew Ainsworth Provenance from Upcoming Auction”
The first appearance of these “prototype” helmets that I am aware of was with a 2002 sale by Christie’s, who claimed that the helmet was “made for the 1977 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm production Star Wars; accompanied by… a letter concerning the provenance” and that the “lots are the property of Andrew Ainsworth who set up Shepperton Design Studios in 1974…”
So it was the maker of the helmets – Andrew Ainsworth himself – who said that they are “prototype” helmets.
Below is the Profiles in History description for their helmet in their auction concluded this week (Hollywood Auction 74, Lot 1151):
1551. Star Wars “Ridgeback” Stormtrooper helmet. (TCF, 1980) A vintage period Stormtrooper Helmet constructed by Shepperton Design Studios, who fabricated many of the helmets for production use in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, including the Stormtroopers. Initially it was presumed that this variation of Stormtrooper helmet was a prototype manufactured before the final screen used versions in A New Hope, but it is now widely accepted that a handful of such helmets were made between 1977-1979. The key differences with this helmet to the screen used versions are its three-piece design and serrated neck.
$10,000 – $15,000
I’m not sure what grouping of people widely accept that the “prototype” helmets were “made between 1977-1979″ (this is the first I’ve ever heard it suggested), but another problem is that the person who purportedly created it is on record stating that these were “prototypes” that he made prior to or during production (for a film released in 1977). And further, the conundrum would be that only Ainsworth could authenticate it as made by him, yet at the same time, it would appear that Profiles in History and Andrew Ainsworth are not on the same page on the fundamentals of what it is and when it was made.
In any event, it did not sell (in spite of revising the history of what it is supposed to be and making up a new name for it).
Will we see these come up for public sale in the marketplace again in the future, given that quite a few are floating around in private hands? Probably. But given the public confusion and controversy surrounding these pieces, I believe it is in the public interest to collect and host information that is publicly available to benefit those who wish to do additional research, given that these are typically offered for sale for thousands of dollars.