An interesting discussion has broken out on the official Ewbank’s Facebook page about the Stormtrooper helmet in their upcoming auction (which I wrote about earlier this month – see “Andrew Ainsworth “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmet Withdrawn By Christie’s in 2014 Now Offered by Ewbank’s in 2015“). Ewbank’s has stated in this Facebook discussion that the helmet “is not a prototype“. However, they include a letter as proof of authenticity in which the helmet’s maker, Andrew Ainsworth, states in writing that the helmet “was an early prototype made by myself“. This is the exact same helmet that Christie’s put up for auction last year and then decided to withdraw from their own auction. What does Ewbank’s have to say about Christie’s pulling the same item from their auction? Per Ewbank’s, Christie’s “mis-catalogued [it] as a ‘prototype’“. Yet Christie’s marketed the helmet as what Mr. Ainsworth claimed it to be… a “prototype”. Confused yet? So is Lindsay Muir (wife of Brian Muir, who sculpted the Stormtrooper armor and Darth Vader helmet for Star Wars). She entered into this public debate with Ewbank’s on their Facebook page regarding their helmet up for auction. Ewbank’s closing remarks to Mrs. Muir (one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on these matters) includes the line, “[y]our view is certainly not my experience of bidders who are generally very well informed actually”. This, from the auction house who would seem to suggest that the maker of the artifact they have up for sale – who provided the letter regarding it’s provenance and authenticity – is flatly wrong about his own characterization the piece that he himself made and as he addressed it in that letter. It would seem that auction houses (like with Profiles in History’s last auction) are evolving to reject Andrew Ainsworth credibility on his own creation, while embracing that very lineage to help them sell these problematic artifacts.
Below are the statements made by Ewbank’s in their own Facebook topic, with a screencapture archive of the entire thread further below. I was initially impressed that they left the open dialogue and discussion up, but when I logged out of my personal Facebook account to log back in with my Original Prop Blog account for the purposes of making a screencapture for this article, all of the back and forth exchanges between Lindsay Muir and Ewbank’s disappeared, which would indicate that Ewbank’s may have deleted her comments from public view to everyone but Lindsay and her own Facebook friends (this is an option with Facebook on business pages, and leaves the person with the deleted comments to believe that those comments are still public when they are not). The screencaptures show the full discussion (well, all of the public comments and those made by Lindsay – there may be additional comments from people with whom I am not Facebook friends that I would not be able to see if they, too, were deleted).
Ewbank’s The Surrey Auction House (November 13 at 5:10am):
Thanks for sharing but to be absolutely clear this Stormtrooper helmet was put up for auction in Christies previously and was mis-catalogued as a ‘prototype’. Ewbank’s are aware of the history of this helmet and we are confident it is catalogued correctly by us. Ewbank’s agree that this helmet is not a prototype as this would suggest it was made ‘before’ the production helmets which we fully believe it was not as per our description for the lot. Thanks
Ewbank’s The Surrey Auction House (November 13 at 7:11am):
As already stated and as is confirmed in your blog post. The lot has not been described as a prototype in our description, here is a link to the lot description: www.ewbankauctions.co.uk
Ewbank’s The Surrey Auction House (November 13 at 11:47pm):
You are entitled to your opinion on value of course but this is an auction and the market decides what an item is worth. Whatever your opinion on the helmet and Ainsworth (who is not our vendor) the important point here is that we have correctly described the item. It was withdrawn from Christies as they DID mis-describe it. We have received your emails miss-attributing other descriptions to ours. I would ask that you check our description in the that has been link provided to you for confirmation. Many thanks
Ewbank’s The Surrey Auction House (November 14 at 12:26am):
Lindsay Muir You would have to take that up with Christies. I am afraid that you have not provided any new information, the research was done and the lot has been correctly described. Your view is certainly not my experience of bidders who are generally very well informed actually. The new letter provides clarification. We never described these as prototypes.
Screencapture Archive of Entire Discussion (click for full resolution):
Profiles in History tried to sell one of these helmets at auction recently (it did not sell), also stating that it was not a prototype (introducing “ridgeback” to the lexicon, now in competition with Ewbank’s “unfinished”), going against the “prototype” claims of the maker of these helmets, Andrew Ainsworth. From the recent Profiles in History description:
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.
Whether withdrawn from auction by Christie’s and Nate D. Sanders last year or with new auction attempts by Profiles in History and now Ewbank’s, the real value of these helmets is determined by the marketplace, and two years running, thus far, the answer has been a mix of pulled and passed lots.
To read all of the pertinent information in my prior article, please click through here:
- Andrew Ainsworth “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmet Withdrawn By Christie’s in 2014 Now Offered by Ewbank’s in 2015