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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Profiles in History Auction Preview - Authentication and Provenance

On Saturday, June 12th, profiles in History will have the biggest auction of Star Trek items since Christie's. That will be followed later in June by the Julien's Star Trek, which is really more of an estate sale than a Star Trek prop & costume auction. The Propworx Star Trek auction will then follow in August.

What the Profiles in History auction offers is more hand props than the other two auctions combined. I will be an active bidder in the Profiles auction, while there is only one item in the Julien's auction I am after. I will be attending both auctions in person. Star Trek is my big collecting passion as most of you know, and so I have spent a lot of time and effort reviewing these items.

Profiles is the big dog on the block. They have been around for 15+ years and always have great stuff in their catalogs. I have won items before from Profiles, and I plan on bidding in this auction. That doesn't mean they are perfect and they clearly don't like it when I question them or their items. So can you trust their items? Mostly.

So I am going to spend this article writing about things you SHOULD be thinking about in ANY auction.


AUTHENTICATION

As you know by my last article, and previous articles about profiles Star Trek items, Profiles in History authentication is sometimes sloppy. They had to pull the Jem'Hadar ship as it was not what they claimed. Other items in this auction are causing a lot of controversy. They had to pull a bunch of Star Wars items, including a supposed Darth Vader light sabre that multiple sources said was fake. The Jeannie bottle is supposedly not real. The Robert Conrad Wild Wild West hat is not original as claimed and that is from an expert on that series who says Conrad never wore that style hat or had that type of trim on screen.


Now, other blogs are too busy promoting Joe to actually question Profiles in History. No real journalism is going on there. It is just blogging about props. Every major prop forum has questions about some of these items, but no one wants to say anything in public, lest Profiles get pissed off and deny them access in the future. So the collectors out there are not being helped in knowing what they can trust. In fact, they are being done a disservice because these blogs hold themselves out as authorities in the hobby but they don't do any real investigative journalism and warn collectors about what is widely considered suspect.

Well, my responsibility is to my readers, and most every major Star Trek collector out there reads this blog. I have received so many thank yous from people who are happy I did the detective work on the Jem Hadar piece. That is not because I am trying to screw with Profiles, I am very happy they are around and respect the size and quality of their auctions. In fact, my calls to CBS and to Paramount to make sure they were OK with all the "appropriated" items in this auction (they say they are not going to do anything as these items disappeared form their warehouse years ago), has put a lot of readers fears to rest. This means Profiles will be getting MORE bidders thanks to my efforts.

I only want the truth. And the more careful Profiles is with their authentication, the better for all of us. Frankly, I would help them for FREE, just to make sure Star Trek collectors, don't get taken. And my collector friends know this is true. I want Profiles to have very successful Star Trek auctions as that is good for the hobby. They just need to be better and not take offense when I catch them when they are sloppy.

The problem is Profiles just takes people's word for what an item is often without doing any independent verification. That being said, Michael Moore, from HMS, the company that made a lot of props from TNG through the beginning of Enterprise, handles most authentication for Profiles and he is as good an expert as any. My concern is previously Michael has not authenticated items that have appeared in Profiles auctions. So do they even listen to Mike when he says something is not real? Brian Chanes has showed me items they have rejected before. But how did items get in an auction that Michael didn't authenticate. I pointed this out in previous articles I wrote about profiles. And who authenticates the TOS items? Not Greg Jein. He used to but doesn't do that anymore. So we are supposed to take the word of the person who is consigning? I would like to know who the authenticators are. I certainly will discuss the process of authenticating Propworx items in detail with anyone.

We all know there are tons of fakes out there. That means that EVERYONE needs to do it better and cleaner to make sure that no one gets taken.


PROVENANCE

Provenance is the cornerstone of this hobby. And while others will say this, no one forces the auction houses to revel the provenance of items. Every single item in the Propworx Star Trek auction will have the provenance clearly stated on the COA. You will know where this came from and how Propworx got it. Profiles usually refuses to reveal this.

And the statement "I got this at XYZ auction house" is NOT provenance. Auctioning an item doesn't magically authenticate it. Heck, a black and white TOS phaser was sold by an auction house, and then bought by a major prop company who tried to sell it. Well, most TOS collectors will tell you that ALL the TOS Star Trek phasers were repainted grey in season 1. There are no real black and white phasers, they are all Mark English fakes. And so after a while the item was finally withdrawn by the seller. So you can't use the sale of an item as proof of its authenticity!

Profiles lists this as a "HERO" and it clearly is not. A HERO version of this rifles illuminates. I know as I own one.

COAs

Anyone worth his salt will tell you a COA is only as good as the company behind it. A good COA simply tells you that you can get your money back if the item is proven fake. It doesn't guarantee that the item is real, it guarantees you a refund. Premier Props sold items from "Dream Girls" that were not even from that movie! And that is from one of the producer's himself who was horrified at what he saw (Maybe why Paramount no longer does business with Premier Props, nor does Marvel or Universal). Whether this is intentional or not, those items had COAs.

What about other COAs? It's a Wrap is obviously legit as all the items came from the Paramount warehouses. Propworx is officially licensed from CBS (who now holds all Star Trek licensing rights), and the Propworx items all have solid provenance (Doug Drexler, Mike & Denise Okuda, etc.). Christie's didn't give out COAs but they did give out letters from Paramount, which are only good if you have the invoice and tags IMHO.

Profiles doesn't give out COAs, but you can REQUEST them. Not sure why they do this, but you should definitely request them when you pay for your Profiles items. At least you will be able to track back the sale and that is much of the reason for a COA. I am sure Profiles would refund your money if you ever had an item that turned out to be fake, to do otherwise could jeopardize their whole business. So I am not worried about that. Just always keep good records.


CONCLUSION

Buying Hollywood memorabilia is a crap shoot. If you don't have provenance, that most auction houses won't give you, then you need to authenticate the prop. I would never buy anything that wasn't Star Trek from Profiles unless I got a LOT of information and I felt sure that an item was independently verified. Some of the Battlestar lots for example I know are from a top collector, and so I am good with them, but I got that information from him. I have independent verification of their authenticity. That cubit lot - I wouldn't go near it as it is suspect.

But for Star Trek, and this auction, I think, with a few exceptions, you are good to go. I will be there live and have a couple items I want. Tomorrow I will tell you about some of the items and how to plan your strategy.


Alec

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