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PropStore Auction Interview

5th November 2014

Ben Williams spoke to PropStore CEO Stephen Lane to discover the stories behind these amazing pieces of memorabilia

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On the 16th of October, the Prop Store held its first live auction event in association with Vue Cinemas at London's Westfield shopping centre at Shepherds Bush. On offer were a number of rare props and costumes from the James Bond films, including one of the only two remaining SPECTRE Underwater Tow Sled's featured in "Thunderball" and Pierce Brosnan's Walther P99 from "Die Another Day".

MI6 caught up with Prop Store founder and CEO Stephen Lane to talk about why, after 15 years of successful online auctions, he's decided to move into the world of live auctions, and to discover the stories behind these amazing pieces of memorabilia.

What made you decide to do an exhibition of this memorabilia and follow it up with a live auction?
This exhibition has given us the opportunity to really showcase the material in a way in which we feel it should be seen and presented. Which is one of the reasons that we wanted to partner with Vue Cinemas, as it puts these pieces into and environment that people are expecting to see them in. We've been selling memorabilia on our website for 16 years and auctions aren't foreign to us. In fact, I think we did our first online auction in around 1999 for "Sleepy Hollow", and we've recently done auctions for "Dredd", "Rush", and "Europa Report". However, the difference between an online auction and a live auction is that it's very difficult to get the same kind of media coverage (for an online auction). There just isn't enough of a story there. So, you have to build a live auction, showcase the material and demonstrate that it should be taken seriously. That's what really what brought us around to having this live auction.

The Bond memorabilia is very much front and centre in the exhibition.
Bond is really what we would call a Blue Chip film franchise, and for a lot of people who are walking around the exhibition who aren't necessarily avid film fans, we wanted to put in things that people would recognise and respond to.

Tomorrow Never Dies BWM Phone

There seems to be fewer and fewer places to find genuine film memorabilia these days, but the appeal seems to be growing faster than ever. Why do you think that is?
A lot of the bigger auction houses that we used to visit have just lost interest in film memorabilia. They're more focused on art and antiquities that will fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds, and they feel that this material isn't there yet, so it's not a market that they wish to get too involved with. However, we feel that they're missing a trick. This is a very juvenile market and is only going to get bigger. If we go back to the prices of 10 or 15 years ago, they are marginal in comparison to what buyers are spending today.

There are a lot of companies doing replicas of famous movie props and memorabilia, and there are lots of reproductions on the market. However, you've been able to source the genuine articles. Is there ever concern about an item's provenance?
A lot of what we spend our time on is screen matching. It's really the authentication process where we do a detailed analysis of the item and compare it to what is seen on screen. For instance, our research on the Scaramanga shirt was very interesting. With garments such as these, we often look at the stitch lines and what became very apparent when we were working on the authentication process for the this shirt was that there were at least two different styles of shirt worn in the film. For all intents and purposes, they appear identical, however, the key difference between the shirts is on the epaulette at the shoulder. On the shirt that we have here, the stitch line comes along the top of the epaulette and sows it down to the main body of the shirt. However, if you go through the film frame by frame as we have, you'll discover that on the other shirt the stitch line isn't there at all and the epaulette is sown in within the body of the shirt. What's interesting is that these shirts changed even within the same scene.

So, from this you're able to verify that it was definitely used in the film itself.
In addition to that, the pocket on this shirt is interesting. The shirt pocket is obviously significant for Scaramanga, being that he kept the pen part of the Golden Gun in it. With this particular shirt that we have here, in the top left hand corner that there is some very rough looking stitching. That is because in certain scenes there was a tiny little pocket in there where the pen slipped into but for other scenes it was sown up. What we believe is the case with this shirt is that it's been used for a scene where the pen's been in it, and then later re-used for a scene where the pen wasn't required, so someone from the wardrobe department has hand-stitched that hole up, so that it didn't pop open during the filming. So, each piece has it's own story behind it.

It seems as though there is a huge level of detail given over to this.
Absolutely. The Prop Store's whole relationship with the collecting community is born out of the attention to detail we give to each piece, whether it be a shirt like this, with a guide price of £5,000 - 7,000, or a hand prop that's listed at £60 - 80. We want to be 100 percent positive that what we're offering is the genuine item, so we take it very seriously.

The Man With The Golden Gun Costumes

Whilst there are some fabulous pieces of Bond memorabilia on display here, there seems to be more items from the wardrobe department in this auction than there are props. Was this a conscious decision?
For a lot of people, collecting Bond memorabilia is about collecting the gadgets and the guns - and you can understand why, because it's very appealing. However, I was just delighted when we found the wardrobe pieces from "The Man With The Golden Gun." Garments like this from nearly 40 years ago, being preserved in such excellent condition. I wonder how many more times we're going to see something like this surface again. In the twenty plus years that I've been collecting, I don't think I've ever seen something like this. It's truly phenomenal.

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) - Francisco Scaramanga's (Christopher Lee) Shirt: The condition of the wardrobe pieces seems to be extraordinarily good, considering the age.
Many of these items came directly to us from one of the wardrobe supervisors, who worked on a number of the Bond films. The films used to have sales at the end of their production, and he used to buy the garments that he thought might wear at some point. It just so happens that with a few of these pieces he never got around to wearing them, so they were still hanging in their plastic bags from the time that he bought them at the end of the film.

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Safari Shirt: Roger Moore's safari shirt from "The Man With The Golden Gun" looks remarkably contemporary considering the age.
It is so of the era and it practically screams "Roger Moore", but fashions do come back ‘round again. We get people who buy items from us to wear although, generally speaking, when you get to this level of collecting, it's more about the ownership and the preservation of the pieces. Having them behind glass and really doing it justice.

Winning Bids:

  • 145 THUNDERBALL (1965) - SPECTRE Underwater Tow Sled - Winning bid: £20,000
  • 148 THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Safari Shirt - Winning bid: £4,750
  • 149 THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) - Francisco Scaramanga's (Christopher Lee) Shirt - £5,000
  • 172 MOONRAKER (1979) - Signed Drax Space Station Printed Art & Set Photos - Winning bid: £325
  • 173 MOONRAKER (1979) - Hand-Drawn Pencil Drax Space Suit Design - Winning bid: £500
  • 178 MOONRAKER (1979) - Set Photos & Contact Sheet - Winning bid: £75
  • 179 MOONRAKER (1979) - Signed Drax Space Station Cross Section Study - Winning bid: £250
  • 150 FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Dark Blue Shirt - Winning bid: £800
  • 151 FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Short-Sleeve Shirt - Winning bid: £1,200
  • 152 FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Light Blue Shirt - Winning bid: £1,200
  • 153 OCTOPUSSY (1983) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Military Shirt - Winning bid: £1,100
  • 154 OCTOPUSSY (1983) - Kamal Khan's (Louis Jourdan) Brown Shirt - Winning bid: £850
  • 155 A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Ski Jacket - Winning bid: £3,750
  • 156 A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Suede Jacket - Winning bid: £6,000
  • 157 A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Tracking Device - Winning bid: £1,600
  • 159 TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) - James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan)
  • 160 TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) - James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan) Ericsson Gadget Phone - Winning bid: £8,500
  • 163 DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) - 10 North Korean Army Uniforms - Winning bid: £375
  • 165 DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) - James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan) Walther P99 Pistol - Winning bid: £6,000
  • 168 CASINO ROYALE (2006) - $500,000 Casino Chip - Winning bid: £2,250

A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) - James Bond's (Roger Moore) Ski Jacket & Suede Jacket: With both the suede jacket and the ski jacket, there is some signs of wear and tear. We did have to get the suede jacket very carefully cleaned when we first acquired it because it was quite dirty. I suspect that both of these were worn at some point by their previous owner.

Remain Unsold:

  • BMW License Plate & Bumper Segment
  • 180 MOONRAKER (1979) - Collage Artwork of Rocket Flying Towards Camera
  • 161 THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999) - James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan) Full-size Q-Boat
  • 166 DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) - SFX Aston Martin Manual
  • 170 MOONRAKER (1979) - Toxin Vial
  • 174 MOONRAKER (1979) - Hand-Coloured Printed Space Suit Design
  • 175 MOONRAKER (1979) - Hand-Drawn Drax Worker Pen & Ink Design
  • 176 MOONRAKER (1979) - Drax Space Station Blueprints
  • 177 MOONRAKER (1979) - Hand-Coloured Printed Space Suit Design & Hand-drawn Combat Pack Drawing

CASINO ROYALE (2006) - $500,000 Casino Chip: I love the "Casino Royale" plaques. When I went to see the film, I asked myself what would I like to try and track down, and when these come up on screen - the a half-million dollar plaque with the casino name on it that plays such an important part in the scene with the high-stakes game - these were the items I really wanted to acquire. It might not be the most expensive Bond item, perhaps not the most recognisable either, but it says everything about James Bond.

MOONRAKER (1979) - Toxin Vial: The toxin vial is something that I think really resonates with a lot of Bond collectors. Here we have something that's so crucial to the plot of the film, is a nice displayable size, and is also a very recognisable piece. Any Bond fan will recognise what it is as soon as they see it. This piece actually came to us from the estate of Harry Lange and when we discovered that they had these, I was thrilled. I mean, if there was anything that he was going to keep from "Moonraker" this had to be it. Harry Lange's style, the red and white pinstripes on the vial, is very recognisable. These are applied using Letraline, which is a very fine, self-adhesive tape used by architects and planners during that period. Harry had worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and later on the Star Wars films and you see a lot of his influence on those films in his particular design style.

Moonraker Toxin Vial

For a lot of Bond fans, having an actual firearm that has been used by Bond in the films is quite exciting.
Yes, this is one of the Walthers that we originally picked up from Bapty, who were the armourers for the film. We managed their collection of weaponry out into the market in 2006, where we partnered up with another auction house. We had a number of them in that sale and, in retrospect, there were probably too many of them on the market in one go. There were a number of P99 variations, including PAK, live fire deactivated, and those that were threaded for a suppressor, as this one has been. So, it's really nice to see, so many years later, one come back to the marketplace. The guns and the gadgets are what a lot of collectors love to focus on.

THUNDERBALL (1965) - SPECTRE Underwater Tow Sled: The SPECTRE tow sled from "Thunderball" has survived remarkably well for a prop that is nearly 50 years old.
This is really one of the stars of the auction. The fact that there are only two in existence - one is owned by the Fleming Foundation and they loan it to Eon for exhibitions such as the Bond In Motion exhibition - and this one, which was owned by Jordan Klein, who built them for the film, and he literally just had it hanging in his barn in Florida. We reached out when we heard that he still had it and flew out to Florida to meet him. There were originally 14 made for the production, but there are just the two remaining now.

About The Author
Ben is a freelance writer living in London, with a passion for architecture, design, fashion, food & drink, and travel. Ben has contributed to a number of event reports as well as historical content relating to James Bond lifestyle. He maintains the weblog: doubleonothing.com.

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