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Ireland's fine arts, antiques and collectables column    


Empire Strikes Back poster

Empire Strikes Back poster

Kirk's tunic in The Voyage Home

Kirk's tunic in The Voyage Home

19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings

19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings


Empire Strikes Back poster

Star Wars or Star Trek? It's an ongoing intergalactic battle. Star Trek fans (Trekkies) claim that the series has better science, more believable characters, and more interesting stories. It's hard to argue with any of these points. Starfleet's Prime Directive also prohibits star ship crews from imposing their own technology or values on alien civilizations.

Philosophically, it's all been thought through. Star Wars, in contrast, is a human drama that happens to be set in space. And the plot, when it comes down to it, is pretty basic. It's about the good guys and the bad guys blowing each other up.

But Star Wars has Darth Vader. And Yoda. And lightsabers. And Han Solo (swoon). And exceptionally believable robots. I first saw Star Wars (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope) in the cinema in Boyle, Co Roscommon, in 1978 and it changed my life. No bias here, so. On a more objective level, the first Star Wars trilogy has astonishing production values, kick-ass aliens, and an epic score.

On the auction circuit, the battle for big prices continues. Here, Star Wars is a clear winner with original props, models and costumes consistently out-performing items from Star Trek. That said, original items from either franchise are both valuable and rare. In 2005, a dress uniform tunic worn by James T Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) went under the hammer at Bonhams, LA.

The jacket was red wool, lined with silk, with all insignia and a leather belt with a Starfleet buckle. It came with a sewn label inscribed "Wm S. / 4" for William Shatner. It boldly went for US$8,225 (€7,211).

Two years later, in 2007, Obi Wan Kenobi's cloak, worn by Alex Guinness in Star Wars (1977) came up in Bonham's London auction. The catalogue described it as: "a cloak, full length, with complete over hood, of brown wool, having embroidered detail, in an ethnic inspired style particularly to hood, the hood having cut-out eye and mouth detail, with button fastening to neck." It sold for £54,000 (€60,470).

"Star Wars and Star Trek are both sci-fi and they're both set in space but, from a collector's view, they're very different," says Katherine Schofield, head of Entertainment Memorabilia in Bonhams. "There's not a huge crossover between buyers. You're either one or the other."

Setting the traditional fan rivalry aside, one of the key differences between the two franchises is their origins. Star Trek began as a television series, created by Gene Roddenberry, in 1966. After a shaky three-year stint NBC cancelled the show. The series had several re-runs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These were intended to recoup losses, but inadvertently created a cult following for the series.

"There's not so much of a market for television memorabilia," Schofield explains. "It wasn't considered particularly glamorous in the late 1970s." Because nobody could foresee what Star Trek would become, props and costumes from the first series were discarded, repurposed and reused. Nobody thought to preserve them as relics.

Later ventures were a different matter. On April 15, a Sword of Kahless display prop which featured in the 81st episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1995) sold at Heritage Auctions for US$50,000 (€44,140). It came from the collection of Dan Curry, who designed the prop. This version was made in steel and engraved with Klingon writing. Yes, Star Trek has generated its own language. If you want to learn to speak it, the Klingon Language Institute runs an online course.

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George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, was quick to realise the potential value of memorabilia.

"He wanted to set Star Wars apart and he really succeeded in doing that. It's one of the pinnacle areas of collecting," Schofield explains.

"He had the foresight to keep most of the props, models and costumes from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and all subsequent Star Wars films. He still has them. Because of this, less has come on the market and the items that do appear are much more valuable. I've handled storm trooper helmets and blaster guns, but they're few and far between. When they do come up, there's fierce competition between bidders."

On July 29, a Star Wars concept poster printed for The Empire Strikes Back sold for $26,400 (€23,270) at Heritage Auctions' Movie Poster Auction in Dallas. It's a glorious design by Roger Kastel, centred on an image of Princess Leia in Han Solo's arms. The pose mimics the poster for the 1974 release of Gone with the Wind, which shows Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh, surrounded by flames.

The sale set a record for the most expensive Star Wars poster ever sold at auction, largely because of its rarity. The poster was part of a limited trial run and is one of only a handful known to exist.

Original Star Wars posters were distributed to every cinema that showed the film and are the most likely piece of Star Wars memorabilia to turn up in Ireland. A poster for A New Hope, for example, fetched €1,100 at Whyte's in 2015. For Star Wars memorabilia, that's entry level.

Live long and prosper/May the Force be with you.

See bonhams.com and ha.com., kli.org.

In the Salerooms



19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings

19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings

19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings


The French jewellery company Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in Paris in 1896 and is known for decorative, fanciful pieces, often featuring flowers, fairies, and birds.

True to form, an emerald and diamond brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, coming up for sale in O'Reilly's Auction House on Wednesday, shows two birds perched on a branch.

With big fat emerald bellies (oval emerald cabochons of approx 28.82 ct, mounted in 18ct gold), diamond wings and ruby eyes, these are birds of character as well as material value and are estimated to sell between €16,000 and €24,000.

Other emeralds in the sale include a pair of early 19th-century emerald and diamond pendant drop earrings (est. €20,000 to €30,000, above) and an emerald and diamond cluster ring, mounted in white gold; the emerald is estimated to weigh 3.50 ct; the diamonds are estimated to weigh 1.60 ct (est. €7,000 to €10,000).

Viewing is on Sunday, 12pm to 4pm; Tuesday, 11am to 5pm; and on the morning of the sale, 10am to 12.30pm. The auction begins at 1pm. See oreillysfineart.com.

John Weldon Auctioneers

The Swiss jewellery designer Gérald Genta (1931-2011) was the maker of what the Wall Street Journal once described as "the world's most complicated and pricey watches".

They don't often come up at auction. Post-sale negotiations are currently underway regarding a men's gold minute repeater Gérald Genta wrist watch (est. €30,000 to €35,000), which went under the hammer at John Weldon Auctioneers on August 14, but remained unsold.

The face shows time, date, day, month and leap year.

Other watches in the sale were quicker off the mark. An 18ct gold men's Patek Philippe wrist watch (est. €5,000 to €6,000) sold for €4,850; a men's 18ct gold Cartier tank Americaine date automatic watch (est. €3,500 to €5,500) sold for €3,700; and a men's Rolex Oyster watch (est. €2,500 to €3,500) sold for €2,500.

A women's diamond set Omega bracelet watch (est. €1,400 to €1,800) sold for €1,400 and a Harry Winston 18ct gold lady's watch, in box with papers, (est. €800 to €1,200) sold for €980. See jwa.ie.

Antique & Vintage Fairs

Hibernian Antique Fairs' annual West Cork Antiques Fair will take place in The Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, on Sunday.

This is a small fair, with around 20 stands, which runs from 11am to 6pm.

Expect the usual array of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture; contemporary Irish art; antique books; fine antique jewellery; silver; china and porcelain; clocks, prints and stamps, alongside some very rare pieces such as a pair of George I Irish Silver candlesticks by John Hamilton (1726).

You can find these on the stand of Charles and Sarah Vivian, a pair of dealers from West Cork who specialise in books. They can also be found at Clonakilty Farmers' Market every Friday and Skibbereen Farmers' Market every Saturday (unless it's very wet and windy).

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