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Propstore Q + A with Stephen Lane

Written by Rachael on 15th June 2012 in Buying Guides.

With the massive success of sci-fi and comic book movies over the last few years, collectors around the world are shopping around for the latest and greatest in movie memorabilia.

Stephen Lane is the owner and founder of The Prop Store which has offices in both London and Los Angeles and in this exclusive interview, Stephen gives us an insight into the prop industry and tips for new and old collectors alike.

Stephen, tell us how you started off in this exciting industry?

I have been a collector all my life. While collecting movie related toys some 20 years ago, I was offered a Rebel blaster from Star Wars. Intrigued that such a thing could even exist, I bought it and began to research its history. From that day I was hooked and my personal collection of production used props and costumes was started.

I then began networking with Industry technicians and professionals and located my first treasures. As time passed, things turned from exciting to plain hectic and I formed Prop Store of London as a business in 1998. At that time, no one in the UK was selling this type of memorabilia as a full-time operation. Prop Store has developed extensively since its inception and now employs a dozen people at locations in London and Los Angeles.

What are the different types of collectors?

It seems to me there are two types of collector for the most part.

There are the “horders”, those collectors who want to gather as much as they can and keep hold of it. Rarely trading or selling their acquisitions. Extreme examples of this include folk we know who don’t even open the packages of goodies they receive!

Then there are the collectors who are usually happy to let pieces of their collection go if it means upgrading or improving what they already have. I would fall into this category.

Most collectors take great pride in the display of their collections and carefully indulge every aspect in the preservation and documentation of each piece.

Why do people want props/memorabilia from their favourite films?

For a variety of different reasons. Often we are simply recapturing our childhood. Sometimes we just want to own something unique or cool. Having James Bond’s pistol in a display case does tend to start a conversation.

Without revealing your contacts or industry secrets, how do you get hold of the props?

We have a vast network of contacts which have taken 20 years to gather. We aquire items from production companies and studios directly as well as crew members, actors and other employees. We also pick up items from established collections and very occasionally, auction houses.

What are the most sought after props you are asked for?

From all the titles that you would expect. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, James Bond, Alien and the Super Hero movies. I would guess that the most often asked for item might be a Storm Trooper helmet from the original Star Wars trilogy.

What does a collector need to look out for? i.e. spotting a fake, not getting ripped off.

Research is everything. We spend a huge amount of time checking each and every item, even when we know its history. I would recommend that every collector do the same. Check the DVD or better still, the Blu-Ray and make sure that it matches. Buy from a reputable, established dealer who offers a COA with a real money back guarantee. And it is probably best to avoid places like eBay!

Star Wars memorabilia can sell for quite a lot at auctions. What memorabilia from the movies of today, do you think will rise in value over the next 30 years?

It looks like Harry Potter is with us forever now. It is just huge. The children that have enjoyed these movies and books will be looking to own the props and costumes when they are older. I also think the Lord of the Rings movies have that same timeless quality. There are always films that catch the masses unaware though, Blade Runner took a long time to find it’s cult status as did The Wizard of Oz.

I hear your three favourite films are Alien, Batman and Star Wars. What are the best films you have seen so far this year? And which upcoming films are you looking forward to?

There are some great films on their way. Prometheus, Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit and a new Superman and Spiderman are just some of the titles I’m looking forward to. Favourite film so far this year though is Avengers Assemble.

From your personal collection of props, which is your most treasured possession? Would you ever sell? What kind of price would sway you?

Very difficult to say. I have John Hurt’s space suit from the original Alien, that would be a tough one to beat. It is a stunning display item.

Although this has become a business for me, it is still very much a hobby too with all the passions that any hobby brings. I’ll always listen to offers for any of the items I keep in my collection but I’m reluctant to put a financial value to them. It really is a costume I have no wish to part with.

What genre of films can collectors hope to find at the propstore?

We have a very eclectic inventory indeed. Everything from space suits to full size creatures and monster costumes. We have cars, speedboats, guns, swords, ID cards, helmets and even “hoverboards”. Our wardrobe consists of dinner jackets, jumpsuits, military uniforms, wedding gowns, pirate costumes and everyday, contemporary wear. Every garment previously worn in a movie of course!

And finally what can we look forward to from the propstore this year?

It is not always easy to know what is coming. All I can do is promise that we will continue to seek out the most exciting and unique items we can. It is what we have been doing for 14 years and I hope we can continue for many years to come.

The Propstore is filled with props from many movies throughout the ages, from sci-fi classics such as Star Wars and Alien to comedy favourites such as City Slickers and Anchorman.

Whether you are an established collector or just thinking of starting your own collection then visit www.propstore.com to arrange a tour through one of their incredible galleries and take a look at some of the endless possibilities that await you.