Christie's sets phasers on stun in New York
By Lindsay Pollock
Bloomberg News Service
By Lindsay Pollock
NEW YORK — Christie's International in New York is boldly going where no art-auction house has gone before. The usually staid Rockefeller Center headquarters has been transformed into a "Star Trek" shopping mall, with plastic phaser rifles, miniature models of the starship "Enterprise" and a set of Mr. Spock's pointed latex Vulcan ears.
The exhibition, which runs through Tuesday, is the prelude to a three-day auction starting Thursday of more than 1,000 lots to be sold by CBS Paramount Television Studios. (Admission to the exhibition requires a Star Pass, two of which are included with the purchase of a $90 auction catalog.) The sale is expected to total about $3 million and is billed as a celebration of "Star Trek's" 40th anniversary.
The original television series starring Leonard Nimoy as Spock and William Shatner as Captain Kirk debuted in 1966. The franchise has included six television series and 10 movies.
For hardcore "Trek" fans, Trekkies, the auction is bittersweet, offering an opportunity to fondle Captain Picard's Starfleet uniform — estimated at up to $12,000 — but also signifying the end of an era. "Enterprise," the latest series, was canceled by UPN and Paramount in May 2005.
"It's both exciting and sad," said Joe Hoolihan, a computer scientist in Maryland who moonlights as regional coordinator for 31 "Star Trek" fan club chapters, all part of Starfleet, an international Star Trek fan club. "It's exciting to get to see all the wonderful costumes and props that we so enjoy watching," he wrote in an e-mail, "but sad that the history of 'Trek' is being sold off."
Christie's is hoping to bring the same auction magic to "Star Trek" that has been conjured at other celebrity sales. It has produced an elaborate catalog, including a $500 limited-edition boxed set. Exhibition highlights went on a seven-city tour, with stops at a science-fiction convention in Germany, Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and the Science Fiction Museum at the Experience Music Project in Seattle — founded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, a known "Star Trek" fan.
Sale offerings include three ghoulish latex Klingon foreheads, estimated at up to $800. A pair of fake-fur alien tribbles from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" are expected to sell for as much as $1,200.
Among hundreds of costumes is an original-series woman's mustard velour Starfleet uniform — a dress so short it wouldn't matter what the gravity situation is in outer space.
An item likely to be in reach only to those with Paul-Allen-sized wallets is a replica of the starship Enterprise bridge from the original series that includes four futuristic consoles and control stations. It's the most expensive lot in the sale, estimated at up to $30,000. Christie's catalog notes, rather alarmingly, that the U.S. Navy and Air Force have studied the Enterprise bridge for classified projects.
Yet unlike many celebrity sales that attract a wide swath of fans, the world of "Star Trek" is passionate and insular. With so much "Star Trek" material coming to the block at once, it remains to be seen whether fans will send prices shooting into space. Will one man's "Trek" be another's treasure?
"Are there millions of fans? Yes!" said Joe Maddalena, president of Profiles in History, a movie-and-television memorabilia auction house in Beverly Hills. "I don't know how many of these people have the money to buy these things."
Maddalena has sold "Trek" memorabilia at his auction house. A collector paid $306,000 for Captain Kirk's command chair, Maddalena said.
Trekkie Hoolihan, who brags that his daughter's first multisyllable word was "Enterprise," believes that the Christie's sale is too pricey.
"It bums us out we can't bid on most things," he said.
Bob Vosseller, a "Trek" fan who has headed up his own New Jersey Starfleet chapter for 18 years, concurs. "Some friends of mine from another chapter are going to the auction," said Vosseller, a reporter for an Ocean County newspaper. "But only to watch and drool."