Christie's Boldly Goes Into the 'Star Trek' Vault

Captain Kirk's Starfleet uniform and jumsuit outfit at a preview viewing before an auction at Christie's of Star Trek studio items.
Capt. James T. Kirk's uniform on display before the auction, which starts today. (Helayne Seidman for The Washington Post)

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By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006

NEW YORK -- First of all, do not call them Trekkies.

"We're Trekkers," says Matthew Drumm. "Trekkies is an insult and it's only ever used by the media."

Point taken. Drumm and a few thousand other Trekkers have descended this week on Christie's, the fine-art auction house, which has hidden the Picassos and Monets to make way for room after overstuffed room of "Star Trek" memorabilia. Starting today and ending Saturday with the sale of a scale model of the Starship Enterprise-A -- which was seen in several movies and is expected to fetch about $25,000 -- Trekkers will boldly bid where no Trekkers have bid before.

Since last weekend, all 1,000 auction lots have been on pre-sale exhibit at the Rockefeller Center headquarters of Christie's. If you wanted an acid trip but didn't actually want the acid, you couldn't do much better. The original TV series, which began a three-year run in 1966, spawned 10 movies and four television series, and each and every scene required a dreamed-up universe of clothing, furniture, weaponry, art, jewelry, musical instruments, books, toys, games and electronic gadgetry.

Here is Lot 24, a set of "four heavy wooden, loveseat-size benches with rough-hewn finish, all -- 54 x 26 x 43 in. -- used in the Klingon High Council set on Star Trek: Enterprise," as it says in Christie's impressively punctilious two-volume catalogue. (Estimate for those benches: $800 to $1,200.) Here is Lot 173, something called a Zefram Cochrane statue, a "prop statuette of latex and foam painted to simulate bronze, modeled as Star Trek scientist Zefram Cochrane" ($300 to $500).

Can we show you something in the "Next Generation"-style stun phaser, Lot 543, made of foam and rubber and valued at somewhere between $600 to $800? Or a Borg head ($600 to $800) or some Vulcan guards' ceremonial spears ($400 to $600) or perhaps a Starship Excelsior electronic clipboard, a relative bargain at an expected $100 to $150? How about a miniskirt uniform from the original series, "trimmed at the cuff with a single row of gilt braid indicating rank of Lieutenant"? Yours for somewhere between $700 and $900.

The price estimates are guesswork, of course, because nobody is quite sure how many bidders will turn up in Manhattan, nor how many more will bid through a real-time online system that Christie's started using this summer. The high end of the official estimate is $1.8 million, but $3 million sounds reasonable to Cathy Elkies, the Christie's expert in charge of the show.

"All of this comes directly from the studio archives," she says. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Christie's first approached Paramount Studios, which owns the "Star Trek" franchise, a decade ago but couldn't persuade the company to part with the booty. The expense of warehousing all this material apparently inspired a change of heart. The props and costumes were stored instead of dumpstered in part because various "Star Trek" spinoffs were forever recycling things, but now Paramount has no "Star Trek" plans for the foreseeable future.

Which brings us back to Trekker Matthew Drumm. He was walking around the exhibit rooms earlier this week in a bit of a lather.

"I consider this a wake," he fumes. "I'm disgusted by the whole thing."

Paramount is just milking the fans for money, he huffs, and without any "Star Trek" shows in the works, that is unseemly. Plus, they won't let visitors take photographs.


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