One of the most prominent Star Wars artifacts crossed the auction block on Sunday, managing to fetch a record-breaking $3.13 million. The extremely desirable movie prop in question is a long-lost model of an X-wing fighter used in the original 1977 Star Wars movie. It was used in the filming of the climactic battle sequence in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in which the Rebel Alliance fights the Empire above the Death Star. It was one of four “hero” models built for filming close-ups during the space battle. The 20-inch model had been considered lost for decades. However, it was discovered in a cardboard box in the garage of the Oscar-nominated model maker Greg Jein, who died last year at the age of 76. It was found by a team of visual effects experts, including Gene Kozicki while helping Jein’s family sift through his collection.
The bidding for the 1:24 miniature model began at $400,000. However, a bidding war ensued which quickly escalated the price of the incredibly-valuable movie prop. By the time the hammer dropped, the X-wing fighter had become the “most expensive Star Wars screen-used prop sold at auction”, according to Joe Maddalena, an executive vice-president at Heritage Auctions. “The worldwide response to the Greg Jein collections been outstanding,” Maddalena added. “A true testament to Greg and all he accomplished as visual effects artist and collector.”
“This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM,” a visual effects historian, Gene Kozicki, told the Hollywood Reporter, describing the prop as a “white whale”. It is unknown how the X-Wing had become part of Jein’s personal collection, but Kozicki speculates that Jein might have obtained it while working on Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was being filmed at around the same time. Sunday’s auction also featured several other Star Wars items from Jein’s collection, including a complete Stormtrooper costume and original production scripts.