Interviews

Published on July 28th, 2022 | by Joseph Saulnier

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Talking The Han Solo Blaster Collectible With RIAC At SDCC

As part of our SDCC coverage I spoke with Rock Island Auction Company about their classic Han Solo blaster.

  1. exactly is important about the Han Solo DL-44 blaster as it relates to modern day science fiction weapons?

Han Solo’s blaster and Star Wars as a whole paved the way for so much in the field of on-screen science fiction. The contributions of George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic are well-known to have revolutionized special effects and camera techniques of the day, and the visible shots from rebel and imperial blasters, and specifically Han Solo’s blaster, are a wonderfully visual part of that leap forward in special effects. After Star Wars was released, everybody else was playing catch-up.

The weapons of Star Wars, and the Star Wars universe as a whole, were a vast departure from how science fiction was depicted previously. George Lucas’ combination of several film genres resulted in a setting much less polished and clean. Instead we were taken to a gritty universe where items looked like they had been used hard, planets that weren’t lush, tech-laden utopias, and space ships that were referred to as a “hunk of junk” no matter how fast they made the Kessel Run.

Solo’s DL-44 blaster is a perfect amalgamation not only of incorporating the grittier look that Lucas desired, but by hanging it off the hip of a quick-drawing anti-hero, was also a merging of the war movie (the Mauser was the standard Imperial German sidearm of World War 1), science fiction and Western genres. It’s really this brilliant little microcosm of the movie tucked neatly away on Harrison Ford’s hip.

 

  1. Does RIAC take part in the authentication process? If so, what is the most challenging part of the process?

Yes. A lot of items come to us with some remarkable stories. Unfortunately, stories without documentation are just that: stories. With items of extraordinary provenance, we collect any information and documentation from our client and attempt to verify it independently. The most difficult challenge with the process is that we’re often fighting time. Time has erased countless records, histories, and first-hand accounts. Sometimes you can find bits of evidence in public records, books, periodicals, or even old journals, but often a trail of provenance goes cold.

 

Items that are accompanied by documents of their provenance provide a much easier task of verification. Thankfully the Han Solo blaster falls into that category. It comes with a letter from Tony Watts, the owner of Bapty & Co. which supplied the props for the original Star Wars movie. Mr. Watts even involved the original armorer of the film, Carl Schmidt, in his authentication process. It’s as straight from the source as it gets.

  1. What are some lesser-known factors taken into consideration when estimating the value of Hollywood memorabilia?

As the top auction house in the world for collectible firearms, we typically have quite a bit of data to pull from and can compare similar items. Hollywood memorabilia presents some unique challenges in this regard, especially for one-of-a-kind items. Frequently, there is no comparable object. You’re trying to sort through the impossible and place it in terms of desirability and dollars.

 

What is Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber worth compared to Han Solo’s blaster compared to an Ewok spear? What is Kurt Cobain’s guitar worth compared to Johnny Cash’s?

 

Intrinsically speaking, there’s a relatively small value in memorabilia compared to their sale prices. Han’s blaster is built using a heavily modified Mauser C96 pistol. At our auctions, those can be readily found for $1,000.

 

So, it’s not so much, “What is this worth” as much as, “What is its history worth,” and a lot of times that’s very difficult to quantify.

 

Muhammed Ali’s championship belt from the “Rumble in the Jungle” sold in 2016 for $358,500 and in 2017 for $120,000. It just sold in late July for over $6 million. So even when you think you have a good idea of what something will sell for, sometimes the market in Hollywood and celebrity memorabilia can be unpredictable.

 

 

 

  1. Is there anything different about estimating Hollywood memorabilia as compared to other collectibles?

Not especially. Collectors of all genres place a premium on authentic items in the highest possible condition. Rare items and those with an interesting or desirable provenance almost always ups the ante. The only difficult question, for Hollywood or other genres, is how much?

 

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