Propstore’s annual UK live auction is always a big event. But this year, it felt bigger than ever. Taking place over four days (9-12 November) at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, with almost 1,800 lots on offer, it took an impressive £13 million (over £500,000 more than the previous year), not including buyer’s premiums. But it wasn’t just about the numbers. It was about the people, too. And one person in particular really made an impact.

To open the bidding on his 160-piece collection, none other than Anthony Daniels turned up in person. Yes, C-3PO himself, the only actor to appear in all nine episodes of Star Wars’ Skywalker saga (while also popping up in Rogue One and Solo).

Anthony Daniels pictured with the iconic C-3PO head which went under the hammer at this years London EMLA

“The atmosphere was so electric when the Anthony Daniels lots came up on Day One,” recalls Propstore consignments administrator Ibi Faraj. “It was such a special treat to have Anthony himself surprise everyone by introducing his content. There were so many shocked faces when he walked into the bidding room!”

Daniels was certainly the star turn of the event, and his collection – which even included some pieces of the Millennium Falcon he’d rescued from an Elstree Studios bonfire – proved immensely popular; the top seller of the auction was a screen-matched light-up C-3PO head, which sold for £687,500 (including buyer’s premium).

SOLD FOR £687,500
Anthony Daniels Collection: Screen-matched Light-up C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) Head

The one-time protocol droid also appeared on BBC Breakfast ahead of the auction, talking up the auction while reflecting on his cosmic career, and he also spoke to BBC News. “I realised I had these items and they’re not unloved but they are unlooked at,” he told them, explaining why he was auctioning off his collection. “Will I feel sad to part with them? No. I will enjoy the fact people will cherish and display them.”

While Daniels was certainly the main attraction, there was far more to the 2023 Entertainment and Memorabilia Live Auction. “Many top lots exceeded their estimated values,” says Propstore founder Stephen Lane, “with standout performances from James Bond, Star Wars and Marvel items.”

SOLD FOR £537,500
Screen-matched TIE Fighter Pilot Helmet

Aside from Threepio’s gleaming head, the top sellers included Indiana Jones’ iconic bullwhip from 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which sold for £287,000 (including b.p.), and a screen-matched hero TIE Fighter Pilot helmet from Star Wars: A New Hope, which fetched £537,000 (including b.p.).

SOLD FOR £287,500
Indiana Jones’ (Harrison Ford) Bullwhip

Another impressive collection came courtesy of late Blade Runner archivist Geoff Hutchins, accounting for 55 lots, which made it the biggest Blade Runner collection ever to come to market. This included a costume display for snake-charming replicant Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), a light-up fluorescent street umbrella, and Rick Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) production-made white-gripped stunt blaster.

Items from the Geoff Hutchins Blade Runner collection

Then there were the lots from the world of rock and pop, with this auction being the second to incorporate music memorabilia. A platinum disc for George Michael’s slow-dance classic “Careless Whisper” sold for £33,750 (including b.p.), and Michael’s La Rocka Jacket, screen-matched to the 1986 “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” video, took £93,750 (including b.p.). Meanwhile, Michael Jackson’s black-and-white leather jacket – as seen in the Pepsi New Generation “Street” music video from 1984 – sold for £250,000 (including b.p.)

Items from the music collection, which went under the hammer on day 2 of the auction.

While many bids were placed online and remotely, there were more people at the auction in person than ever before. “On the first day, there were so many people it was standing room only,” says marketing manager Miranda McCabe. “It was so nice to see so many collectors and film fans in one spot, really enjoying the auction and the intense bidding wars.”

A busy crowd on Day 1 of the auction

The most memorable of those bidding wars were fought over a French guard helmet from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), which attracted 31 bids and sold for £50,000 (including b.p.), 1,600% above estimate; an Anthony Daniels-autographed C-3PO dark-red-arm Lego minifigure display, which sold for £5,625 (including b.p.), 4,500% above estimate; and most impressively, M’s red telephone from the James Bond series, which drew 42 bids and sold for £150,000 (including b.p.), 4,000% above estimate.

SOLD FOR £150,000
Peter Nelson Collection: M’s (Bernard Lee) Red Telephone

“I was internet clerking on Saleroom,” recalls photography manager Sarah Sorkin, “and at one point, watching the crowd during a big bidding war, it was like they were at Wimbledon watching the tennis, with their heads moving to the auctioneer and back to me and back again. It was brilliant!”

As ever, the attention drawn by the auction extended far beyond the event itself. In an exciting and busy year for press coverage, Propstore was visited by Richard Arnold for a report on Good Morning Britain, during which he happily strapped on Captain America’s shield. In addition to Anthony Daniels, Stephen Lane appeared on BBC Breakfast to present other movie lots, including Freddie Krueger’s razor-blade glove from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); “We’ve had a real surge of interest in horror collectors over the past few years,” Lane noted.

Stephen Lane with Richard Arnold from Good Morning Britain.
Image taken as a screengrab from Good Morning Britain

There was also a story on This Morning about the music memorabilia strand, for which director of music Mark Hochman introduced the aforementioned Michael Jackson leather jacket and George Michael items, along with Amy Winehouse’s hairpiece, John Lennon’s belt buckle, and other pop-themed lots. Elsewhere, stories ran on ITV News, Lorraine, Fox Business and Forbes, with coverage stretching across Thailand, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Canada and Poland, among other countries.

Mark Hochman on This Morning with some of this years music memorabilia
Image taken as a screengrab from This Morning

Propstore also organised its own build-up events in support of the auction. On 16 August, Watford’s Vue Cinema hosted a special screening of Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner (the superior Director’s Cut, of course), which was preceded by a preview exhibition of the Geoff Hutchins Collection.

Photo from the Blade Runner Event at the VUE in Watford, August 16th

Then, from 3 October, Propstore opened the doors of its UK facility in Hertfordshire to allow potential bidders to get up close and personal with the auction’s highlights. There was a huge demand for tours and press filming during this time, and those who couldn’t come along were able to experience the selected lots via a 360-degree online preview.

Exhibition on show at Propstore London offices in Rickmansworth

On 28 October, Propstore was invited to Kingvention – “the Ultimate Michael Jackson Event” – to showcase its Michael Jackson lots, including Jackson’s “Speed Demon” Spike costume from the 1988 movie Moonwalker, his black-and-white leather jacket, and a framed 1970 concert poster for the Jackson 5. Hundreds of fans visited the booth, and Propstore staff had a great time talking with them and experiencing their enthusiasm for these precious pop artefacts.

Michael Jackson memorabilia on show at Kingvention, October 28th

Finally, on the first day of the auction itself – 9 November – Propstore held a pre-drinks event at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly in London. The room was crowded, a palpable sense of anticipation building as the countdown to the auction launch began.

“It was really great to be back in London and see collectors and bidders face-to-face, and showcase all the hard work the Propstore team has done over the last year,” says operations manager Viki Merry.

A busy pre-drinks event hosted by Propstore at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly in London.

That hard work certainly paid off, and the team’s recollections give more of a sense of excitement than exhaustion after the four days of bidding were finally over. “What an incredible event,” says Lane. “We’re thrilled by its phenomenal success.” Director of operations Sian Taylor, meanwhile, became so wrapped up in the joy and drama of it all, she lost her sense of time. “The 10th London Entertainment Memorabilia Auction was utterly exhilarating,” she says. “It was four epic days of non-stop action. One day, I didn’t even notice it getting into the wee-small hours of the following morning!”

From build-up to execution, it was, all agree, a resounding success. Roll on 2024…

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