At fan conventions across North America and beyond, perhaps the most asked question of celebrities at Q&A panels—besides, “What’s your favorite role”–is, “what did you take home from the set” of a certain movie or TV show set. Movie memorabilia, like sports ephemera, is a big business, and often, the bigger the blockbuster franchise, the more sought-after the pieces become.
You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger film franchise than Star Wars, and if you ask someone at San Diego Comic Con this weekend, replica Stormtrooper helmets, X-wings, lightsabers and the like will be hot items. But imagine having the real thing?
Noted collector John Azarian, who began collecting nearly 30 years ago with Adam West‘s Batman and Burt Ward‘s Robin costumes from the campy, iconic 1966 series, bought at auction. Today he’s amassed thousands of items great and small, and beginning July 29, he will offer a select group of his most coveted items through Heritage Auctions’ Entertainment & Music Signature Auction.
Among the highlight items is one of the few surviving Imperial Stormtrooper helmets from 1977’s Star Wars, re-used in the 1980 sequel Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
The nature of Azarian’s collection is one of strong provenance: It hails from the collection of costume designer John Mollo, the military historian who writer-director George Lucas tasked with turning artist Ralph McQuarrie‘s conceptual renderings into something tangible and terrifying.
“When I started collecting, it was hard to get this material — it was very rare to acquire things from Star Wars early on,” Azarian says. “But I always enjoyed the original movies. Like most people of a certain age, I remember standing in line for hours to see them in theaters. I had a powerful attachment to the original trilogy, whereas my kids were more attached to the newer movies. I spread the collection over all of the movies. And I just liked the look of the new Stormtrooper helmet, so when I saw it come up, I had to get it. And I just really wanted a Kylo Ren helmet.”
Other interesting items include a Rebel Alliance DH-17 pistol from Star Wars; Imperial Stormtrooper hero E-11 blaster; miniature X-wing Rebel Alliance starfighter used in Empire; screen-used Snowspeeder from the second Star Wars film that hails from Carrie Fisher‘s collection and dozens more unique pieces.
Azarian didn’t just want to purchase the pieces and hide them away in a basement. They were seen in countless TV shows and films as well as in museums, magazines and newspaper stories and exhibited throughout his home. Notably, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s ensemble worn when he came back for 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a favorite to display.
“I didn’t collect to be a historian,” Azarian says. “I collected things I loved and enjoyed and, sometimes, things my children enjoyed. I enjoyed collecting; I have no regrets. That’s the message: I have no regrets. I don’t wish I still had these things. I enjoyed everything thoroughly. Now it’s time to move on and let others enjoy them as much as I have.”