What price Picard?

A massive auction of Star Trek props, costumes, models and Vulcan tapestry culled direct from Paramount's studio vaults was announced Thursday by Christie's in New York. Though billed as a 40th anniversary event, the sale, to be held Oct. 5-7, will feature less of the 40-year-old variety Starfleet stuff, and more of the Next Generation and beyond variety brands.

"It'll be interesting to see what a Picard sells for versus a Kirk," Beverly Hills-based antiques dealer Joseph Maddalena said Friday.

The newish items--a Captain Picard Next Generation-era jumpsuit (estimated at $8,000-$12,000); a skintight Seven of Nine Voyager outfit ($2,000-$3,000); an imitation-leather Klingon captain's chair from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier ($6,000-$8,000)--are part of a 1,000-plus item lot.

Trek expert Michael Okuda said the sale will be "clearly, the largest, best [Trek] auction." To be sure, the sale will mark the first time Paramount has price-stickered movie- or TV-tested phasers, uniforms and (empty) bottles of Chateau Picard.

Along with wife and fellow Trek expert Denise Okuda, Michael Okuda is cataloging the auction pieces for Christie's. The couple, both veteran crew members of the latter-day Trek series and movies, have spent about three months trolling five Paramount warehouses for suitable Starfleet pieces.

Finds from Trek, circa 1966, were rare, Michael Okuda admitted.

"Very little of the original Star Trek has survived," he said. "Also, back then, no one had any idea that Trek would become the phenomenon it was...We were delighted to find even a few things from the original Star Trek."

Among the delights was a costume worn by Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) in the 1968 episode, "The Tholian Web." Denise Okuda said she found it at the bottom of a box: "My eyes caught a particular color."

More prevalent were artifacts from the movies and relatively recent TV shows, Next Generation (1987-94), Deep Space Nine (1993-99), Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-05).

Okuda said just about everything in the warehouses were fair game for the auction, minus some unspecified "key records" Paramount was keen on keeping.

Even with near total access, the couple said they were picky about what they picked--a couple of goblets and glasses from Quark's Deep Space Nine bar, not the whole cabinet-full of them. Michael Okuda said he and his wife were seeking balance: Something for Picard fans, something for Klingon sympathizers, something for costume aficionados, etc.

"We approached it as each piece is competing to be in," he said.

They also were discerning because Trekkers are discerning: "I would disagree that Star Trek fans would buy anything. They know," Michael Okuda said. "...Just because there's Star Trek on it doesn't mean it'll make a lot of money."

Ah, but if it is the right Star Trek item, it can make a lot of money. A whole lot of money.

Maddalena's Profiles in History shop once sold a Captain Kirk tunic from the original Trek series for $48,875. Its auction of Kirk's original space-age La-Z-Boy bridge chair brought in $304,750. (By comparison, Christie's will seek $10,000-$15,000 for a replica of the Kirk chair made for the 1996 Deep Space Nine episode, "Trials and Tribble-ations.") Kirk alter-ego William Shatner even scored $25,000 for a kidney stone. (He passed the money straight to charity.)

Maddalena, who said he unsuccessfully bid to handle the Paramount lot himself, plans to attend the Christie's auction in October. He said he's as curious to see how the newer-era Trek memorabilia, heretofore largely unavailable, does, as he is to see how a giant-sized sale, boasting hundreds upon hundreds of pricey pieces, holds up. ("There's a lot of people who collect this stuff, but...")

At the end of the Starfleet log, Maddalena called the auction a "great opportunity" for Trek fans: "They burst open the vaults."

And if only the vaults had been burst open in a third-season episode of say, Voyager, they might be for sale, too.

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