UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) â€” Hundreds of thousands of items used in film and television productions went on the auction block Thursday as the oldest prop house in Hollywood began a five-day sale of its million-item inventory.
Ellis Props & Graphics is closing after 92 years in business because rentals are declining as film and TV production increasingly leaves Los Angeles, said Keith Burns, a consultant for auction organizer Remarketing Associates.
High-profile items included a life preserver used in ``Titanic,'' and one of Darth Vader's light sabers from ``Star Wars.'' The light saber, a backup prop that wasn't used in any of the films, fetched $8,000, the most paid for any item on the first day of the auction, said Ellis spokeswoman Cathy Scott.
Other items recalled decades of Saturday matinees: assorted skeletons and boxes of bones, an electric chair, a Radio Flyer wagon, a fake buffalo on wheels, patrol car light bars, ship anchors, a ``plasma ray gun'' and assorted drums, mummies and Army canteens.
The bulk of the offerings was much more ordinary: salt shakers, books, canes, costume jewelry, bicycles, eyeglasses, typewriters, grandfather clocks and suitcases.
About 60 people bid in person at the Universal Hilton and many others took part online during the auction's first day.
The vast collection was acquired beginning in 1908, when a pawn shop, Ellis Mercantile, began renting merchandise to early filmmakers. According to Ellis Props, it began when a studio employee wanted to buy a glass eye. The pawn shop decided to rent it in case the owner returned, and it continued the practice with other items.
``The props are irresistible, you really feel like you want to make a movie,'' said Susan Zatarain, who went to a preview Wednesday in the dim and dusty building in search of posters or anything else ``that strikes me as being interesting.''
Other prop houses, including History for Hire and Disney Imagineering, sent buyers to the auction.
An antique phone sold for $3,800, and Laverne's suitcase from the ``Laverne and Shirley'' show sold for $500.
The nine-barrel Gatling gun used by Clint Eastwood in ``The Outlaw Josey Wales'' is expected to sell for more than $35,000, Burns said.
Whether or not all the items were actually used in movies or TV productions could not be authenticated because some of the records were destroyed by a previous owner, said Jeri Dubner of Remarketing Associates. But she said she didn't expect that to hurt sales, saying, ``a lot of it has memorabilia value.''
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