As the old adage goes, "when something looks too good to be true, it probably is." That saying is never more appropriate than when talking about Star Trek Original Series props. Unless you really know what you're doing, the best thing to do is to stay away.
Case in point: to the buyer of the "Star Trek Original Series Authentic Communications Ear Piece Prop" (found HERE) I have some bad news for you. You were taken. Here's what the auction looked like:
Great story, right? Direct from Nichelle Nichols herself. Except it can't be true. Why? because the piece shown is actually a replica earpiece that was formerly sold by Roddenberry.com (yes THAT Roddenberry – the son of Gene Roddenberry). One shows up on Ebay once in a while and can be had for $100-200. Notice that the one shown above sold for $5000! That's some great repackaging.
That the piece is a replica is not in doubt. It was confirmed by HMS, the prop-making company that made these for Roddenberry.com. It can also be confirmed with some basic detective work. Here's a shot of the item in question next to an actual screen shot of a real Uhura earpiece IN USE.
The Ebay "original" has a barrel-like body with the fins sticking out slightly from that body. But in the actual screen capture, we can clearly see that there is no main body – the fins are actually mounted to a slender shaft that runs the entire length of the prop. We can clearly see the lights from the background as they define the specific shape. The real piece also has either a shorter fin or some other type of detail at the top of the fin grouping. The Ebay piece does not. In short, upon examination they're they're not even close. Here's some other shots that confirm the spindly nature of the center shaft. Note the shadow, in particular:
On the other hand, here's that same Ebay piece next to an HMS-made Roddenberry piece:
Now, here's the distressing part. The piece was accompanied by this:
"a certificate of authenticity describing the item, signed and dated by Nichelle Nichols. This item was bought directly from Nichelle Nichols." Here's a shot of said COA:
Is this a real document? Well, it's certainly a real piece of paper. But I could make one on my printer in about five minutes, so who knows? But it leaves us with two possible scenarios:
1. Someone faked the COA
2. The COA is genuine (even if the prop is not) and was issued by Ms. Nichols
I have no idea which of these two possibilities is true and I will not warrant a guess.
Another piece of evidence that really tells us this is a fake is the price. A real authenticated earpiece that came directly from Nichelle Nichols would be worth a small fortune. How much exactly? Who knows? But I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it would be worth a minimum of $20,000 and could easily go for double that (or more!) on a good day. Ms. Nichols would certainly be aware of this so the idea that she would sell this for something around $5000 is ludicrous, in my opinion.
One thing I'd like to add is this: I contacted the seller before it ever sold and told him exactly what he had. He never replied. Several days later the piece sold for $5000. You do the math.
So where does the truth lie? Unfortunately, I have no idea. But I DO know the piece is not a true original. So, if you're the guy that bought this, I'd REALLY recommend you try getting your money back ASAP. FYI: this was already rejected for auction by Profiles In History, and they'll apparently take ANYTHING!