Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Myth of Propworx

There used to be a prop and costume reseller called Propworx which was run by a guy named Alec Peters. Mr. Peters fancied himself to be quite the entrepreneur. He had only started collecting screen-used props and costumes in 2006 when Christie's had their big "40 Years of Star Trek" auction, but in 2009 he decided that he would show the world just how the prop business should be run by creating Propworx.

Fast forward to August of 2012 and Propworx files for bankruptcy. And not just any form of bankruptcy either. There was no "restructuring" to allow for repayment of debts or anything like that. Propworx underwent Chapter 7 – liquidation. How surprising then, that a mere two months later we are told that Propworx is back! Did they repay their creditors? No. They owed $401,466 to various creditors including MGM which was Propworx's customer for the Stargate auctions (MGM produced the various Stargate incarnations). And they didn't repay a cent. The bankruptcy court was under the impression that Propworx had no assets and so could not repay anything. The bankruptcy was settled on October 1.

So lots of people were surprised when, just one week later, Propworx was apparently selling props again. Here's what was sent around by Alec Peters to potential buyers:

"We have new BSG, Star Trek, Stargate, Iron Man and Hulk items up on eBay.

Or check out seller name Linnear.

There are 50 items this week and we have at least two more weeks of auctions! We had a bunch of new consignments come in recently and are cleaning out some of my personal collection. Dean is now working part time with me to clear out the warehouse and get auction items up. He can be reached at

Thanks for all your support!

Alec Peters"

So just a week previously, Propworx had no assets. Then, as if by magic, one week later they do. That's amazing.

But no more amazing than Propworx itself. Here's what Mr. Peters had to say when Propworx closed:

"While we have done some great work, and the Battlestar auctions remain the pinnacle of that type of studio event auction, it is time to move on. And I really have no interest in just buying or selling props like The Prop Store or Screen Used (who both do an awesome job) or doing eBay auctions like VIP (which also does good work and I have recommended to studios). Our specialty was always event auctions accompanied by the best auction catalogs ever."

Propworx auctions are the pinnacle? I bet MGM would disagree with that, as would all of Propworx's other creditors. And that's where the myth comes in.

Ask yourself this: how successful would you consider yourself to be if you had $400,000 of other people's money that you agreed to pay, then didn't? Is that ANYONE'S idea of success? Yes – Alec Peters'. In his posts about Propworx there were many boasts about how they redefined the business and had great catalogs and such. But there's not one single word about the $400,000 that he was able to magically make disappear via bankruptcy court. There were no apologies to the companies he victimized nor any concern whatsoever about how PW's bankruptcy would affect those creditors. If you bought something from Propworx and had a positive experience, that's great. But you should know that it was at someone else's expense. That Stargate prop you got? It might not have ever been paid for – your money may have gone straight into Alec's pocket.

Here's another post from Peters accepting accolades for his work:

"Thank you all for the kind words! Propworx was an auction house that we built and did the things that we as collectors wanted to see. Thus the awesome catalogs, the state of the art COA's, the holograms, etc. "

That, in a nutshell, was what was important to the PW experience: pretty catalogs and COAs with holograms. Not spending money responsibly and fulfilling their contractual obligations to customers like MGM. Nope. Their attitude appears to be "we owe MGM and other creditors hundreds of thousands of dollars? Who cares? We have catalogs and holograms."  All hat, no cattle.

Is that YOUR idea of success? Is that what entrepreneurialism is about? Not in my opinion.

And THAT is the myth of Propworx. I've been in business for 20 years and I can tell you that success claimed at the expense of others is not success at all. It's pillaging. It's recklessness. But it's not success.

Not in this writer's opinion, anyway.


Don Hillenbrand

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hangin' with the Galileo Part 3: Mikey and me

This past summer when I had the amazing opportunity to see the Galileo shuttlecraft up close and personal, I was not alone. One of my oldest friends, Mike Myers, accompanied me. Mike and I go way back to our college days which means we've known each other for more than thirty years. And, while Mike is not a Star Trek collector like me, he is definitely a Star Trek FAN, just like me. We both got the bug when we watched the original broadcasts of The Original Series as kids (very young kids!). The first time I saw his room at home, his walls were covered with things like Mo Udall posters (look it up, youngsters) and (much to my delight) Star Trek posters! Point of interest: I think some were of the "black light" variety (look it up, youngsters). From that moment on, Star Trek would be one of our mutual passions. Mike and I and another friend went and saw Gene Roddenberry speak at the Richfield Coliseum during the summer of 1979 and he and two other friends (hey, Keith and John!) braved a snow storm in December of '79 to see the opening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Yeah, it wasn't great, but it was the only Trek in town! We saw it 2 more times that weekend, i think.

Over the years we wandered in and out of each others' lives, but we always stayed firm Trek fans. Our take on the various shows and movies are almost identical (love "Wrath of Khan" –  "Enterprise", not so much). So it was only fitting that when the Galileo's location became known and was put up for auction, we would both get to see her in all her world-weary glory.

As luck would have it, Mike and I have always lived within 20 minutes of the Galileo's various locations since it came to Ohio. Countless times, both of us passed by the boat storage facility in which it was finally stored, having no idea of the treasures held within. So when the auction was announced, Mike was the first person I called.

For some reason, it was difficult to get permission to see the Galileo. You would have thought that the seller would have welcomed potential buyers (and I certainly was one, if only in my head) but weeks went by after the auction was announced but no permission was forthcoming. Finally a call came from the auctioneers who were doing the sale – a showing was finally arranged for THAT DAY. I put aside whatever trivialities I had on my desk and called Mike to tell him of the news. He anxiously confirmed that he'd be there.

It was a very hot June afternoon (in the 90's!) in Ohio when I pulled into the boat storage facility. I got there before Mike (he is "time-challenged", ie: he'll be late to his own funeral) and found the auctioneer rep who then took me and the Galileo's owner over to the storage barn that held my quarry. Still no Mike, though. As I walked into the warehouse-sized structure, I was instantly in awe of what I saw. Yes, she had seen better days and she was currently stripped of her accoutrements (engines, doors, etc) but there she was – the Galileo that I had seen over and over in Trek reruns. The Galileo that I had built a model of in the 70's (I still have it though it's much the worse for wear – not unlike the actual Galileo, I guess). There she stood set off by herself in an open part of the building and I walked up to her literally in awe. I stood there for a few seconds taking it all in. "Holy crap". I thought – "it's actually the real deal! It's actually the Galileo!" I took a breath and moved closer.

And that's when her condition overwhelmed me – she looked like absolute crap. Yes, she was the Galileo of my dreams, but she was also forty-plus years removed from her glory and she showed it. Over the years I had read everything I could find about the Galileo. About how she had been unceremoniously stored outside in the California sun, seen time at an RV yard, and had been hauled across country to end up in my back yard. I had read about "restorations" and repaints, and of course I had seen the on-line shots of her that had shown her current dilapidated state. But pictures did not prepare me for what I saw in person.

If Galileo had ever been "restored" it showed no sign of it now. I had hoped that what I had seen in the photos was a Galileo that was being prepped for primer and so naturally would have a lot of surface stuff going on. But it could not have been farther from that. The exterior shell was covered in rough, weathered plywood and masonite as well as flaking fiberglass and red bondo. It was a mess, period. But it was still the Galileo, for better or for worse, so my emotions were stretched simultaneously between euphoria and despair.

I went to the door opening and peered inside the shabby ship. She didn't look much better on the inside, though it wasn't the total disaster of the outside. I tentatively climbed aboard to look around when I heard a familiar voice from outside – Mike had finally arrived. I poked my head out to greet him. :He had a huge smile on his face and simply said "This is amazing"!

And he was right. Whatever her condition, it was amazing that this piece of Star Trek history even existed at all, let alone in our neighborhood.

Mike and I then spent the next half hour or so crawling all over the old girl, looking into every nook and cranny, trying to understand how the door mechanism used to work (still haven't figured that out), checking out the roof (replaced), the impulse engine bay (empty), and every surface possible. We were like kids in a candy shop with the Galileo being the ultimate lollipop. We couldn't get enough! I took tons of pictures as we made our inspection, wanting to preserve the experience not just in memory but pixels as well. All too soon, our time was up. We couldn't come up with any more excuses to linger with Galileo any longer. Reluctantly, we thanked the owner and the auction rep and slowly walked away from a legend. I grabbed one last glance at the shabby hero and took one last photo as we reached the exit.

While I can share those photos with the world, the experience itself is more elusive. This is my attempt to share some small part of my adventure with my friend Mike on that excellent, hot afternoon in June. I wish all Trek fans could have the same, in-person experience. Mike and I will remember it for the rest of our lives.

Mikey got it right. It was amazing!



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hangin' With the Galileo Pt 2: What's new, what's not

Welcome back to the Galileo story. As told in an earlier Blog entry, I had the amazing opportunity to check out the ultimate Original Series Star Trek prop: the Galileo shuttlecraft. I inspected the old girl prior to her being auctioned off in July.

Since the Galileo had undergone two ill-fated restorations, there were many questions concerning what exactly was original and what was not. I’ve compiled a visual guide that will demonstrate exactly what’s what. Here’s an overview of the replaced areas:

All interior wood framework
Entire starboard side
Entire roof
Entire floor
Large chunk of port side

With that in mind, here’s some exterior shots showing what original masonite sheathing is still intact. Keep in mind that it’s in such lousy shape that I don’t know if it can be saved. But it is original, nonetheless.

Here’s shots of the interior with areas called out. The two different plywood tones are due to age between restorations:

Finally, here's a shot of the entire starboard interior, created from 2 shots. It shows the number of ribs and the way the steel frame carries the structure.
So that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

See Part 3 HERE