Monday, December 2, 2013


Profiles in History is at it again. Their latest catalog "Hollywood Auction 62" is out, complete with the usual blend of half-truths and warped accuracy. This time out they have some very cool Star Trek items. Unfortunately, not content to stick to the facts, Profiles has made some rather absolute statements that incorrectly paint a picture about some key pieces – a picture skewed to impact the monetary value in a very significant way.

Here's the two items I'm talking about:

"Scotty" tunic – PIH photo
430. James Doohan “Scotty” Starfleet duty uniform tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series. (Paramount TV, 1966-1969) This velour Starfleet operations division tunic was worn in the second season by James Doohan as Chief Engineer “Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott” in Star Trek: The Original Series and features the original Starfleet insignia on the chest. No interior label is present (typical for tunics from the series), though the subtle marks in the velour indicate single-row with “dashes” (lieutenant commander rank) braid that was applied to each sleeve making this a “Scotty” (the Chief Engineer was the only crewmember aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise who wore this rank in the red operations division). Braiding was always removed by the studio prior to dry cleaning. Exhibits a minor half-inch tear in the back (could be easily repaired); otherwise, in very good production used condition with vibrant color. This is the only known second season Doohan “Scotty” tunic to come to auction. A rare, signature costume from one of the most revered characters of this groundbreaking science fiction series. $15,000 - $20,000

"Sulu" uniform – PIH photo
431. George Takei “Sulu” Starfleet uniform from Star Trek: The Original Series. (Paramount TV, 1966-1969) This two-piece Starfleet duty uniform was worn by George Takei as “Sulu” in Star Trek: The Original Series. The velour command division tunic was worn in the second season and features the original Starfleet insignia on the chest. The interior bias label is blank (typical for tunics from the series), though the slight size and subtle marks in the velour indicate single-row (lieutenant rank) braid was applied to each sleeve making this a “Sulu” (braiding was always removed by the studio prior to dry cleaning). Completing the ensemble are a pair of Original Series Starfleet black gabardine pants with metallic glint marked “Geo. Takei” in white ink and internal Paramount dry cleaning tag. Following their use in the Original Series, the studio added pleated cuffs for use in the failed continuation series Star Trek: Phase II. Exhibits minor 2.5 inch detachment at the seam near the left cuff; otherwise, in very good production used condition. A rare, signature costume from one of the main characters of this groundbreaking science fiction series. $15,000 - $20,000

At first glance, these look like cool pieces of the original series that were actually worn by two well-known characters. That's why you should NEVER accept a Profiles description at first glance. To begin with, we're not given any shots of the construction of these shirts so that we can indeed confirm that these are true Original Series (TOS) tunics. But let's assume for the sake of argument that they are genuine TOS pieces. Let's move on to the evidence that these are actually pieces worn by "Scotty" and "Sulu".

The auction states: "No interior label is present (typical for tunics from the series), though the subtle marks in the velour indicate single-row with “dashes” (lieutenant commander rank) braid that was applied to each sleeve making this a “Scotty” (the Chief Engineer was the only crewmember aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise who wore this rank in the red operations division)."

Now, technically, the description is correct – Scotty WAS the only lieutenant commander in red aboard the Enterprise. But that doesn't mean that other actors never wore this same type of shirt.

Stunt double Scotty takes a tumble
Court Martial Lieutenant Commander
In "Who Mourns For Adonis?", Scotty is part of the landing party that is being toyed with by Apollo. At one point, Apollo lashes out and strikes Scotty with a bolt of lightning, sending our intrepid Engineer hurtling backwards from the blast. This scene undoubtedly used the talents of a trained stunt double for actor James Doohan. He's wearing the same red shirt and we can clearly see he's got gold braid on his sleeves – there's no reason to think they aren't the solid/broken stripes of a lieutenant commander. And while Doohan would not have needed a stunt double as much as Shatner or Nimoy, he would certainly have had a stunt double occasionally over the three year run of the show. And all those stunt guys would have worn a tunic just like Scotty's.  Technically, since they were playing the Scotty character (even though it was only for a stunt sequence) the shirt would have still been worn by "Scotty", though not James Doohan as the auction states.

Aside from stunt use, background players wore a lieutenant commander red shirt as well. In "Court Martial", when Kirk enters the Starbase bar, numerous background players are milling about, including one gentleman wearing the style in question.

I think there's little doubt that James Doohan would have been the wearer of this style the vast majority of the time. After all, as the auctions correctly states, Scotty was apparently the only officer on board the Enterprise who wore red and had the LC rank. But he was by no means the ONLY actor to ever wear this style of shirt as the auction also states. So I think the best that can be said about this piece (without a screen-match which is very difficult and unlikely) is that it is possibly a Scotty. But possibility is not certainty. And Profiles is asking buyers to spend a minimum of $18,000 ($15,000 plus 20% buyer's premium) with no guarantee of certainty.

Then there's the Sulu piece. Unlike the Scotty, this piece includes pants, and while I would need to examine them in person to know for sure about their authenticity, all the information that PIH gives is accurate to a real pair, including the way the name was put on.

But the shirt is another matter altogether. Like the Scotty, the tunic has no name inside: "The interior bias label is blank (typical for tunics from the series), though the slight size and subtle marks in the velour indicate single-row (lieutenant rank) braid was applied to each sleeve making this a “Sulu”."

So this is determined to be a "Sulu" because of the rank bands it once had as well is its "slight size". Even more so than the Scotty, this claim is ludicrous. It means that in the three years of the show's run, no other actor ever wore the single Lieutenant's braid on a gold shirt that was similar in size to actor George Takei.

Here's the problem with that claim: since the character of Chekov wasn't added until Season Two, every week there was a new Lieutenant sitting next to Sulu – and sometimes even in place of Sulu! Then there's the dozens of background players that walk the halls or are seated in the mess during crowd scenes. Gold Lieutenants are everywhere! Take a look at this image, especially the first guy who is standing right next to Sulu. Their shirts look to be of a very similar size. And this is just a fraction of all the various appearances of Gold Lieutenants.

Gold Lieutenants abound!
I know that words like "probably" and "perhaps" don't sell things as well as making absolute claims of authenticity. The fact that these words are accurate seems to be lost on Profiles. Their claim of authenticity cannot be supported by the facts they have given, period.

While I can't say for certain that these are genuine TOS shirts without an inspection, they seem to be genuine based on the photos. But specifically attributing these to Doohan and Takei is a real stretch, especially with the "Sulu". Without some type of specific provenance PROVING these were worn by those actors is just a guess. Or a hope.

I don't spend $18,000 on hope. If Profiles could show a screen-match of these two pieces, only then would I recognize their claim. Without a screen match, I think these are worth a fraction of their starting price, given that their histories are, for all intents and purposes, unknowable.

Maybe one of these days I'm going to open a Profiles In History catalog and I'll be shocked because they will not make unproven claims about Star Trek stuff. Unfortunately, this isn't that catalog.

Caveat emptor.




  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. So basically, you're just another armchair "expert" with a pause button. Your skepticism is admirable, but as you said yourself, you have not personally examined these items. You do not know who is selling them, or the circumstances of their provenance. This is exactly why most high end Trek collectors keep their trading private. Some fans can't handle items that come up for auction for high dollar amounts, so they must attempt to prove that something is "fake." I believe that in this case, sir, you are out of your depth.

  2. By the way, you have a wonderful Star Trek collection acquired from Christie's and It's A Wrap. Congratulations. However, if you were aware of the Trek collections that are protected by a handful of longtime fans who have owned these pieces for decades, you would quit trying to be the King of Trek...that position has been taken for some time now. You remind me of a Tellarite. As Sarek once said, "Tellarites do not argue for reasons. They simply argue."

    1. Actually I'm aware of quite a few of them and I'm a great admirer of them. What I don't admire are hacks who offer things up at top prices with NO PROOF of claims like this Profiles stuff. I don't pretend to be the King of anything. But I have a point of view that can be summed up in two: "prove it". Were these shirts worn by the stars as Profiles claims? Prove it. It's a very simple concept. Either the proof exists or it doesn't. The auction listing should include that proof, if it exists. It doesn't. I'd love to know the provenance – but Profiles hasn't shared that which I can only take to mean the provenance sucks or is non-existent. After all, why would they not share it if it was legit?

      People like you who evidently demand no proof of claims are the reason that fraud creeps into the hobby. FYI: not all my pieces came from the safety of Christie's or IAW. I've stuck my neck out more than once. Usually I've been lucky, but I've also been burned. That taught me a valuable lesson: if a seller can't prove their claims, they are probably bullshit.

      If there's solid proof these shirts were worn by the stars as claimed, I have yet to see it. Bottom line is that if there's no tag with the star's name, nor a screen match showing them wearing it, the claim is unprovable. When the Phaser Rifle was sold earlier this year, I applauded the fact that it was offered with impeccable provenance. And that is exactly what is NOT being offered here. If you think these shirts are what Profile's claims them to be, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

      This ain't my first rodeo.

    2. BTW, whatever else I am, I'm not someone who posts about things anonymously. I put my name on everything I say, and I own it. I don't hide behind some username. You've got a big mouth for a guy with no name.

      If you think my process is flawed, tell me where. If you think I'm wrong, explain how. But no – you'd rather drop by, take an anonymous dump, then leave. That takes a lot of thought.

    3. Profiles knows exactly who is offering up these items, and their reputations as authorities in the field. These people are not, as you say, "hacks who offer things up at top prices." I don't mean to call you out on your page, but do you know very much about the auction business at all? You seem to think that original costumes are like jeans from the Gap or something; they will always come complete with a name tag (and this is especially not the case with original series materials). If all departments of history operated in the Draconian manner that you insist upon, nothing would EVER be "authentic." It seems that you would demand to have Elizabeth I scream in your ear: "This REALLY IS a painting of me, dude!", in spite of the fact that it had come from an unbroken line of owners. I just feel sorry for someone who is misled by your post into thinking that an original Star Trek costume will ever read: "Scotty wore this...look for it in episodes 4, 22 and 26!" There's a bit more nuance to this hobby than you seem to understand. The fact that you do not own ANY original series tunics...NOT EVEN ONE, might make you a bit more hesitant to claim any knowledge of how anything was ever labeled, or not labeled.

      As far as my identity, this is YOUR blog. I'm "taking a dump" by disagreeing with you? Statements like: "You've got a big mouth for a guy with no name" are again very hostile, and so very unbecoming. You have a tiny button that says "comments" at the bottom of your post that invites people to, you know, make comments. Disable it if it upsets you. Your attitude follows in the recent tradition of very angry Star Trek prop and costume fans with blogs who get angry any time anyone has an opposing viewpoint. If you don't want comments, don't post inflammatory, un-researched rants.

    4. I value opposing views that are polite, well-reasoned and presented in the spirit of informing. You have informed me of... nothing. You have said I'm out of my depth – an insult, surely – despite offering nothing specific to refute my findings. That is "taking a dump" to me. You insinuate that I'm a wanna-be who can't afford expensive things so I want to tear down others. That is "taking a dump" to me. You offer nothing constructive, only opinion with no facts to back them up. That is "taking a dump" to me.

      You call my story an "un-researched rant". Please cite were my research is in error. PLEASE.

      Profiles has claimed that these were worn by the stars they cite because they show signs of rank that match those actor's uniforms. That is the ONLY evidence they cite to back up that claim. That is a ludicrous assertion and I stand by that. You keep making reference to some super-secret information regarding who the seller is. My point is that if this seller has proof of their claims, WHY DON'T THEY SHARE IT? How hard is that to do? If the painting of Elizabeth came with no provenance – just as these shirts – I wouldn't believe that claim either. And neither should you. But if you showed me the proof, I'm your guy! So show it.

      I've seen many claims of authenticity regarding pieces that collectors have had for many, many years. Sometimes they were right, and sometimes they weren't. You seem to be of the opinion that if someone has been collecting for decades, they must know everything. Bull. The old guard gets stuff wrong all the time.

      I don't think for a moment that everything is tagged. That's the problem!! I have seen a number of TOS pieces, some tagged, some not. But that doesn't mean that since proof is hard, none is required. Quite the opposite. Big claims require big proof, IMO. There is no nuance in authenticity of a piece from a TV show. This isn't Elizabethan art. Either you have the proof, or you don't. Either Profiles shares the proof or they don't.

      I know a LOT about the auction business. I know that they routinely get even the simplest of things wrong. Take a look at the John Wayne hat in the current Profiles catalog. It not only doesn't match ANYTHING in the film, it doesn't even match the film grab they put right next to it!

      So you want me to blindly trust Profiles? Only a fool would do that. But please, PLEASE, help me out here. Tell me SPECIFICALLY why these shirts are what Profiles claims them to be. Explain to me where my analysis is flawed. I genuinely want to know! THAT is what the comments section is for. To inform with concrete, measurable facts. You have yet to provide any. Just like Profiles. If your collector friend (the consignor) has proof positive of the claims that Profiles makes, I would applaud it! Why wouldn't I? I'll do an entirely new Blog story trumpeting it to the world!

      I don't need to be collecting for decades to know how to think in a critical fashion. And anyone who doesn't believe that the auction world is the ultimate place to follow the rule of "caveat emptor" knows nothing about auctions.

    5. An Addendum: I NEVER said these shirts weren't real, production-made TOS shirts. My issue is strictly with the claim of "wearers". And if you can demonstrate to me how a hands-on inspection could possibly confirm who wore these shirts 47 years ago that would be great, because I have no idea how that would work. I must be out of my depth.

  3. Let me clarify that I am a total noob. I just started becoming interested in authentic TOS uniforms (e.g. seeking out the REAL command color), and their replicas so I approach this hot topic from objectivity.

    I have also seen the "other" excellent BlogSpot who supports the "Scotty" and "Sulu" Profiles auction items.

    I think they are both passionate and ironically the opposite sides of the same coin. The only difference is in their opinions. One is optimistic, and one is skeptical but both are seeking the truth and authenticity of their hobbies.

    That aside, Don Hillenbrand has a good point. Perhaps these items that go on auctions are authentic but there is no way of being 100% unless it is verified by an expert such as the actor who wore it or someone who worked in the respective department on the original show, or it can be traced back to the original production with accuracy. Anything else including "screen matching" only supports but does not PROVE the authenticity. Fakery and counterfeiting is everywhere. There are con experts out there who counterfeit everything from money, to Rolexes, to D&G hand bags where only an expert can tell the difference. And lets remember that Star Trek fans have been making replicas and recreations for close to 50 years and there are homemade and custom outfits out there. Heck, Luke Perry was wearing a "Kirk" velour tunic as a guest on the Arsenio Hall show back in the early 90's! BTW - the velour of Perry's tunic was antique fawn-gold color - not bright yellow, and not green - just to digress!

    Not to mention claims are hard to verify even in our age of the internet where information is at our fingers.

    From a noob's perspective, for example, I was looking a very well known figure in Star Trek fandom who markets his own line of velour cloth that is supposedly based on samples given to him by William Ware Theiss. The person apparently worked with Theiss, as an apprentice, on Star Trek TNG.

    However, I could not find one picture of this person with his mentor Theiss. I could not find any IMDB credits associated to him either on TNG, or as a SAG credited actor on IMDB; only on his personal webisodes, and as a background extra in the Star Trek reboot.

    This is NOT to say he did not know Theiss, did not work with Theiss, nor worked on TNG (as IMDB doesn't always list complete works for a performer). I'm sure he did know Theiss, and worked on TNG, as many Trek actors have made appearances on his web based episodes so he does have some "street cred". But the point being that I, personally, could not verify his work on TNG, or relationship with Theiss. It neither means it is true, or untrue. It just means that I don't know and would just be repeating internet fodder if I made claims based on conjecture.

    And that's the problem with authenticating things even with the best of intentions: separating fact, from accepted fodder.

    It's like religion. Some people believe through faith, while others require empirical, indisputable tangible evidence. It's just a different POV.

    1. Thanks for reading, Ben, and for your thoughts on the story. Regarding faith – I'd have a lot more of it had Profiles not been flat-out wrong so many times in the past. Like Scotty said: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Scotty apparently knew everything!