Sunday, December 15, 2019


It's been a while since I added something to the blog, but something AMAZING has come out of the wood work and I had to write about it.

Today, December 16, is the start of a two day auction at Julien's in Culver City California. What's special about this auction for Star Trek fans is that they are featuring 48 lots of various Star Trek items made for many of the various incarnations including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and more.

While that's all very exciting, there is one particular lot that especially excites this fan and, I suspect, many more. It's Lot 264 and here's the description:


"A Starfleet command/officer’s jacket worn by William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Paramount, 1982). Maroon jacket with asymmetrical front lapel, cream colored interior and black piping with gold soutache trim (indicating Flag Officer rank). Features two silver- and gold-tone “admiral’s star” badges at right shoulder and left arm. Also features black and gold checkered (Rear Admiral) ribbon and cream colored stripe with production brass-tone rank bands and pins on left sleeve. Costume includes black leather belt with brass Starfleet buckle. Sotheby’s tag attached.
Accompanied by Paramount Pictures letter of authenticity, signed by director Nicholas Meyer and dated January 30, 1997. The letter from Nicholas Meyer states the following:
This letter will confirm that the Star Fleet tunic [jacket] in your possession was worn by William Shatner in the film STAR TREK II - The Wrath of Khan, which was written and directed by me. I was presented with the jacket at the close of shooting in 1981, and I gave it directly to you.
PROVENANCE Lot 580, Sotheby's, New York, December 19, 1997. Paramount Pictures Letter of Authenticity, signed by Director Nicholas Meyer, dated January 30, 1997."
The white interior shows the unique lining color used for command officers.
Sounds pretty cool, right? Probably rare? Here's the thing – a true Wrath of Khan Kirk jacket was believed to no longer exist (hence, a "unicorn"). Until now.

"But Don," you're saying, "they must have made more than one for production." And you'd be right. While we don't know exactly how many jackets were made for William Shatner in Wrath of Khan, we do know that there were several – probably around seven or eight since he was the star and was in almost every scene of the movie. So this shouldn't be all that rare, right?

Wrong. An untouched Kirk from Khan is rare because over the course of the Star Trek films of the 80's and early 90's – those featuring the original cast – they were constantly trying to save money. One way to do that was to re-purpose costumes made for earlier films for use in later ones. That meant that all the jackets – even Shatner's – went into inventory to later be used as needed by any other actor or extra. When that happened, they were "neutralized" by having all their rank bands and other details – like the gold trim of an admiral's uniform – removed. The jacket would then be pulled from inventory for use based solely on the jacket's size and new rank and accessories would be added as needed for a particular character.

We know, for example, that a Kirk jacket was re-used by the actor playing the Starfleet C-in-C in Star Trek VI (Leon Russom) because that jacket was sold at auction and featured the original Western Costume tag with Shatner's name typed in (for the original use) and the new actor's name simply written over in marker. The jacket was modified for that use with new rank pins and additional gold trim added.

This, then, became the fate of the Kirk jackets. As Shatner was given new jackets when his size changed (ie: increased!), his old jackets were retired and recycled. I know someone with a  maroon that was crudely re-tailored for a female use and featured a white interior like Kirk's. I'd bet money that started as a Kirk but it is so heavily modified that it's impossible to tell for sure.

So the bottom line is this – we thought no complete original Kirk jackets survived. But this auction changes all that. The auction even answers the question of how this piece survived when none others have. This piece was gifted to Wrath of Khan director Nick Meyer in 1981 at the conclusion of Star Trek II production. This means that it never went into inventory to be used in later films, thus it was never modified after its initial use. By being removed from Paramount, the jacket was effectively  preserved for posterity! And there's no better provenance than a letter from a film's director. It's my opinion that this piece is what it is presented to be – a true Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan Kirk jacket.

Rank strap with Admiral pin
This checkered strap was unique to Wrath of Khan.
The back shows all the great details of this amazing design.
I'll mention one odd thing about this piece that I really can't explain. While most of its components seem to be correct and original as seen in the film, there's one small detail that is wrong. The rank band on the wrist is mounted on a maroon backing. This is incorrect. It should instead be mounted to a gold lame backing with gold piping that gives the impression of gold trim on the band. Here's a comparison:

The maroon version was actually used on the crewman jumpsuits shown in that movie so there is a precedent for that type to exist. Perhaps the jacket had to be reassembled for presentation to Meyer and the costumer grabbed the wrong band? Unfortunately, we'll never know.

One other odd thing about this jacket is that it has no Western Costume tag sewn into it like the one shown above. As jackets got reused these tags were usually removed to avoid confusion. But since this jacket never went past Star Trek II, it's a surprise that the tag is not present. As with the wrist band, we'll never know the explanation.

I want to stress that these two anomalies – the wrist band and the missing tag – in no way impact the authenticity of this piece. I have personally owned numerous production-made uniforms of this style over the years and I can tell you that this is definitely the real deal. I actually own a Kirk myself, complete with Western tag. While I am thrilled to own it, it is one of the modified versions I spoke of previously. It has none of the gold trim or rank pins as seen in Wrath of Khan. On the plus side, however, mine is a complete uniform with undershirt and pants, unlike this jacket-only piece.

For comparison, the last time any Kirk jacket sold at auction, it went for over $40,000. It was the aforementioned "C-in-C Russom" version and was complete with pants and undershirt. This version has an estimate of $80,000-$100,000 (and is sitting at $55,000 in pre-bidding as of this writing). Will it hit that number? Will it exceed it? We'll know soon enough but nothing would surprise me.

Keep in mind that this isn't simply rare. It's unique. Perhaps one-of-a-kind.

So the question is this: what's a unicorn of the Star Trek variety worth?  We'll find out this week.

Be sure to check out this piece and the entire auction HERE.