The following is an interview with Brandon Alinger, who is the Chief Operations Officer at the Los Angeles branch of Prop Store, which trades in the ultimate collectables: original props and costumes. In this interview, Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon talks with Alinger about how the Prop Store began, the process of acquiring authentic items, and how fans can make their favorite movie collectables a part of their very own collection.
This interview was conducted on August 8, 2012.
Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: Why don’t we start at the beginning – how did Prop Store get started and how did it evolve into what it is today?
Brandon Alinger: Prop Store was started in 1998 by CEO Stephen Lane. A long-time collector of all sorts of memorabilia, Stephen had been trading in film props and costumes as a hobby for several years before making the decision to go full time with Prop Store. What began in Stephen’s garage has transformed into an operation on two continents. Prop Store’s LA office opened in 2007 and has been growing steadily ever since. Today, Prop Store employees a full-time staff of 14, and has a combined 20,000 square feet of warehouse space filled with items from your favorite films.
BD: How do you acquire props for Prop Store, and what goes into the process of authenticating the items?
BA: Prop Store acquires material from a wide variety of production sources, including studios, production companies, rental facilities, and other parties directly involved with the production of the film.
Authenticating material is something that we take very seriously, and is a major part of our business. Due to our vast network of technicians within the filmmaking community, we are typically able to speak directly with people involved with certain props or costumes to verify their authenticity. Authenticity begins with chain of ownership, or provenance, which is something we are constantly considering when evaluating material. Today, we are able to utilize Blu-Ray video technology to scrutinize the details of pieces on screen in a way that simply wasn’t possible before, which allows us to attempt to match up a unique trait on an item such as a stitch pattern, or wear pattern, to positively identify something as the exact unit used on screen.
Every piece we sell includes our Prop Store COA, which is a lifetime guarantee of authenticity.
BD: How are the props archived? Do they need to be stored in a certain way to preserve their value?
BA: Preservation of our unique items is also something that we take very seriously. The general rules of thumb on this matter are to keep items out of harsh light, such as UV light, and to keep them away from extreme temperature changes. We have UV filters installed on all of the lighting in our facilities, and wherever possible use modern UV-free LED lighting in our display cases and exhibitions. Certain materials, such as latexes, foams, and silicones, are especially sensitive to breaking down over time, and must be treated with extra special care.
BD: What is the approximate price range of the items sold through your company? Do you accept Galactic credits or Wookie pelts?
BA: Sorry to say no credit or pelts, although, we can accept any major credit cards! If you look on our website, at the moment you’ll see over 5,000 items for sale, at prices ranging from under ten dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. We like to think that we have something for the collector at every budget level.
BD: Does Prop Store’s founder, Stephen Lane, have any favorite props or favorite films from which to acquire props?
BA: You would have to ask him! I can tell you that Stephen is partial to movie space suits and has an extensive space suit collection in the London office. The crown jewel of this set is John Hurt’s space suit from Alien, which we displayed at San Diego Comic Con last month.
BD: When films are being announced or trailers are being released, do you start making plans to acquire props from films that you feel fans will have a special interest in or does the process begin after the film is a success?
BA: Rarely are any two deals the same in this industry, so it’s hard to generalize something to that extreme. At any given time we may be working with assets from a film that has yet to be released, alongside of material from a production that was released twenty years ago, and has been in storage ever since. We have a good understanding of what collectors are looking for and find that custom made material from major genre films always gathers the most attention.
BD: Is there a Holy Grail of props out there, or an amazing trinket that everyone searches for, but has yet to find?
BA: I think that for many collectors, their “Holy Grail” piece would be something that may not even be known to exist today. One of the most exciting things about collecting is the discovery of new material, and this is especially true for vintage productions, where the whereabouts of many of the production assets are unknown. The general assumption is that if something from a major film isn’t with a known collection today, it no longer exists and was likely destroyed after production. But, you never know – we regularly see material surface that we were previously completely unaware was still in existence, and it’s incredibly exciting! So, I would say the “Holy Grail” is always the next piece . . .
BD: Prop Store has been a regular exhibitor at San Diego Comic-Con for every year that Fanboy Comics has been in attendance. What makes SDCC a must-attend event?
BA: Comic-Con International has become such a mecca for pop culture and the fandom community that it’s an essential show for us to have a presence at. We love Comic-Con and the opportunity it gives us to meet and talk with like-minded fans and collectors who can truly appreciate the material that we put on display. We also find that it’s a great place for networking, as it’s such an industry hub at this point. Wouldn’t miss it!
BD: Where should our readers go to find out more about Prop Store? Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media sites?
BA: Absolutely. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@propstore_com). You can also register an account on our website to subscribe to our e-mail newsletter for the latest Prop Store updates, or to register your favorite films with us, so that you can receive an instant notification when we have new material from your favorites come in.