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Long-lost ‘Star Wars’ X-wing model fetches over $3.1 million at auction

Editor’s Note: This article was updated with the final sale price and other details following the auction’s conclusion.

A long-lost model of an X-wing fighter used in the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie sold at auction for over $3.13 million on Sunday.

Used in the filming of the final battle in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” as the Rebel Alliance fight the Empire above the Death Star, the model represented “the pinnacle of Star Wars artifacts to ever reach the market,” Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions said ahead of the sale.

The finely detailed model was used in close-up shots. - Heritage Auctions
The finely detailed model was used in close-up shots. - Heritage Auctions

The top two wings of the fighter are both painted with a single red stripe, identifying it as the squadron’s “Red Leader.”

Bidding for the model — which is part of a collection that belonged to the late Greg Jein, an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated miniature-maker known for his work on “Star Trek” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” — began at $400,000.

Long known as “the missing X-wing,” it was discovered by a team of visual effects experts, including Gene Kozicki (“Face/Off” and “Flight of the Phoenix”), as they helped Jein’s family sift through his collection, Kozicki told the Hollywood Reporter ahead of Sunday’s sale.

“This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM (visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic),” Kozicki said. “For those of us that grew up in the ’70s or ‘80s, and those of us that work in visual effects, this model is as significant a find as the ruby red slippers or the Maltese Falcon.”

The 1:24 miniature was one of four “hero” models built for filming close-ups in key moments during the space battle, including in shots during the trench run as the rebel fleet seeks to destroy the Death Star.

Several “pyro” models were also built according to a much simpler design, which could then be blown up, while the four “hero” models featured intricate painting, wings that spread open into “Attack Position,” a miniature pilot, internal wiring to power lights inside the spaceship as well as minute details such as blast marks and heat-scorching around exhaust nozzles.

They were designed by the Oscar-winning team Industrial Light & Magic according to basic specifications from director George Lucas, who wanted to create distinct shapes for the climactic battle so the audience could distinguish between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire.

Kozicki told the Hollywood Reporter that it isn’t clear how Jein came into possession of this model, speculating that he sometimes obtained items to trade for something else later on.

“(Steven Spielberg’s) ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Star Wars’ were being made at roughly the same time, and with an overlapping group of people,” Kozicki said. “And at that time no one, not even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, could anticipate the impact these films would have on the industry or cultural zeitgeist.”

Sunday’s auction featured several other “Star Wars” items from Jein’s personal collection, including a complete Stormtrooper costume, also from “A New Hope,” that fetched $645,000. A batch of original production scripts meanwhile sold for $27,500.

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