Trek Memorabilia Collector Suing CBS & Christies

Last year Christie’s auction house helped CBS Paramount unload 1000 lots of memorabilia from the Star Trek vault in a highly publicized auction that brought in over $7 million. However, it appears one collector is not so happy and believes he has been duped. Ted Moustakis of New Jersey spent a total of over $12,000 for a uniform and a poker visor worn by Brent Spiner (TNG: Data) as well as a poker table used on TNG. Moustakis now claims that the items are not genuine and says that Spiner is backing him up.

Moustakis tells the New York Daily News that when he went to the Creation Vegas convention last August he brought the visor to get it signed by Spiner, but Spiner told him it was a fake and the real one was sold by the actor himself on EBay. TrekMovie.com can confirm this because Spiner actually spoke about this when on stage. Of course Spiner could be wrong and maybe there was more than one. Moustakis also states that Spiner told him that he had notified Christies they didn’t have his visor.

Moustakis is convinced he has been duped and now thinks the uniform and table he bought are also not genuine. According to The New York Post Moustakis is suing CBS Paramount and Christies for $7 million bucks. He and his lawyer believe that Christies knowingly sold bogus items as genuine memorabilia. Moustakis’ lawyer Richard Borzouye tells the paper “they were given strong reason to believe certain items were not authentic. This was done knowingly.” Both papers say that CBS and Christies were not available for comment.

UPDATE: AP is reporting that a Spokesman for Christies states “the case has not merit.”


Moustakis with his alleged fake memorabilia

Christies is possibly the most famous and well respected auction house in the world, but they have had legal trouble in the past. In 2001 they (along with Southeby’s) were slapped with a $512 Million judgment for price fixing. In the case of the Trek auction they solicited the help of famed Trek designers Mike and Denise Okuda to authenticate and catalog items for the auction. The process was even documented and turned into a TV special on the History Channel. It seems a bit far fetched that CBS and Christies would sell something that was a fake, but it is within the realm of possibility that an item could have been misidentified. Two identical items would have very different prices if one was worn by a star actor on screen and the other was just a never-used backup.

All those who have bought items at Trek auctions will certainly want to keep an eye on this suit and TrekMovie.com will provide updates as they become available. For more see The New York Post and The New York Daily News. The story has also been picked up by NBC10 in New York.

Data wearing his Poker Visor

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This is big news!

If this proves to be true then we could be seeing the beginning of the end of Trek auctions. If you can’t trust that you’re buying the genuine article from a respected auction house like Christies then who can you trust?!

Is Spiner sure that there wasn’t more than one visor?

It does occur to me that some of these props etc would not be at all difficult to copy – how can an item be absolutely definitely authenticated?

Paramount trying to pass off one thing for another. Sound familiar? A certain movie comes to mind… ;)

#1

I don’t know how any of the talent would know how many backup copies of props/costume pieces were manufactured. It might be that one is just as authentic as the Brent Spiner piece, just not screen-shown. And, unless Christie’s labelled it as such (as opposed to ‘from the episode ____” — a subtle, but, potentially legally-distinct, difference), Mr. Moustakis might have a high hurdle to clear for a $7,000,000 judgment against Christie’s and CBS.

Another question might be posed: Since the piece auctioned-off by Brent was the property of Paramount, did he have permission to take it with him?

/I won’t even discuss the concept of paying $12,000 for that item.

Over $12,000 dollars? It takes all sorts I guess.

Off topic: here’s a little snippet more from Karl Urban on the Trek shoot –
http://www.thedeadbolt.com/interviews/karlurban2_interview.php

pimf “Christies”

#3 Which one? If Star Trek (2008), as owner, they get to decide what they do with their property — no ‘passing it off as’. If a third party made something called “Star Trek”, and ‘sold’ it as being an authorized release from the owner, then one could argue “passing something off”.

Whether we accept what decision they make (i.e buy tickets when it is released) is our decision.

In the alternative, one could go and develop an original TV series/ franchise of their own, and keep subsequent iterations as ‘pure’ as they wish.

Shouldn’t this guy at least verify the authenticity of the other stuff he bought BEFORE filing a lawsuit? I mean he is going to look like a real idiot if everything else is genuine and some poker visor (which was probably originally purchased at Wal-Mart) was just a clerical mistake.

The bowl of mouldy fruit I thought was from the TNG episode: Timescape is probably just a bowl of mouldy fruit.

#3 or perhaps someone trying pass themself off as a Star Trek fan.

363 dtST

I apologize, I can’t feel sorry for the rich.

He was already paying more than it was worth, used by Spiner or not. He should have just ordered a poker table and visor from some gambling supply company.

#10: Maybe that’s what Christie’s did! LOL

#11

Or, given the origin of the design of Geordi’s VISOR, it might be that the property department for TNG went over to WalMart and bought a few for the ep.

I don’t recall, since I didn’t follow TNG as closely as others might have: Was AGT… the only episode where Brent wore this style of poker game visor? Because if it wasn’t, I could see another scenario where Brent “came home with” (permission granted or otherwise) the one from that episode (since it was the finale) the one he auctioned off, and the one that Mr. $12,000 was used in another ep.

I could see, in the court case, another interesting situation occurring…

If the Christies auction occurred after the eBay auction by Brent, I could see a smart corporate attorney asking Mr. M. in a deposition in this lawsuit

“as an obvious Star Trek enthusiast, and apparent (serious understatement) fan of Mr. Spiner and his character, did you have knowledge of Mr. Spiner’s assertions of the chain of ownership/ possession of his (Brent’s) auctioned-off poker visor — and took that knowledge into consideration of your winning bid for the Christies auction item?”

I just skimmed the comments, so I apologize if this info has already been presented.

In hollywood it is a VERY common practice to create duplicates of EVERYTHING, costumes, props, furnishings, etc. This decreases the risk of something breaking and having to stop production. Mr. Spiner could very well be correct that it wasnt the one used on screen, but that doesnt unnecessarily mean it was a replica, it’s was just production made but not screenused. It could have even been screenused if there were multiples in use (like stated above).

WOW… SLOW NEWS DAY.

I can understand a collector forking over a ton of money for something from the TOS era, but $12,000 for a TNG uniform and a poker visor???

I have a hard enough time parting with $30 for an Art Asylum Enterprise toy. It’s great (I suppose) if you have that kind of money to burn, but geez… I’ll NEVER get into that hardcore collector mentality. I’m the kind of guy who just shook his head in disbelief when Gabe K. was searching for the “ultra-rare” Picard figure in TREKKIES!

#13 Very true. And given the fit in the photo my guess would be also that the prop master may have also obtained or if manufactured, various sizes not having known the appropriate fit at the time.

Was the item listed as screen used?

Could you imagine being the judge in this case — if he weren’t a Trek fan?

“WTF? You paid $12,000 for a TV series costume and a poker-game visor? And you’re coming into my courtroom asking for $7,000,000 in damages because, although owned by the production department of said series, and transferred from the production company’s warehouse to Christies after an investigation of items conducted by individuals who worked on said television series, it appears to have not been seen on screen?”

[bang]

“Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted”

So, the guy spends 12,000 and sues for 7 million? What a crock of bull poo. How does that even equate to a 12,000 purchase? Get your money back…yes…get rich for life…I don’t think so. This suing business in the U.S. is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like they think they’re playing the lottery.

The Okudas used their vast knowledge in authenticating items, but they also used DVD’s of episodes to confirm items as well.

Obviously, this is not a perfect process. But if stuff wound up in Paramount’s Star Trek warehouse, then where else did it come from?

How does buying something for $12,000 turn into a $7,000,000 lawsuit? Shakespeare was right…

I’m sure that Christies and Paramount used language to the effect of “to the best of our knowledge and belief” when they sold that stuff.

Moustakis should probably reread the Ferengi Rules of Acquistion.

That’s why I only by genuine characters at auction. I’m looking to pick up Ensign Ro or Lt. Dax, but only if they have proper ID.

THANKS A LOT, MOUSTAKIS…

…just the type of story that the media is going to run with to make all Trekkies/-ers look like a bunch of nuts. No one would have cared to cover this story if he WASN’T looking for $7 million.

Yes, The Cristies Catalog listed it as follows:

LOT 633 A wire and dichroic finish plastic visor worn by Brent Spiner as Data during poker game scenes in Star Trek TNG including descent part 1 in which data played poker with real life scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking and in all good things the final episode of STTNG”

Spiner must know which visor was his as he must have wore it dozens of times. Chances are this item was a second or an extra. It looks like the beef here is that if it was a double that clearly didn’t fit Spiner as shown in the picture above and if Spiner told Christies they were selling the double not the one he wore, ahead of time they shouldn’t have listed the item as they did, as it was very misleading to say the least.

AND… AND!

He’s a father of six! Nice to see their college money was well-spent.

So, is the other $6,988,000 for ‘pain and suffering’? He’s essentially accusing them of excessive greed by displaying it himself. Our litigious society has really turned into a joke. Unless, of course, he’s suing ‘on behalf’ of all the other collectors who purchased items at the auction.

I think they’re all nuts for spending tens (and in some cases, hundreds) of thousands of dollars on models and pajamas anyway.

Stanklin T. "Mr. Optimism" McFibberich

I can’t wait to bid on Quinto’s fake Spock ears and lobes…and Pine’s fake Kirk hairpiece.

“So, is the other $6,988,000 for ‘pain and suffering’?”

I would assume its punative damages.

A lot of sour grapes in this thread. If the guy can afford to lay down 12K on a costume, more power to him. I hope to have the same kind of disposable income down the road.

As FlyingTigress and others have pointed out, an item can be of authentic provenance and never have been “screen-used.”

Unless made necessary by budget considerations, there’s almost never only one copy of a prop or costume. Spiner may have worn that visor for a week or a season and taken it home with him, unaware that there were two or three others made (in fact, he may have worn several identical ones without knowing it) in case one was damaged or disappeared off of the set.

I’m reminded of the DS9 episode where a very angry Romulan snarled at Sisko, “It’s a fake!”.

Also, feel free to imagine Admiral Ackbar saying the same thing.

Poor little rich boy got ripped off. Boo Hoo.

Green-blooded-bastard

I have absolutely no pity. I can think of PLENTY of other things to do with $12k than buy a $50 shirt and $12 visor, but I’m guessing it’s all relative. How many of us make $25k a year and buy toys and comics? Think proportion. If he can afford to spend that kind of money on a crappy shirt that makes him feel better, he’s probably making millions. It’s a drop in the bucket for guys like that.

Are these auctions for charity?

Shrewd poker playing by Data. The Christie’s buyer will get his 12 grand back and maybe some compensation to split with Data, and Data won’t have to refund his eBay buyer.

Yes it could be a second prop which would give it value, but no where near as much value as if it saw actual screen time. That is the issue. When you pay that much money, you are paying it for the actual object on screen. You are buying a moment (as much as anyone can) not the cheaply made object itself. Oh and please it was nto 12000 for the visor, it was 12000 for the visor, uniform, and table.

Yeah, there are plenty of rich guys out there that fork over insane amounts of money for this stuff, but this points to a much larger problem- the issue of counterfeit props in the marketplace. Now, before you all go off, let me point out that even the Smithsonian has been duped. There is a communicator and phaser which have been on display for years which are totally bogus. How do I know? Because there ARE people in the industry- the unsung heros- the propmakers- who KNOW. Were any of these guys involved with the authentication of the Christie’s lot? As far as I know, NO. No offense to the Okudas, but they didn’t have hands- on experience making the stuff. Others should have been brought in with first-hand knowledge. I might mention that I’m not one of those rich guys with more money than brains. I’ve built up a small collection by being lucky enough to meet some very talented people whom I totally respect.
I don’t think this is the first guy who’s going to sue.
For more info on Trek props check RACprops.com and trekpropzone.com.
Buyer beware!
BTW, I think all the dough went into Paramount’s pocket.

#29 Do you know how much you DVDs, and toys and comics would be worth as cash in the third world? Take the amount you spend on these things and multiply it by 8 and that is the impact you could have on a third world country starving and dying. Are you willing to give these things up? if not, don’t point fingers at a man you know nothing about.

Ok i am following this purely on curiosity but it sounds like a lot of people are just venting cause they dont have money to do the things this guy did….serioulsy he can do whatever he wants with his most likely hard earned money…geez instead of wasting your time posting dumb comments go do something with yourself…and for all you people who are just dont get the point….$7mil=punitive damages…its our right as americans to sue whoever we want whenever we want….

Auction houses have bee sued before and found guilty of selling non-authentic items as genuine. You have to check what you’e buying. I remember one of the big magicians bought a movie Batmobile for major cash– then found out it had only been used for publicity or was an extra that had never been on screen. It’s a little out of hand, the auction business, with these prices. We’ve come a long way from the “Great Sci-Fi Auction” of 1980. Kirk’s yellow shirt (One of them) went for two-HUNDRED-seventy five dollars. And no, I didn’t bid because they didn’t advertise any Trek items as being there. But the press plays it up and gets people to pay thousands for Superman’s (only?) cape– he had dozens of capes for standing , flying, walking, not just one.

#29 Actually not even the second world. I was just in the Philippines a couple months ago and gas was around 49 pesos. The exchange rate was at about 49 pesos to 1 US dollar.

#37 how much gas? An average gas tank is what 15 gallons. So is that 15 gallons to a dollar? yeah that is a higher impact than a factor of 8.sd

It’s amazing how much people pay for a costume: an object made of simple common materials. And many of these are quite expertly recreated by people in the know who make them exactly like the ones seen on screen without difference. And the cost is minimal compared to the ones which are sold as ‘screen used’.

I’ve never been one to spend good money for something ‘screen used’ which has been recreated by people who have done it better then even the originals. In fact, the re-created props for the original Star Trek are superior to the originals as they have modern lighting effects and sounds which the originals would never have. Plus, they are new and flawless, not years-old dented, aged props with bad paint, which I’ve observed with some items auctioned from the trek series.

But back to costumes, I have at present the main three uniform/costumes used in the original series first and second seasons, in the same material, with the proper colors and made in the same manner as was done 40+ years ago. And I’ll tell you, they didn’t cost anywhere near the prices we see the orignals get in auction. But they are superior in that they are new and flawless. And probably better then some used,old costume, some actor wore on set.

But, of course, to each his own.

more money than sense. The guy needs a slap round the head to snap him out of the moronic state he appears to be in. I’ll do it for free.

what moronic state?? hes using his money to buy something that makes him happy…find something to do with yourself and stop worrying about smacking people you dont know for free because they have more money than you….geez

I wonder if he will be interested in buying my fake Rolex watch,,,

#40 What if he is an average joe that saved up that money for a while? We don’t know. All we know is that he is a colector from Jersey. Would you feel any diferently if he took a tour of Europe instead? Cause a nice tour abroad can easily cost that much. Bottom line is that it is his money and his value placed on the purchace. If he will get as much fulfilment from a shirt, visor and table as some one will from a car or a tour about the world so be it, its not for you to threaten violence.

25 years ago a famous director won the Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane at auction. When Entertainment Tonight asked Orson Welles what he thought, he said far as he knew the sled was burned during the movie’s closing scene.

#39 Your right. Ever seen some of the screen used PADD’s? Balsa wood, spray paint, and with jet-print sticker on it. On film real world detail just isn’t necessary.

So you’re telling me that Worf’s pimple from Insurrection that I bought at the auction might be a fake!?

Darn, another $50,000 down the drain . . .

I have a well-used tissue that Spiner discarded one day while at a convention. He had a bad cold and filled it up with mucus.

It is a bit dried now, and turning yellow, but I filmed both the nose-blowing and tissue-tossing, and can confirm that the tissue, sealed in a ziplock baggie, is authentic and used on camera.

Any bidders?

#35 #41 hes using his money to buy something that makes him happy The more money you have the more you have to spend to “make yourself happy”. That’s because stuff doesn’t make you happy, it just satisfies your curiosity for a short while until you get bored and want something else. That’s why I feel a bit sorry for those with lots of money especially if they’ve worked hard for it. Imagine being able to buy whatever you want. Imagine having to buy ever bigger and better things to get the same excitement as the last thing. Imagine waking up one day surrounded by all this stuff and realising that it means absolutely nothing. You’ve reached the point where nothing you could possibly buy will give you the same excitement you had as a kid when you saved up your pocket money for weeks to a buy a toy car. You realise that you’ve wasted your life and consumed far more than your fair share of the Earth’s resources. Now you start getting depressions, a short temper, resentment, and on top of that, everyone despises you because you’re rich. Much better to find an interest or a hobby. Get pleasure out of creating things. Think about what someone in one of the poorest countries in the world would think of you and the money you spend on trivial stuff. If everyone in the world consumed as much as American’s (for example), then we’d need three planets to cope. No,… Read more »

in response to number 48…dont be bitter cause you probably dont have the money to do these things…why dont you “create” a piggy bank you cant fill…i guess your “hobby” is insulting people you dont know…

Re:13. Trekkie1701D – December 28, 2007
“In hollywood it is a VERY common practice to create duplicates of EVERYTHING, costumes, props, furnishings, etc. This decreases the risk of something breaking and having to stop production. Mr. Spiner could very well be correct that it wasnt the one used on screen, but that doesnt unnecessarily mean it was a replica, it’s was just production made but not screenused. It could have even been screenused if there were multiples in use (like stated above). ”

That depends on the time period. For example, how many Phaser rifles were constructed for “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or 3-foot Enterprises for the series? Depending on use and budget, only one item may ever see “life” as a prop, costume piece or miniature.

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