How the Death Star Model Was Saved from the Trash Heap

October 21, 2014 – It may seem hard to believe, but the original Death Star prop used in filming Star Wars Episode IV was almost tossed away as junk, to be lost forever to history.

Original Death Star prop displayed in the previous owner's parents' living room in Missouri (1994). This prop has since been sold to collector Gus Lopez.

Original Death Star prop displayed in the previous owner’s parents’ living room in Missouri (1994). This prop has since been sold to collector Gus Lopez.

You can read a detailed narrative HERE of how a private college-aged fan rescued the Death Star prop from the ash heap of history.

Here’s the summary: Lucasfilm had stored the Death Star prop for some time in a rented warehouse in California. When the warehouse owners later advised Lucasfilm that they were closing the warehouse and to come retrieve their belongings, Lucasfilm failed to respond, so the warehouse owners told the movers to trash the Death Star. The movers ignored them and transported the iconic prop, along with the owners’ other items, to the Missouri Ozarks.

In 1988, Todd Franklin, a college-aged cameraman working with a local TV crew on a story about antique stores, discovered the Death Star sitting outside one of the stores, Mexican Hillbilly, along with assorted statuary and pottery. Mr. Franklin offered to purchase the Death Star, but they couldn’t agree on a price. A few weeks later, ownership passed to a country and western music business in Missouri called Star World, where the Death Star was displayed in the theater’s lobby.

Previous owner Todd Franklin (far left) and current owner Gus Lopez (2nd from the right) in front of the Death Star

Previous owner Todd Franklin (far left) and current owner Gus Lopez (2nd from the right) in front of the Death Star


In 1994, Mr. Franklin learned that the theater was about to close. He negotiated with the owner and, in partnership with his brother and a friend, all three men became co-owners of the original Death Star prop. Ownership eventually passed to super-collector Gus Lopez of Seattle, who had a plexiglass case made. When visitors press a button, a low-wattage interior bulb illuminates the Death Star and plays the Imperial March.

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