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Xena / Hercules Wardrobe Auction

The Wardrobe Auction

When I announced I was taking a couple of days off work to attend the Xena costumes auction (I knew they'd find out anyway so it was better to remove speculation beforehand) I got the usual understanding reaction from my valued colleagues: "You're going to buy a pair of Xena's leather knickers!". I explained with quiet dignity that I was not intending to buy any knickers, and furthermore Xena's costume was probably not on auction, and anyway her knickers are not leather, they are black, and not frilly either. For some reason this caused them even more amusement. Ah well the things I endure for Xena.....

The auction was in the wardrobe department of the Rosebank Road complex, with some overflow into a small part of the adjoining buildings that had been occupied by banners, carpets and caneware last week. Other than moving some of the 'overflow' items - racks of dresses, boots and leather/fur items, into the adjoining building, the wardrobe department appeared to be much as it must have been when in use.

A view of the part of the main floor from the mezzanine

Costumes were all stored on hangers on six-foot-long wheeled racks, closely parked with just enough room to squeeze between. Generally, costumes from Xena, Hercules and Young Hercules were in the large main store area. Costumes from Cleo 2525 were upstairs in a small mezzanine floor. Behind the main store was a fair-sized room containing racks of leather armour, boots, belts and accessories.

The complete costume for a 'name' character would be hung on a number of wire coathangers, held together in a group by a safety pin. Accessories would be in flat plastic bags or pinned to a piece of coarse cloth made so as to fit over a hanger. Next to the main character's costume on the rack would be the costumes of the same character's stunt, body or riding doubles (if any, and most main characters had at least one). The main costume would be identified by the character's name plus the actor, e.g. "Yakut Kate Elliot" and the double would be labelled e.g "Yakut Stunt Double" "Yakut Riding Double" (and sometimes the double's name as well). Each costume would be as complete as needed; in the case of main characters like Yakut, this would be the entire costume, and the doubles' costumes would be virtually complete as well. In a few cases, the doubles' costumes would just be a few distinctive pieces, presumably the rest being standard Amazon extra or whatever.

A complete costume
(in this case, Olan Body Double from Amazon High)

Often there would be an informative label attached, listing all the costume items needed for the character. There would also typically be a Polaroid of the actor, or the double, in full costume, for assistance in dressing the character. Basically, all the equipment and information required to dress a character and her doubles would be stored right there on the rack, except for footwear.

The Polaroids were removed by auction staff (acting on instructions) at the time the article was sold; we were warned of this in the auction catalogue. The reason was, apparently, that Renpics (or StudiosUSA) didn't want those photos turning up on the Internet, which is understandable for copyright reasons, though disappointing.

What was noteworthy was that any named character seemed to rate their own individual costume. For example, supporting-cast Amazons in Amazon High, like Olan, or Karina, each had an individual costume created for them, and kept properly labelled for future use; they didn't just wear 'standard Amazon' gear. (Olan was the young Amazon with the big hair and the happy grin; Karina was the Amazon queen played by Claudia Black.) Even some characters without a speaking part or a name onscreen were given names and individual costumes, it seems. The part of me that loves collecting information for its own sake wishes plaintively that someone had carefully compiled a register of every character, and their actors and doubles, complete with Polaroid photos and details of the episodes they appeared in; sadly this information is now scattered beyond hope of recovery.

'Olan' Body Double's costume - almost complete
Note the Polaroid as a guide to dressing the character.
The label just on its left reads:
Olan Body Double
- Brown suede wraparound skirt
- String skirt
- Brown open weave crop top
- Feather wristlets
- Shell necklace

The 'string skirt' (bottom right) is very elaborate

The auction was a little better organised than the preceding one, maybe partly because the auctioneers had learned some lessons from last week, partly because the main character costumes were already well labelled so it was hard for them to be mis-catalogued, and I believe they had the help of one of Pacific Renaissance's staff in cataloguing them. On the other hand, racks of assorted Amazon gear would just be catalogued as "Assorted leatherwear" or similar, which proved to be fortunate for some of us fans as will be related later. As previously, there were two auctioneers going simultaneously, which required some concentration from bidders when the two auctions came close to each other.

It was apparent that there were several different groups of bidders at the auction; local fans; local costume/clothing/leatherware traders; fans bidding for overseas friends; a few overseas fans who flew in for the auction (I heard a number of American accents at the viewing and I know at least one Australian fan came over to buy for herself and friends); a couple of agents acting for absentee buyers (you could tell them by their cellphones); and one or two local Ebay dealers. I suppose it's natural that some of us fans resented those obvious 'outsiders' with no interest in the show or knowledge of it, just drawn by the scent of profit.

The main auction started with a swag of Young Herc costumes... three Ares costumes went for $750 to $1550 (I heard an agent explaining into his cellphone 'Yes, these were worn by Kevin Smith - Hercules'. Well, he had the 'Kevin' right, anyway...)
Three Strife costumes from Young Herc went for $175 to $250, maybe for fan value, maybe for 'street' value (by which I mean, their ordinary value as leather clothing)... a whole swag of other named costumes probably went for less, but I wasn't paying attention.

Cleopatra 2525 costumes (all different) worn by the leads were auctioned individually; eight listed (and presumably labelled) as 'Cleopatra Costume, Actor Jennifer Sky', four 'Hel Costume, Actor Gina Torres' and five 'Sarge Costume, Actor Vicki Pratt'. Some of them were bundled together with the double for that costume; most went for around $100.

In the secondary auction with the other auctioneer, a rack of a half-dozen minor Amazon costumes went up to $900 (much to the annoyance of an Australian fan and I who had agreed to go halves in a bid for them). In the main auction, of the huge number of 'name' costumes, four Varias went for about $550 (which again may have been either fan value or 'street' value); Cecrops $180; Draco $300; Marcus $180; and three Xerxos costumes for $240 (that was definitely 'street value', there can't be many Xerxos fans around); one of two different but very nice Pao-Ssu costumes for $320; Discord $340; Artemis $280.

The next item was three Yakut costumes, beautifully made, with a lot of very nice leather and furs. My Aussie acquaintance was thinking of bidding, but they went (not surprisingly) for just over $500 the three, and well worth it... I hope they went to a fan who appreciates their significance in the show. We thought the next item, one (unnamed) 'Amazon costume', should be easily affordable, and we watched in amazement as it climbed to $450, nearly as much as three Yakuts! It was then that we realised there was some dealer there who must have been told that anything 'Amazon' in the auction list was worth big money, but had no clue what Amazon gear looked like or that Yakut was an Amazon; even less that just one named Amazon costume like Yakut must be worth far more than the (unnamed) Amazon he had just bought. We deduced that any named costumes or even Amazon stuff just listed in Turners' conveniently vague way as 'leather wear' should be safe from this guy. One of the security guards later told me that some bidder had said to him how convenient it was the costumes had name labels on, as he had never watched one episode. Could be the same guy.

A rack of five Amazon Queen costumes (probably from PATH OF VENGEANCE)

I bid on two Brunnhilde costumes, but they were beautiful leather and went to four or five hundred. A Cleopatra costume (not Gina Torres's, presumably not LL's, probably the Cleo who got snakebitten) went for a couple of hundred, from memory.

About the only LL or ROC items were on-set robes; four or five of LL's, only one of ROC's, though the catalogue showed two; on the LL's the dealers missed out, as a well-known Kiwi Xenafan had very specific instructions from American friends, and she just sat there, poker faced, casually bidding up into the thousands. It was fun to watch.... a dealer got the ROC robe, though, it went up on Ebay the next day and it was obvious from his description he thought Gabrielle was the name of the actress..... presumably as it has 'Gabrielle' embroidered on it. Anyway, one of the LL robes fetched $4500, ROC's fetched $3000, so as a Xenafan I can claim honour is satisfied.

XENA and GABRIELLE's on-set robes

There were a huge number of other costumes; several racks of beautiful dresses, must have been a hundred on a rack, went for over $1000 a rack and well worth it; 29 French soldier uniforms from Jack went for $175 each. I helped one buyer wheel seven of them to his car; he proudly showed me the workmanship, which was beautiful, gold braid carefully sewn in place, very elaborate leather belts (bandoliers?) on the back, and he said you couldn't get anything like it for the price; he was a film student, who had bought them for a project. There were 65 Roman soldier uniforms; all equally beautifully made in leather and red cloth in full detail. I guess many of those went to costume hire companies, I noticed several vans in the car park with company logos on them.

Roman uniforms

There was a small treasure trove of jewellery, rings, crowns, necklaces, armlets and so on, but I didn't note any of the bidding on that as I was trying to score an Amazon sword for a friend in the 'other' auction which at this point was, very distractingly, within a few yards of the jewellery. (There were just a few swords this time. And, no, the catalogue description didn't contain the dread word 'Amazon').

All manner of necklaces and bracelets and dangly things.... ... and crowns and coronets

In the subsidiary room at the rear were racks and racks of uniforms, belts, leather armour, boots and 'accessories' such as armbands, bags etc. There was more space in this room, apparently a lot of the stock had been moved across the accessway into the corridor previously occupied by carpets.

The storage room at the rear.... ... full of leather uniforms of all sorts A rack of assorted belts, necklaces and armbands
The white cloth is cotton 'sleeves' hung on wire hangers
on which the items are pinned

That corridor was occupied by large numbers of peasant dresses, and boots and shoes of all types. In a room opening off the corridor were assorted furs (mostly New Zealand possum fur I believe) and leather costumes of all sorts, from Amazon High, other Siberian Amazon and similar episodes.

A rack of AMAZON HIGH furs

All in all, a rather exhausting but fascinating day. There wasn't the same air of sadness as I felt at the props auction the previous week, maybe because this auction was in a much smaller area, much busier and less space to feel lonely in; maybe because I'd met other fans to talk to; maybe simply because I worked through my melancholy feelings last week.

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