ShareThis Page

Go on the block, 'Stars Wars' collection will

| Monday, Aug. 15, 2011

Can Yodi and Darth Vader out-battle a fleet of Harley Hogs?

Stay tuned for the answer as a pair of auctions pits the "second-largest" collection of "Stars Wars" memorabilia against a Fed-sponsored sale of choppers and other gear stolen by a Western Pennsylvania couple during a decade-long crime spree that spread from Pittsburgh to Sturgis, S.D., the site of one of the biggest annual motorcycle rallies in the world.

Away from the fray, Three Rivers Auctions welcomes all to its Tuesday sale as the Royal York closes out August with an antiques and collectibles auction.

Pop! Culture Connection/Morely Auctioneer Services

He was an auto body repairman by day, but by night, at home, Robert Fisher traveled to a galaxy far, far away to indulge his obsession for all things "Star Wars." Even before the May 1977 release of the first installment of the third-highest grossing film series in movie history, Fisher started collecting just about any piece of "Stars Wars"-related memorabilia available -- from cake-decorating kits and Darth Vader light-switch covers to a rare Yoda trading card and a specially created pink droid toy for a Make-A-Wish kid in Florida.

"My dad jumped on everything that had anything to do with 'Star Wars,'" says Derek Fisher, Robert's 41-year-old son and guardian of his father's legacy. "He actually started collecting even before the movie came out. He sent away for a mail-in offer from Kenner for one of the first toys. After that, he didn't stop until almost the day he died last year."

Standing in the basement of the three-bedroom suburban home east of Pittsburgh where he's lived nearly all his life, Fisher carefully steps through a densely packed maze of "Star Wars" posters, radio scripts, LEGO sets, sheets and pillow-case sets, beer steins, comic books, mugs, skateboards, kites, board games, Halloween costumes, Dixie cups, collector plates, clothing, Jedi starfighter action figures, Pez dispensers and movie posters.

He remembers growing up among rooms stacked with boxes of unopened toys, now crammed in the basement and garage.

"It was 'Star Wars' for breakfast, lunch and dinner with my dad," Fisher says. "You could say that he went to the 'dark side' with 'Star Wars,' because in some ways, my dad left his family for this collection."

By Fisher's estimate, his father spent more than $100,000 on his hobby. In his search for the newest or most rare and unusual items, Robert traded with 'Star Wars' fanatics around the world by mail and telephone. He attended conventions across the country to buy merchandise sold only at those gatherings. And he waited for local toy stores to open to buy unopened crates of 'Star Wars' toys just off delivery trucks.

At home, he'd unseal the boxes, drop each toy, still in its original box, into a plastic bag, and reseal the crates.

Now, Jeremy Fairgrieve, owner of Pop! Culture Connection, a Greensburg hobby and collectibles shop, is breaking the tape on the boxes to catalog the items inside for the Aug. 27 and 28 auction he'll conduct at the Clarion Hotel in Greentree.

"What's fantastic about looking in these boxes is that they're like time capsules," Fairgrieve says. "And because Robert bought duplicates of so many of the items inside, we're finding more than one of many items that are pretty rare."

Before the two-day auction, Fairgrieve and the Fisher will closely examine a painstakingly detailed ledger. Inside the more than 12-inch-thick book are precise, handwritten records of each item's purchase date and price and condition. The book also reveals that Robert Fisher sold items from his collection, often only to repurchase them. Leading up to the sale, Fairgrieve and Fisher will identify and verify each item in the collection against the ledger's hundreds of pages.

Billed as the world's "second-largest" collection -- a tag applied by one of the many people who claims to own the biggest collection -- Fisher's "Star Wars" stash will be sold in individual and box lots, with 250 to 300 lots up for grabs each day.

Although the collection created a longstanding rift between father and son, Fisher says his dad's hobby never caused problems when it came to buying him gifts on special occasions.

"Every birthday, Father's Day and Christmas," he says, "we knew exactly what to get him -- something 'Star Wars.'"

Previews for the sale are from 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 27 with the sale immediately following and from 10 to 11 a.m. Aug. 28, followed by first bids, at the Clarion Hotel, 401 Holiday Drive, Greentree. Details: 724-493-5716

Constantine & Pletcher

Dan Pletcher wants to get your motor running when he rolls out nine fully built Harley motorcycles, 14 disassembled bikes and hundreds of pieces of leather clothing and bike parts during a sale this Saturday, the first of three auctions at Constantine & Pletcher over the next two weeks.

Seized by the U.S. government during a raid of a Butler County "chop shop," the bikes had been stolen from motorcycle rallies and dealerships from Florida to California during a period from the early 1990s to 2003, when police arrested the husband and wife running the operation.

In most cases, the owners of the stolen bikes received insurance payments long ago for their missing motorcycles. However, some of the sale money will help to compensate bike owners who were underinsured.

Among the bikes on the block are a pair of 2000 Road King and two 1996 Dyna Glide models. According to Pletcher, the assembled bikes are in near-mint, ready-to-ride condition. With original prices ranging from $18,000 to $25,000, the bikes carry $8,000 to $10,000 auction estimates.

Even if Pletcher wasn't born to be wild, he'll roar back into action on Sunday when he presides over a sale that features a single-owner cataloged and uncataloged auction. Highlights in the cataloged portion are four Gustav Stickley chairs and an Imperial Japanese palace-sized jar.

Finally, Constantine & Pletcher ends the summer with an Aug. 28 sale of the contents of two North Hills homes owned by a retired orthopedic surgeon who is moving to Florida. Taking up residence in one of the houses, the good doctor bought a second, nearby home for his mother-in-law and father-in-law, who are heading south as well. Many of the high-end items come from the South Side's chic Pelora furniture store.

The gallery is open to preview the Harley sale from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and10 a.m. to noon Saturday, followed by the sale. Previews for this Sunday's single-owner antiques and collectible sale are noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 to 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by the uncataloged sale at 9 a.m. and cataloged auction at noon. To preview the goods from the homes, the gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 26 and 8 to 9 a.m. Aug. 28, followed by the sale.

All previews and sales are at 1306 Pittsburgh St., Cheswick. Details: 724-275-7190.

Three Rivers Auction Co.

Tripp Kline ends the summer Tuesday with a sale loaded with antiques, collectibles and newer items, including a Karges mahogany and leather-top writing table that originally retailed for more than $12,000. Standouts among the antiques are a four-piece Victorian walnut bedroom and period-style Chippendale four-drawer chest. Also on the block are a collection of clocks, gold and silver and a lineup of vintage phonographs, TVs, radios and musical instruments. The sale preview is from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday, followed by the sale, at 382 W. Chestnut St., Washington. Details: 724-222-8020

Information, please : You don't have to call collect to take home this antique telephone on sale at Three Rivers' Tuesday sale. Estimate: $50-$125.

Royal York Auction Galleries

Bob Simon will be singing "See you in September" following the Royal York's Aug. 27 sale, which is heavy on antiques and collectibles. Previews are from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 25 and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 26. The sale starts at 9 a.m. Aug. 27 in the Royal York showroom, 5925 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. Details: 412-661-1171

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.