An original model of the USS Enterprise used in Star Trek: The Original Series, which once belonged to Gene Roddenberry, appears to have surfaced on eBay.
This is quite a story: a 32-inch long model of the USS Enterprise, used for certain scenes in the original series of Star Trek, appears to have been discovered on eBay – decades after it disappeared from the desk of creator Gene Roddenberry.
The discovery first came to light on X (formerly Twitter) when Alex Perry, co-owner of TrekCore.com, spotted an eBay auction for a “rare custom Star Trek USS Enterprise spaceship by Richard Datin.” Images showed a timeworn but instantly recognisable Enterprise, mounted on a wooden stand. The seller listed the model with a starting price of $1,000.
According to Perry, the person who listed the Enterprise model had purchased “an abandoned storage unit” and listed it on eBay, assuming it to be a replica.
“This ship is a custom-made spaceship by Richard Datin Jr,” the eBay listing read. “Made by wood [sic] and hand painted… 32 inches long.”
This is absolutely wild. The long lost 3 foot filming miniature of the USS Enterprise – stolen from Gene’s office in the 70s – showed up on eBay overnight listed by someone who purchased an abandoned storage unit. Analysis of the photos shows it is likely genuine. #StarTrek pic.twitter.com/qb0Shco8AM
— Alex Perry (@alexandertperry) November 1, 2023
A close-up image appears to show what looks like a business card stuck to the back of the model’s base with sticky tape. It reads, “Richard C Datin, Jr of North Hollywood, California.”
You’ve probably guessed where this is going: Datin Jr was the model maker who built the original Enterprise miniature, based on the design by Matt Jeffries. The Howard Anderson Company, which provided the visual effects for the series, commissioned Datin Jr to make several models for Star Trek in 1964, and the 32-inch miniature he built was used for several shots in the unaired pilot, The Cage, and a few other early episodes. Later on, a more detailed, 11-foot-long model was created and used for other episodes in the original series.
In other words: it’s highly likely that the model listed on eBay is genuine. So how did such an important piece of TV history end up in a storage unit? It’s here the plot thickens somewhat.
When Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, the 32-inch model was eventually given back to series creator Gene Roddenberry. For several years, the mini Enterprise sat happily on Roddenberry’s desk – until one day it was either lent out and vanished or was outright stolen.
According to RedShirtsAlwaysDie.com, Roddenberry’s personal assistant, Susan Sackett, recalled that Roddenberry had lent the ship to a special effects company during the making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the late 1970s. From there, it appears that the model was placed in a storage container somewhere and forgotten about for over 40 years.
Not long after Perry tweeted about the eBay auction on 1st November, the seller took the listing down, seemingly because at least one person contacted them and informed them of the item’s potential origins. “My understanding is that people have been in communication with the seller about it, who are trying to ensure it ends up back in the hands of the Roddenberry family,” Perry wrote on X/Twitter.
At the time of writing, you can still look at the auction on eBay, which includes a gallery of close-up images. Compare them with the contemporary photos of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner holding a miniature Enterprise in this tweet, and you can see that the model on eBay looks almost identical. If the eBay Enterprise is a fake, then it’s an incredibly accurate one.
Will the Enterprise be returned to the Roddenberry family? Will Paramount, which owns the rights to Star Trek, try to claim ownership? Whatever happens, it looks as though a long-lost piece of Trek history has finally been found.
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