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Rob Lammle
Hollywood Lost & Found: 7 Stolen Movie Props
by Rob Lammle - June 16, 2010 - 2:36 PM

There was a time when movie props were worthless. When a film wrapped, the studio would often recycle props and costumes for use in other films, or sometimes simply throw them away. But that’s changed over the years, and now movie collectibles are a big business, with high-profile props going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, when you start talking that kind of money, there are bound to be a few crooked characters who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on a piece of Hollywood history.

1. Has Anyone Questioned the Flying Monkeys?

It’s believed there were six or seven pairs of Dorothy’s famous ruby red slippers made for the production of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Of those, the location of four pairs is currently known, including one that resides in the Smithsonian. The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, had their own pair, until the shoes were stolen one night in August 2005. The case went cold until this past April, when police received a tip that a resident in Homer Glen, Illinois, had not only bragged about paying someone to steal the slippers, but openly displayed the shoes in a glass box. Police raided the alleged thief’s house, but didn’t find the ruby red shoes. For now, the case remains open, and the shoes are still at-large.

2. Easy Rider Choppers Chopped

There are few motorcycles more iconic than the ones ridden by Peter Fonda and the late, great Dennis Hopper in their counterculture classic, Easy Rider. There were four custom motorcycles built for the film—two copies of each bike, including the “Captain America” chopper ridden by Fonda, featuring a star-spangled fuel tank and an extra long fork for the front wheels. One of the Captain America bikes was destroyed during filming, while the other three motorcycles were stolen from a storage garage before the film was even in the can. Obviously the bikes weren’t famous yet, so they were presumably stripped and sold for parts. The thieves left the damaged Captain America bike, which was later restored, and now resides at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.

3. The Man Without the Golden Gun

In the 1974 movie The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond takes on Scaramanga, an expert assassin who charges $1 million per kill. The hitman’s signature is a custom-made, solid gold gun that can be cleverly disassembled and disguised as everyday items like a cigarette case, a lighter, a pen, and a cuff link. There were three prop guns made for the film—one that came apart, another that didn’t come apart, and one that could fire a blank round. In October 2008, one of these props (it’s unclear which one it was) was discovered missing from its display case at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. Police still have no leads on the disappearance of the prop, worth an estimated £80,000 (~$117,000) on the collector’s black market.

4. The Case of the Missing Maltese Falcon

There were a handful of falcon statues made for the 1941 noir classic, The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as Dashiell Hammett’s famous private eye, Sam Spade. Over the years, nearly all original models of the bird have been lost, making the few remaining copies very valuable—including one that sold for nearly $400,000 in 1994. For promotional purposes, plaster casts of the bird were made upon the film’s release, and Elisha Cook, Jr., a character actor who played a henchman in the film, got his hands on one. His copy of the bird was later acquired by John’s Grill in San Francisco, a restaurant dedicated to Hammett, who often wrote and ate there in the 1930s. The replica bird was on display for years, sitting on the second floor in a display case for all to see. That is, of course, until the day it disappeared in 2007.

After the falcon went missing, John’s Grill offered a no-questions-asked reward of $25,000 to the person who brought it back, but no one came forward. The owner could have easily gotten a good replacement replica off eBay for a few hundred bucks, but he took a different approach instead. He put the $25,000 towards the creation of a new, original design of the Maltese Falcon that is a more stylized interpretation than the one used in the 1941 film. The new statue is five inches taller than the original and weighs around 150lbs, three times heavier than the plaster replica that was stolen. To ensure this bird doesn’t go missing, it’s been bolted down and is monitored 24/7 by closed-circuit cameras. With that much security, the next time someone messes with this Maltese Falcon, it won’t take Sam Spade to crack the case.

5. Big Bucks in Spandex

Apparently no one’s spider-sense was tingling when crooks made off with four hand-made superhero suits from the set of the first Spider-Man film. Each Spider-Man costume, valued at around $50,000 a piece, disappeared from a locked building on the Sony Pictures lot, leading authorities to believe it was an inside job. Police received a tip from the ex-wife of a former security guard at Sony, Jeffrey Gustafson, who said he might be involved in the theft. Police searched Gustafson’s home and found records indicating that one costume was at a friend’s house, two were traced to a collector in New York, and the last one was in the collection of a man in Japan. Adding to Gustafson’s woes, police also found in his home a mannequin dressed in a $150,000 Batman costume that went missing from the Warner Bros. lot in 1996. Not coincidentally, Gustafson worked as a security guard at Warner Bros. at the time. For stealing the Spidey suits, Gustafson got 9 months in jail, 5 years probation, and had to pay $93,000 in restitution.

6. Do Collectors Dream of Rubber Handguns?

As he’s hunting android replicants in a dystopian future, Blade Runner’s Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, carries a strange-looking handgun that has captivated sci-fi fans for decades. The prop was custom-made using pieces from real firearms, including a bolt action from a rifle, two triggers, various knobs and dials, and even LED lights. To prevent their very expensive, one-of-a-kind prop from breaking, the producers made two solid rubber copies that were indistinguishable from the original at a distance, and could be knocked around during stunt scenes without getting damaged. But during the shoot, one of the dummy guns went missing and was never seen again.

Oddly enough though, about a month after the film was released, highly accurate plastic replicas of Deckard’s gun began appearing for sale on the collector’s market. These knock-offs were so close to the ones used in the film that they must have been created using molds taken from the missing, now presumed stolen, dummy gun.

While it’s certain the thief made a pretty penny by selling the dummy gun, he would have surely been better off stealing the custom-made gun instead—it sold at auction in 2009 for $270,000.

7. Well, That’s One Way to Get an Oscar

In March 2000, a few guys got their hands on the ultimate movie collector’s item when they stole 55 Oscars just days before the Academy Awards ceremony. Anthony Hart, a dock worker at delivery company Roadway Express, conspired with a fellow employee, truck driver Lawrence Ladent, to load 10 boxes of Oscars onto Ladent’s truck. Ladent then took the statues to the home of accomplice John Harris for safekeeping until they could line up black market buyers. However, the men got spooked by the publicity surrounding the missing statues and dumped the boxes in an alleyway instead. Shortly after, Harris’ half-brother, Willie Fulgear, found 52 of the Oscars while rummaging through the trash, looking for packing boxes to use during a move.

After reporting his find to police, Fulgear collected a $50,000 reward from Roadway Express, but the other men didn’t make out quite so well. Anthony Hart received the lightest sentence with three years probation. John Harris was sentenced to six months in jail, three years probation, and had to pay $921 to the Academy in restitution for the three missing statues. Lawrence Ledent was given six months in prison, five years probation, had to pay the Academy $1,050, and pay Roadway Express the full amount of the reward they offered to Fulgear.

As for the three missing Oscars, one was found in 2003 during a Miami drug raid, but the other two are still out there somewhere.
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What piece of movie memorabilia would you like to get your hands on? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Comments (40)
  1. I want Captain Kirk’s chair!

  2. Indiana Jones’ fedora, any of the lightsabers from the Star Wars saga (Mace Windu’s and Vader’s especially), and the One Ring from the LOTR trilogy would be my choices.

  3. The golden gun that comes apart sounds pretty awesome. I’d spend all day putting it together… taking it apart… making “pew! pew!” sounds… taking it apart… putting it together…

  4. A Time-Turner. I can’t decide if I would want one that actually worked, though. :D

  5. Good call on the hat, Steve from San Diego..it’d be nice to see one that doesn’t feature an Indiana Jones tag inside the brim…

  6. I want a Stargate.

  7. I saw the original Death Star model at the SciFi hall of fame in Seattle. Not to nerd out too much, but it was mind blowing to look at it and think that it was ‘the’ Death Star from the movie that made such an impact on the world.

    I think at one point it was lost as well, though more ‘lost in a studio warehouse’ rather than stolen if I remember correctly. I’ll have to google that.

  8. The DaLorean from Back to the Future, the Hanson brother’s glasses from Slap Shot and Han’s blaster.

  9. Could Jenna Jameson be considered a movie prop????

  10. I’d like the skull-shaped stone key from The Goonies, and whatever is glowing inside Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase.

  11. My thought is Megan Fox ;0

  12. During one college production I was in many years ago we rented costumes from a national costume chain. My mother was the costume designer for the theatre so when the pieces came in I got dibs on which vest I would wear. As I was looking through the boxes I found one that had a label in it “Property of Universal Studios… S. Tracy”. It was a vest Spencer Tracy wore in Adam’s Rib.
    After the run, we sent the vest back… I however kept the tag.

  13. I’d like the red stapler from Office Space, or the yellow jump suit Uma wore in Kill BIll.

  14. I always wanted a landspeeder from Star Wars. “Ever since the XP-38 came out, they just aren’t in demand”.

  15. I want the hot tub from Hot Tub Time Machine. :)

  16. I would definatly want Lord Voldemort’s wand, and Bellatrix Lestranges Death Eater mask.
    Oh and the Ressurection Stone!

  17. 1. Anything that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. I would LOVE to have her diary, as would many MANY people, but I’d be happy with anything that she owned.
    2. Any dress/hat worn by Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in GWTW.

  18. Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from Return of the Jedi.

  19. Easy – the rug from The Big Lebowski.

  20. You can buy the red stapler. Check out Thinkgeek.com; on sale right now for $22.00.

    I always thought Dave Stoller’s Masi bicycle, or one of the Team Cinzano bike jerseys worn in the movie “Breaking Away” would have been cool to have. Also, some of the custom-made “AMRoad” dining car props from “Silver Streak” would be nice.


  21. Sam’s piano would be fun…especially if it came with a bottle of gin…

    I’d also love to have Holly’s bathtub couch.

  22. Serenity? *L* Seriously, though, any of the little things from any of the Joss Whedon shows: Mr. Pointy from Buffy, the Shanshu Prophecy from Angel, an ice planet, Mal’s fake paperwork, or the Lassiter from Firefly, and, um… Enver Gjokaj from Dollhouse?

  23. There are a few that i can think of off the top of my head, so i’ll list them.

    1. The mannequin of Roger Moore that was used in The Man with the Golden Gun (Scaramanga kept in in his funhouse and shot the fingers off of it)

    2. One of the golden guns, obtained legally of course.

    3. One of James Bond’s tuxedos.

    4. The Aston Martin v12 Vanquish from Die Another Day

    5. A batsuit WITHOUT nipples. lol

  24. Without hesitation, I choose the Minigun wielded by “Mac” in Predator.
    That should keep those little devils off the lawn.

  25. James Dean’s red wind breaker from Rebel Without a Cause, hands down the one thing I would love to have most from Propland.

    My hubby has the red Swingline stapler. I bought it for him from Staples :D

  26. The Ferrari from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”…while I’m at it, I’ll take Cameron’s house.

    The phone booth from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, with time-travel capabilities of course!

    An amp that goes to 11 from “This is Spinal Tap”…because it’s 1 louder, you see?

  27. The Giant W from Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Where was that anyway?

  28. The Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s day off is one of the most recognizable Ferrari’s out there. And it’s a total fake. It’s built on a Datsun Z body. The car was damaged as Cameron and Ferris banged it up in front of the camera as part of the script. So much for having fun though. And it is a beautiful Ferrari (the real thing)

  29. I want the bolt gun from the movie “The Good Son”! That would be awesome!

  30. I want Dirk Diggler’s prosthesis in Boogie Nights…

  31. It would also be pretty sweet to have an original General Lee.

  32. Feverishly searching Mental Floss for the Adam Savage video of his quest to make the Maltese Falcon, which is quite possibly the geekiest cool thing ever published on Mental Floss!

  33. Don:

    Mythbuster Savage is also obsessed with the gun from Blade Runner. He spent years making his own version. You can read all about it here: http://bit.ly/9Cnveg

  34. The Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    Any of Ingrid Bergman’s costumes from Casablanca.

  35. Billy Baroo from Caddyshack.

  36. @ Rob Lammle – Very clever with the title to the Blade Runner piece. Very clever.

    @ Leroy Jenkins – You mean as a fake plastic copy of what once was a real person? Yes, I think it qualifies.

  37. @ Tex–

    From Wikipedia:

    “Santa Rosita State Park” was actually the park-like grounds of a private residence located in Rancho Palos Verdes. By 2008 the last of the four palm trees forming the “Big W” had disappeared.

  38. Eleanor- 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1

    Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)

  39. Rosebud!

  40. I’d want that stunning blue dress Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window. So gorgeous…


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