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'Star Wars' Camera Fetches Record $625,000 at Auction

George Lucas' Panavision becomes the most expensive piece of 'Star Wars' memorabilia and the most expensive vintage Hollywood film camera ever sold at auction.

Darth Vader George Lucas Scream Awards - H
Kevin Winter/Getty

The camera that lensed the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope sold for a record $625,000 at an auction held Saturday in Beverly Hills.  The sale shattered the record for both Star Wars memorabilia and vintage Hollywood film cameras sold at auction.  The name of the buyer was not released.

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Auctioned by Profiles in History as part of the sale of movie legend Debbie Reynolds’ extensive film memorabilia collection, the Panavision PSR 35 mm camera was used by George Lucas for principal photography on the film.  Reynolds was selling her collection after plans to open a museum collapsed.

The record price of $520,000 (plus $105,000 auction commission) was nearly three times the high estimate of $200,000 for the item.  The previous record for Star Wars memorabilia sold at auction was set in 2008 when a buyer paid $402,500 for a miniature TIE fighter model used in the original Star Wars

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Several highly desirable Star Wars props, including a Darth Vader helmet from The Empire Strikes Back and a cloak worn by Obi-Wan Kenobi have not changed hands in many years.  The Vader helmet was last sold at auction in 2003 for $70,000.

Would-be filmmakers could make their own sequels, as the camera was fully restored and functional.  The auction lot included two 1000 ft. magazines, a Panaspeed motor, matte box, follow focus, Moy geared head, camera dolly, lens, and six equipment cases.  The buyer also received a photograph showing George Lucas seated at this camera on the set of Star Wars and paperwork from Panavision authorizing its private ownership.  Panavision generally rents rather than sells its equipment, making this one of only a handful of privately-owned Panavision cameras.

The price was also a record for a vintage Hollywood movie camera. Several other cameras of similar pedigree offered at this auction did not sell for nearly as much as the Lucas camera.  A Panavision camera used in the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey fetched $70,000.  Charlie Chaplin’s hand-cranked 1918 Bell & Howell camera failed to sell after receiving no bids for its minimum price of $200,000.

Star Wars continues to set and break records, even 34 years after the first film was released.  In September, Star Wars: The Complete Saga set Blu-ray  records when all six films in the series, along with three discs of documentaries, extras and interviews, taking in $84 million worldwide and selling 515,000 units in North America alone, all in its first week of release.

The series' characters even have staying power in other media.  Han Solo sidekick Chewbacca will appear on the upcoming Christmas episode of Glee, with the show's star Matthew Morrison directing an episode-within-an-episode with a wookie cameo.