There is sometimes a lot of confusion on the part of those who are new to the hobby of collecting original TV & movie props & costumes. The following is a primer on the terminology commonly used in the hobby, and at Propworx specifically.
There are two main classifications of original props & costumes:
- Production Made
- Almost all props fall into this category. This term refers to any original prop that was specifically made for a production. This prop or costume may or may not have been seen on-screen. Sometimes, it is simply that there is no way to prove that it is. Most collectors are perfectly happy with this category of item (I certainly am, and I have a big collection!)
- Screen Used
- A prop or costume is identified as “Screen Used” if it either is noted that way from the prop or costume shop in the item’s tagging, or can be screen matched (see below). This is a very high level of verification that is needed, and 98% of all props and costumes can never meet this level. Sometimes we know an item is screen used because it is the only item made, and therefore we know it is the one on screen. Other times the item is tagged specifically as the “hero” item and we know that the prop master has identified it as the one used on screen. And sometimes we can screen match the item and that is verification.
- Hero Prop
- A “hero” prop is a prop that has been identified as being directly used in the show, usually for a specific scene or a specific episode. “Hero” props are generally of higher quality, durability and functionality. They often feature finer details, as such props may be meant for—or have been used in—close-ups. Often however, a “Hero” prop is merely the version that was actually filmed. There may be 8 copies prepared for a scene, but only one was used, and thus this is the “hero”. For example, on Battlestar Galactica, “hero” simply meant the one used on screen.
At Propworx, items marked “hero” have typically undergone verification, which includes referencing to behind-the-scenes materials (continuity books) and screen-matching the item, or finding the item specifically marked “hero” from the prop shop or costume department.
- Stunt Version
- A “stunt” version of a prop is typically a low-quality version of a “hero” or detailed prop so that the “hero” version is neither destroyed nor causes harm to the people involved with the stunt. For instance, in the fight scene between Kara Thrace and a Number Six in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part II,” a stunt version of the Arrow of Apollo (made of rubber) was used in that scene. There were two versions of metal and two of rubber made. Stunt versions of props are typically of rubber. Stunt versions of costumes will be the same quality, though specifically marked “stunt”. They may be old versions of the costume, used by the main actor and then given for use by the stunt actor, or they may be new versions, specifically tailored for a stunt actor.
- A Production Made version, which was not used by the main actor. A “double” may have been used by a stunt actor or photo double, but not by the main actor. It may have been used for an insert or close up shot not involving the main actor. (For BSG there were specific “doubles” boxes for all actor personal items.) It may or may not be screen used.
- A Production Made version which was not used on screen. Multiply items are made for most props. Generally only one or two make it on screen and the rest are just back-ups.
- Screen Matched
- The process of matching a prop or costume to what is seen on-screen, ensuring that it is exactly the same item as seen on screen. This means looking for specific identifying marks such as specific bends in paper or pitting and scratching in a prop, or fabric patterns or markings in a costume. The process requires a DVD player (preferably Blu-Ray) and patience as you need to look carefully for identifying marks that will positively identify the item in your possession as the one on-screen.
In addition, there are generally multiples of any prop or costume, so never expect to own the only example made. There may even be multiple “hero” props, as more than one was used on screen in close ups.