Just a few weeks back I shared one of my personal memories of seeing Star Wars for the first time. Like so many of us the saga that George Lucas brought to movie screens in 1977 helped to shape our lives. That statement is perhaps no more truer than in regards to Steve Sansweet. A kind and generous man that has been described as being the Star Wars ambassador. In addition to being a collector he is also an author as well as President and CEO of Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum that in fact holds the largest collection of memorabilia from the saga.
I want to add also that I was lucky enough to have met Sansweet at the San Diego Comic-Con. In the early 90s when he was giving a lecture about his vast collection.
Rancho Obi-Wan wasn’t established until 1998, beginning in one of three former hen houses in fact. Furthermore it wasn’t until 2011 when Sansweet retired as Director of Content Management and head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm. That was actually when Rancho Obi-Wan became not only a non-profit musuem but allowed fans to visit and enjoy his collection.
[Via] How Stuff Works
Which is why I felt like throwing up this afternoon when reading the news of a massive theft at Rancho Obi-Wan. Tom Berges of the exceptional I Grew Up Star Wars was kind enough to share this on the site’s Facebook Page. The reason I am sharing it here on The Retroist is to help get the word out about the possibility of fellow collector’s purchasing stolen property.
Here is the message from Sansweet on the official Rancho Obi-Wan website:
“Dear fellow Star Wars fans and collectors,
I need to share some distressing news with you because I need your help.
In February we at Rancho Obi-Wan found out that we had been the victim of a major theft that surreptitiously took place over many months in late 2015 through 2016.
There were more than 100 valuable items stolen, the majority of them vintage U.S. and foreign carded action figures, many of them rare and important pieces. Most have either been resold or professionally appraised for a total of more than $200,000.
The theft came to light after Philip Wise, a good friend, major collector and owner of several Star Wars websites, posted news of the theft of his rare prototype rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure from his Texas warehouse. Zach Tann, a respected toy dealer and collector in Southern California, immediately notified Philip that he had purchased that figure from Carl Edward Cunningham, 45, a well-known Star Wars collector and R2-D2 builder from Marietta, Georgia.
Tann further told Philip that he previously had bought many other rare Star Wars collectibles from Carl and sent a detailed list. Philip said that he quickly concluded by the quantity and quality of items that they had likely been stolen from my collection here in Petaluma, California.
Tann is working closely with us and authorities to help recover and return as many of the stolen collectibles as possible. Without Zach Tann’s call to Philip, which came despite great potential personal financial exposure to himself, we might still not know of the theft or its extent.
Carl surrendered on an arrest warrant from the Sonoma County, California Sheriff’s Department at the end of March and was charged with felony grand theft. He is currently free on bail with additional hearings in the case scheduled.
I have known Carl for many years, considered him a good and trusted friend, and played host to him at my home numerous times. I, and the staff at Rancho Obi-Wan, are devastated that he is the alleged perpetrator of the thefts. Not only have important items been stolen from the collection, but also our time, energy and ability to trust unconditionally have taken a blow.
If you have any information about Carl Cunningham’s activities or items that he has sold please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think you may have purchased a stolen item, please be patient while we work through this process. It is our goal to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and to continue to use the collection at Rancho Obi-Wan to “Inspire through the Force” despite the destruction caused by one person.
Thank you for your help,
As Sansweet mentions in the closing of his announcement, Rancho Obi-Wan will continue to inspire. That is the takeaway from this heinous incident. With the help of a global community that spans generations, the love of the Star Was saga shines brightly.
Take a closer look at Rancho Obi-Wan with Steve Sansweet and Norman Chan of Tested!