Rediscovered ‘Star Wars’ X-wing Model Up for Auction Starting at $400,000

A piece of Star Wars history, long thought lost, is going up for auction. The “Red Leader” X-wing Starfighter filming miniature will fetch a starting bid of $400,000. According to Dallas-based seller Heritage Auctions, the model “represents the pinnacle of Star Wars artifacts to ever reach the market.” The auction takes place on October 14 and 15, 2023.

The X-wing prop was used in the 1977 film, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It can be seen during much of the climactic Battle of Yavin between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. The featured scenes take place above the Death Star and include the famous trench run sequence. This 1:24 scale model was built by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and was one of only four “hero” X-wing miniatures ever produced for the film.

Hero models are filmed up close and are fitted with painstaking details, some of which will never show on screen. For example, servos in the wings allow them to open into the familiar “X” attack formation. Wiring and fiber optics enable on board laser cannons and proton torpedoes to illuminate. A miniature pilot and R2 unit can be seen in the cockpit. Meticulously-applied battle damage shows evidence of prior engagement with the enemy.

As the “Red Leader” (Red One) spacecraft, the model carries one red stripe. Characteristic coloration patterns from weathering further confirm this miniature to be the lead ship. However, careful viewing of battle footage shows that this model was also used in several scenes to portray Red Two, piloted by Wedge Antilles and Red Five, piloted by Luke Skywalker.

The Star Wars Starfighter shapes we know and love today came directly from George Lucas himself. He wanted to create shapes that were easily distinguishable from any angle. In that way, audiences could tell the Rebel Alliance apart from the Empire even during the most fast-paced combat scenes.

The X-wing model was discovered as part of a collection belonging to the late Greg Jein. An Oscar- and Emmy-nominated miniature-maker, Jein was noted for his work on Star Trek and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. After his passing, a team of visual effects experts, including Gene Kozicki (Face/Off and Flight of the Phoenix) found what became known as “the missing X-wing.” It is not clear how Jein acquired the model, but he was known to obtain items with the goal of trading them later.

“This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM,” Kozicki said. “For those of us that grew up in the ’70s or ‘80s, and those of us that work in visual effects, this model is as significant a find as the ruby red slippers or the Maltese Falcon.”

Auction Description

Screen Matched Hero “Red Leader” (Red One) X-wing Starfighter Filming Miniature with Articulating Servo-Controlled Wings and Lights from Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (TCF, 1977). Built by the team at Industrial Light & Magic which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for Star Wars, this 1:24 scale filming miniature is one of only four hero filming miniatures created with servo-controlled wings that spread open into “Attack Position”. Constructed of resin, vacuum-formed styrene, acrylic, and metal components over an aluminum internal armature, expertly painted and finished as a battle-distressed spacecraft, replete with service wear, blast marks and heat-scorching around exhaust nozzles. The top two wings are each painted with a single red stripe, identifying this as “Red Leader” (Red One). The cockpit features a miniature pilot, and a dome of an R2 unit is installed behind the canopy. The miniature has internal wiring to power the lights within the main body of each of the four wing-mounted laser cannons with fiber optics to illuminate each laser tip. Metal heatsinks are installed in each laser cannon to dissipate excessive heat generated from the lights. In addition, halogen lights are mounted in each of the two Proton Torpedo tubes mounted on the sides of the fuselage, and halogen bulbs are installed in each of the four engine exhaust nozzles. Special metal heat shields with integral cooling ducts are built into the model to pump cool air through the system to prevent overheating. Metal mounting hinges are installed on each of the four wings enabling wing articulation, and metal gears are visible in three open panels behind the cockpit (top, port and starboard) to spread the wings into “Attack Position”. Gears are driven by two internal electric servo motors (electronics untested). The miniature features four metal threaded mounting sockets: top, bottom, front and rear (front socket is accessed by removing the nose section; rear socket is concealed with removable panel).

From Heritage Auctions