Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shadowboxed Replicas from a Con

Hello everybody!

It seems the proximity to Xena con is stirring the atmosphere. Lot's of props are coming out these days! Good for us collectors :)

Today I bring you a rare piece: a Xena chakram and a Gabwhacker, shadowboxed together with a signed picture. It's huge!

   > Manufacturer: I believe the props inside are Creation Ent replicas.
   > Number: Unknown.
   > COA: Not included.
   Seller: scotth_trimco
   Price: $300 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: Seller says they acquired this in a convention (they think 2001). He describes much about the shadowbox, but nothing about the pieces themselves. However, I believe they are Creation Ent replicas. Why? Well, they are not Todd's replicas. Nor Icons, of that I'm sure. They look made by the propmasters. Hence they could be props, but I highly doubt two original pieces sold only for $1900 (the purchase price, according to the listing). At least regarding to chakram props, they are very rare, and always sell for MUCH more than that. Same with staffs, and more so if they look so clean and crisp like this one. So my bet is on Creation.

Then what? On the one side, Creation replicas are the best. On the other hand, no COAs means no numbers of the limited editions... If anyone gets more info on them, please tell.

Have a happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Comparisons: The Original Chakram (II of IV)

Hello again Xenites!

Today I bring you the second part of the chakram comparisons. Let's resume it were we left it last time, comparing the different chakram replica versions that have been developed until today.

In my previous post I analyzed the original props and the Icons replica (the first official reproduction ever made of the chakram), so now it's turn to study the next: the Creation Entertainment replica.

But before we start, a thank you note:

This post wouldn't have been possible without the INVALUABLE info, photos and help from fellow collector Edgar/Otsillac. He painstakingly studied these and other chakrams for years, and generously wrote about all his findings on the Xena forums. This is a mixture of all his vast knowledge about this matter and my own notes. He's the one to credit.

Edgar, heartfelt thanks! 


Creation Entertainment logo.

This is not the first time I talk about Creation Entertainment. And it won't be the last. But I think a little recap is in order.

Creation Entertainment (shortened to "Creation Ent" or simply "Creation") is a company focused on producing fan conventions devoted to films, comics and TV shows, with notorious examples such as Star Trek, V or Stargate. Starting from 1997, they were also the ones in charge of doing the Hercules and Xena conventions (together at first, and then separately).

One of the most exciting and interesting activities underwent in the Creation cons were the Charity Auctions. These auctions were unique events that offered to the public original items from the series (props, costume pieces, ephemera...). In the very first Hercules&Xena convention in Burbank '97, Creation auctioned an original Xena chakram brought from the set in New Zealand, and the bids quickly skyrocketed. The fight was heated, and the piece ended up being sold for thousands of dollars.

Although unusual, this could have been seen as something casual and isolated. But some time later they auctioned a real Xena sword prop, with similar results. It was clear then that the fandom wasn't settled, and wanted more original items. Thus the reason why I believe Creation Entertainment first came up with the idea of producing Xena "high standard" replicas. I ignore if they had done it before for any other TV series (certainly not Hercules, but most likely Star Trek), but in Xena's case it was certain there was a solid market out there, eager to get "real" stuff from the show.

I'm not sure about the exact dates, but I think at some point during 1997 or 1998 Creation put up for sale their first Original chakram replicas. What made them different to the already existing Icons replicas? A simple but important fact: they were "forged by the blacksmiths at Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd. New Zealand". These made-to-retail replicas had never been used on the show or handled by Lucy Lawless, but were nevertheless forged by the same prop masters that were producing the chakrams for the series. So, for the average fans they were (almost) the real deal, brought to fans in a limited edition of 500 units. And they were a total success.

Was it really worth it? Were those replicas that much accurate respect the others? Let's figure it out.

Versions of the Creation Ent replica: First of all, let's analyze the different versions that exist of the Creation replica. Much like the Icons replica, the reproductions made by Creation Entertainment passed through different models, in which the chakram design suffered slight modifications. Using them as a reference, we can draw four different versions:

1.- First Generation

Both sides of a Creation 1stGen replica.
Photos by Otsillac.

The first model Creation offered to the public had a design similar to the chakram props seen on early Season 2. That is, with more regular lines than the somewhat organic designs seen on Season 1, but still less refined than the models seen in following seasons.

As you can observe in the image above, the 1stGen Creation Ent replica is characterized by thin and shallow black contour lines, as well as a mirror-like finish and a dark shade of gold paint.

Overall its aspect is already noticeably different than the Icons replica, partly because both replicas were made in two very distinct ways. The Icons replicas (made in the States) are sections of a large aluminum tube, sectioned and then grounded down to obtain the shape of the chakram. On the other hand, Creation chakrams are made out of molten aluminum cast from a mold. It might seem unimportant, but that actually affects the final look&feel of the replica in a big way: Creation chakrams are warmer, more "realistic", while Icons' look much colder and more mechanic.

2.- Second Generation

Both sides of a Creation 2ndGen replica.
Photos by Otsillac.

Creation chakrams had a license that covered 500 units, but were made against order, according to demand. I believe when they ran out of the first 100 or so units and had to produce more, they decided to update the mold. By then, the prop seen in the series had become more refined and geometric, and this new mold reflected those changes.

The 2ndGen Creation chakrams correspond to a design circa the end of Season 2 and the whole of Season 3. At first sight, a detail catches the eye: the contour lines are darker and have more depth than the ones from the previous design. But if we look thoroughly, we'll see other changes. For example, the gold color is lighter and more accurate than before - this might be due to the use of a new finish to protect the paint, or a change in the pain itself. The polishing degree has varied as well. It isn't reflective anymore. The mirror-like effect has been replaced by a duller (and almost matte) finish, much more realistic and warrior-like.

On the left, the Creation 1stGen replica. On the right, the 2ndGen.  Look the
clear differences between the contour lines, the gold hues and the polishing degree.
Photos by Otsillac.

3.- Third Generation

Both sides of a Creation 3rdGen chakram.

In the 3rdGen replica, changes are subtler. The light shade of gold and the matte finish remain, but the contour lines are a tad more detailed now, and also a tiny bit thicker and darker. If you compare the pics with the previous model, try looking at the squared-pattern side, you'll see the changes I mention better over there. But I insist, it's a subtle difference.

This design corresponds to Season 4, and is my favorite original chakram model from the whole show. I estimate only Creation replicas between number 350 and 420 were made with this mold.

4.- Fourth Generation

Both sides of a Creation 4thGen replica - I only have low quality pics of this one.
Photos by DavesXenaFever.

This one is the version I have less documented. I've only seen pictures of one chakram of this particular kind.

This final design corresponds to the very last numbers of the limited edition - I believe only the last 50 or so chakrams came out of this mold. It looks similar to the chakram seen on S5 episode "Chakram", and brings about some important and noticeable changes:

- First, the return of a darker hue of gold in the paint.
- Second, visibly thicker and darker contour lines in the patterns, that lose all previous trace of organic origin or hand-made aspect. These lines seem to be perfectly even, geometric and straight.
- Third, the tip of the bolts or saw teeth in the saw-like pattern are longer, a bit more stretched out than before.
- And fourth, the squared pattern now presents a brand-new characteristic - an engraving in the blade, stating "Made in New Zealand".

Those familiar with Creation Ent replicas will recognize the NZ Stamp. It's a typical feature in most of their replicas. Although it only appears in the last numbers of the original chakram replica, it's present in three fourths of the Yin Yang chakrams and most Gabrielle battle staffs. Other Creation products, like Xena's sword or Gabrielle's sais, always have it.

A close-up to the NZ stamp on the blade.
Photo by DavesXenaFever.

Accuracy level: Just like I did with the Icons replicas in my previous post, now it's turn to evaluate the accuracy level of the Creation Ent chakrams in comparison with the original props. We've seen this can be tricky due to the evolution of the design in props during the series, so my reference will be a peak-design (Season 4) chakram.

Once again I'll offer a score based on the five different points I mentioned any "real chakram" should have - size, material, both patterns and blade edge. Also as before, for these purposes I won't take into consideration any extra feature coming with the chakram, of which I'll speak later.

a.- First Generation

       1. Size: Correct. The Creation replicas are slightly different in size as 
       compared to originals, but difference is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Incorrect. It has a mirror-like finish (a).
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Incorrect. The lines (b) are too thin and shallow.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. The contour lines are too thin as well.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Correct. Unlike later models, the first Creation replicas
       have a thin blade edge.
       ............................................................................................. Score: 1/1

       ____________________________________________TOTAL: 3,5/5

This score is, of course, relative. The early S2 look&feel of the replica is theoretically canon in the show, so it could be defended as accurate. This works for those who consider XWP a mere TV show, humanly imperfect, made in NZ by real people and real-world actors.

However, I choose to believe Xena is a mythological/fantastical reality, an imaginary universe itself. In this world the chakram (a mythical and quasi-magical weapon surrounded by mystery) exists, and isn't supposed to change its aspect every now and then. According to that, this earlier design (although faithful to a certain representation of the chakram in the series) is not yet "mature" if compared to the "perfect chakram".

b.- Second & Third Generations

       1. Size: Correct. Difference with a real prop is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color): Correct. It has a correct polishing degree,
       more similar to the one seen on-screen. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Correct. Contour lines might be still a bit organic
       and irregular, but the overall look is faithful to the "real chakram". 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       4. Squared pattern: Correct. This pattern looks faithful as well.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       5. Blade edge: Incorrect. The blade edge is thick and blunt, it doesn't
       look "sharp" enough to fit the descriptions given in the series.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1

       ____________________________________________TOTAL: 4,5/5

Once again, rating these two models is kind of complicated. I'm following the parameters established with the real props in my first entry, thus why the thick blade edge scores negatively. However, it's a fact many props used on-screen actually had this kind of edge, as seen in many scenes. So, in theory we could say they are very accurate respecting those props, if not to the perfect "idealized chakram" we seek. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about this topic.

Here you can see the blade edge of the Creation replica.

c.- Fourth Generation

       1. Size: Correct. As before, difference with a real prop is minimal. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       2. Material (shine & color)Correct. It has a correct polishing degree,
       more similar to the one seen on-screen. 
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Correct. The saw teeth tips are a little stretched, 
       but the result doesn't affect the general look of the pattern. Thickness
       of the contour lines is not too much and looks harmonious.
       ............................................................................................ Score: 1/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. Overall look is ok, but the NZ stamp 
       greatly distorts this side of the chakram.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Let's say Incorrect. I don't know 100% for sure, but I 
       suppose the edge remains unchanged, thick and blunt instead of thin.
       ......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1

       _____________________________________________TOTAL: 4/5

I'm not fond of the NZ stamp myself, but the reason it scores negatively has nothing to do with that: Xena's chakram doesn't have any engraving. As simple as that. Nevertheless, I'm positive there are people who appreciate it as a signal of the replica's authenticity, and are not bothered by it. This, as many other things, are subjective to you.

With all that much said, let's start reviewing the bonuses that came included with the Creation chakrams.

Additional features: If there's one thing that brings out the Creation replica respect the others is the shadowbox.

Creation Ent chakram replicas came within an elegant black shadowbox display, comprising a front made of plexiglass and a frame of wood painted in black. The inside, lined with a synthetic black fabric, was adorned with a circular photo of Xena in a "warrior pose", occupying the space that corresponds with the inner circle of the piece, and a brass plaque showing the exact number of the limited edition.

Oddly enough, though the basics always remained the same, Creation shadowboxes presented several different designs (three, to be exact), that changed almost in accordance with the aforementioned variations of the chakram itself. They are/were as follows:

a.- The First Shadowbox

Creation Ent Magazine ad, showing the first original chakram.

The original design of the shadowbox was simple yet classy. The chakram hangs from a metal hook, in a fashion that always reminds me to when she carries the chakram on her hip. The frame sports a plain black design, that includes a silver inner rim and a small metal lock on its right side.

The plain black frame, with the silver inner rim.
Photo by CarolSt.
Close-up to the lateral metal lock.
Photo by Beatlesrock.

The Xena photo shows her clinging to the ropes of a fallen wood bridge.

Close-up to the metal hook and Xena photo.
Photo by CarolSt.

The brass plaque reads as follows: "Chakram" - Forged by the blacksmiths at Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd. New Zealand - Limited edition XXX of 500. Xena: Warrior Princess. TM & © 1997 U.T.E."

Photo by Beatlesrock.

b.- The Second Shadowbox

The second shadowbox is a variation of the first, only changing the picture of Xena. The silvery inner rim has also disappeared from the frame. The rest of the elements look similar.

See how the metal rim is now missing.
Photo by Otsillac.

This is a transition model, and the rarest shadowbox out of the three designs. I believe only a dozen or so of these were made.

The photo now shows Xena wielding her sword.
Photo by Otsillac.

c.- The Third Shadowbox

Creation Ent Magazine ad, showing the final design.

The third and final shadowbox is also quite rare, though in number many must exist. My own chakram (#385/500) has it, so I presume over 100 replicas have this shadowbox design.

This time, the changes are not merely aesthetic. The frame is different and has complex moldings carved on its surface. It has lost the metal lock, and now presents a strong velcro type closure. The inside has changed as well: instead of the metal hook (that some users say scratched the gold paint out of the chakram) the chakram now rests in a soft moulded area protruding from the inner circle of the piece, lined with the same synthetic black fabric that covers the background panel.

As you can see, the central photo is the same as in the second shadowbox.

Here you can appreciate the intricate moldings in the frame.

It's important to underline this final kind of shadowbox was more or less conserved for the Yin Yang chakrams. The Y&Y shadowboxes are almost identical, varying only a couple of details: the photo, and the position of the protruded ring (in the outer circle instead of the inner circle).

Certificates: To finish this review of the Creation Ent replicas, I'd like to briefly take into account the certificate that accompanied the chakram.

Creation chakram COAs were very simple. They have a short text certifying the authenticity of the piece, and are signed by Creation Ent CEOs Adam Malin and Gary Berman. A detail I find curious is that the actual number of the chakram is not written (it only says "The Chakram is limited to an edition of 500"). Thus the only proof to that is the plaque of the shadowbox.

This lack of detail might be the reason why many collectors lost or misplaced their COAs, resulting in many sales without COA. They are rarely included. On the other hand, that also makes them interchangeable.

Conclusion: Again, briefly, what is left to say? Creation Ent replicas are my favorites. They are not perfect at all (in fact, when I first hold one I was hugely disappointed), but they are by far the most accurate chakram replicas to date. Hence why they are so rare, expensive and difficult to get. They look great hanging on the wall, and the shadowbox is definitely a great cool-looking bonus, as is the brass plaque.


This is it for the moment! Next I'll be reviewing the Todd's Costumes replicas.

Note: All photomontages by me. Original pics by collectors Beatlesrock, CarolSt, DavesXenaFever, Otsillac and me. 

Once again, special thanks to Otsillac for all the source info.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Awesome costumes sale!

Costume collectors! Wake up!

Right now, on eBay, tons of amazing and recognizable original costumes from the series! This is a once in a life time chance, folks!


   > Character: Cyane in S4 "Adventures in the Sin Trade (I&II)"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics, plus leather and beads.
   Papers: Turners Auctions COA plus costume tags.
   Seller: yeohman
   Price: $750 plus shipping (Worldwide)

   > Opinion: Victoria Pratt as Cyane trademark costume. Seller says it's a mix of Pratt's costume pieces and stunt doubles' pieces. The total is a complete costume, though. Relatively expensive, but a good opportunity for amazon lovers, and it ships worldwide (unlike the following articles).


   > Character: Gabrielle in half S4.
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $100 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: I love Season 4 so much! Gabrielle's yellow sari costume is one of my favorites. It's a pity the top and skirt don't include the sash or the armbands, that would have been mind-blowing! Incredibly cheap for such an iconic costume, though it's not specified if it was worn by Renee herself or a stunt double. Seller says the costume has been stored since the 2002 auction.


   > Character: Xena in S4 "Between the Lines"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics. Faux jewelry.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $350 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: This costume is just so great. It appeared in only one episode (a great episode!), but it got stuck to my mind and I love it. I'm not into prop costumes, but if I were I'd buy this without blinking. Really really cool opportunity, and it includes pretty much everything seen on-screen: belt, necklace, armbands, gauntlets... Everything except the headband. Same as in the previous costume, it's not specified if it's Lucy's or a stunt, but due to it being used only once and also the amount of detail I'd say this was from Lucy. Color has me a bit confused, but I assume the lighter tone is caused by the flash or different lighting.


   > Character: Annie Day/Joxer in S4 "Deja Vu All Over Again"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics. Faux leather?
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $200 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: "Annie Bananie, she's so funny..." :) Annie Day's history might not be as popular as Melinda and Janice's adventures, but she was a funny character. The reincarnation and descendant? of Joxer the Mighty, with the face of our favorite Warrior Princess. The sale includes her whole costume, including the knitted vest, the armbands and the knee-guards.


   > Character: Gabrielle in S4 "Locked Up and Tied Down"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $100 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: This should be considered a piece of the costume, not the whole set. It does NOT include the necklaces or the belt full of pouches, that gave a cool feel to Gabrielle's disguise. However, it's a nice piece nonetheless. Same as before, stored since 2002.


   > Character: Aphrodite in S5 "Married with Fishsticks"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics. Leather? boots.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $150 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: Who doesn't love Aphrodite? This costume was only briefly seen, and even if it's not very iconic it's very cool. It comes complete, and includes everything Alexandra Tydings was wearing in that scene (memorable fight with Discord), including the armbands Alexandra always donned to hide her arm tattoos. Nice detail.


   > Character: Xena in S3 "The Debt (I&II)"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $100 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: When evil Xena was rescued by Lao Ma, this was the purple costume given to her. It's missing the golden trim originally seen in the darker band around the neck. Not as cool as other costume pieces (my opinion), but very recognizable.


   > Character: Janice Covington/Gabrielle in S2 "The Xena Scrolls"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $150 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: Janice Covington was genius. An Indiana Jone's type future descendant/reincarnation of Gabrielle, as seen in "The Xena Scrolls". She rocked. It's a pity the sale doesn't include her hat and leather jacket, those would had been an amazing add.


   > Character: Melinda Pappas/Xena in S2 "The Xena Scrolls"
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $250 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: Melinda Pappas was hilarious! Lucy really made a great performance there, changing from her typical though girl acting to a naive and somewhat silly archeologists. Genius! The full costume (minus the hat) is listed. I'm sure they didn't make many of these, so almost one of a kind!


   > Character: Joxer.
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $75 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: it's not easy to see a Joxer costume, not even in pieces. This is the top piece worn under the armor. The COA says it's from the final episodes, so it has to be from Season 5. And it's only 75 bucks, folks!


   > Character: Autolycus.
   > Material: Mixed fabrics.
   Papers: It's a Wrap! COA.
   Seller: mploesch
   Price: $100 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: Autolycus donned several different costumes, but this is one of his trademark vests in Xena Warrior Princess. Interesting piece.


More soon! Stay tuned!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lucky Monday!


What a pleasant surprise, to wake up and see so many interesting props and replicas listed on eBay. Check them out! :)


   > Manufacturer: Todd's Costumes
   > Number: 54/1000
   COA: Not included.
   Seller: sonofkrypton22
   Price: $599.99 plus shipping (free shipping in USA)

   > Opinion: SonofKrypton22 is a long term collector in the Xenaverse, better known under the alias Otsillac. His items tend to be pricey, but always have high quality and usually are very well taken care of. This whip is a good example of that: nice and expensive. About the replica itself, I think Todd's Xena whip is a very cool item (I'd say it's one of the best replicas he made). Not 100% accurate (the golden parts are silver in props or Creation replicas) but beautiful nonetheless!


   > Manufacturer: Creation Entertainment
   > Number: 101/500
   COA: Included.
   Seller: rie-do-it
   Price: $500 plus shipping

   > Opinion: You all know my love for Creation Ent replicas. This is no exception. This battle-staff (or GabWhackers, as many fans call it) is made by the same prop masters that created the one in the show. It'll probably include the "New Zealand made" stamp somewhere, but still, a must have for all Gabby fans. On the other hand, be warned: shipping and customs will be painful due to the length of the package!


   > Manufacturer: Marto Swords of Spain
   > Number: 288/3500
   COA: Included.
   Seller: gevxena
   Price: $599.99 plus shipping or $1,000 for "Buy Now"

   > Opinion: Marto's not my favorite brand, but as I've stated a couple of times, their katanas are ok. Inaccurate in many details, but nice-looking weapons and finely made. Their 10th anniversary katanas are a bit different and more "special" than their regular versions. This one is 24k Gold plated and presents a Xena quote and signature on the blade. The seller says Marto was licensed to produce 3500 of these at the time, less then 500 were ever made. Even with that, I'd say it's expensive.


   > Manufacturer: Marto Swords of Spain
   > Number: 288/3500
   COA: Included.
   Seller: gevxena
   Price: $599.99 plus shipping or $1,000 for "Buy Now"

   > Opinion: Same as the Xena's Marto katana above. I'd say Gabrielle's bothers me a bit more, cause it's even less accurate in some details. The blue in the handle should be more intense, for example. And the blade doesn't have the luscious dragon engraving seen on the prop.


   > Character: The bad guys from S5 episode "Back in the Bottle"
   > Material: Wood. Cord.
   Papers: Not mentioned.
   Seller: gevxena
   Price: $199.99 plus shipping

   > Opinion: Gevxena's on fire! lol He's selling so many things all of a sudden! This a real prop used in the series. Seller says not many were made, and most were damaged during filming -so this undamaged piece is rare. Not very iconic, but curious nonetheless.


   > Character: Gabrielle's army in S6 episode "Friend in Need II"
   > Material: Resin. Aluminum. Cloth.
   Papers: Not included. It might include a copy of the Turner's receipt.
   Seller: xsab
   Price: $115 plus shipping

   > Opinion: Today's post is surely about katanas, right? This is an original prop used in the series, and thus has some pros and cons. Pros: it's original, it's cheap, it was used in the series finale, and it's similar to Gabrielle's prop katana (all the army shared the same kind of katana). Cons: it's a bit deteriorated (presents wear and tear from screen use) and it's one piece (sword and sheath are one and can't be separated). Still, at least for me, one of the most interesting pieces shown here today.

That's all for now folks. More soon! 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gabrielle's Crown prop

Hey friends!

A quick heads-up! More props for sale from the Xena Museum on eBay!

   > Character: Gabrielle in S3 "The Bitter Suite"
   > Material: ??
   Papers: Seller's COA. It doesn't seem to come with other papers.
   Seller: xenamuseum
   Price: $350 plus shipping (only USA)

   > Opinion: If you read this blog you know the Xena Museum is a trusted seller. Now, about the piece itself, it seems to be a stunt piece, probably repaired. It shows less stars than the "hero prop" used by Renee O'Connor in the episode. Not my cup of tea, but I love the Bitter Suite!

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Icons chakram on eBay


While you wait for the second part of my chakram comparisons (be patient), check this out! An Icons chakram replica for sale on eBay, just now that I wrote so much about them :)

   > Manufacturer: Icons Prop Replicas
   > Number: 160/5000
   > COA: Included (as well as Icons Guarantee)
   > Seller: packratsunny
   > Price: $600 plus shipping

   > Opinion: This is an Early Official Replica (score 3,5/5 in accuracy). It seems to be intact, and comes with a pristine rock base and papers. Not bad. I'd personally say it's a bit expensive (an more so in the "Buy Now" option, at $880 plus shipping). However, it's certainly cheaper than the one we saw some weeks ago.

Comparisons: The Original Chakram (I of IV)

Hey guys!

So here it is, at last! :)

It's taken me a long long time to finish this (macro)entry! It's quite large, plus it got erased all by itself a couple of times. Quite an odyssey! But I trust the post was worth the effort, and you'll find it interesting, if not useful. I've split it into four parts to make it a more manageable reading.

As with the Xena sword comparisons I did a while back, my goal here is comparing all the different versions of the Original Chakram that we can find in the market, and to help you correctly identify them all by yourselves. To that end, I'm going to analyze the six replica brands I find most notorious, and rate their accuracy respect the genuine props seen onscreen.

Of course, my most sincere thanks to all the collectors that have ever studied, written or posted either info or photographies about Xena's original chakram. You all made this entry possible!

Let's start!


As always, the original props will serve us as the main reference to compare the accuracy level of any replica. More or less. I'd better say the "idealized chakram" that all props represent will serve as such reference, because not every prop used on set looked exactly the same.

I know it might be obvious for those who know about this, but let me explain a little bit for those who don't. The original chakram as we know it appeared for the very first time in the Season 1 opening episode, "Sins of the Past". From then on, it continued to be Xena's trademark weapon until the beginning of Season 5, when during the episode "Chakram" its design changed to the Yin Yang version. Across all those episodes (92, to be exact) tons of props were made, used and discharged. And the process to make the chakram (along its design itself) was altered and refined.

That's why the perfect chakram as we imagine it probably doesn't correspond to any prop. Our mental image is made up of many details from here and there, which most of the time are not altogether present in any object fit for real screen use. However, that doesn't mean we can't put together a list of the things that make a chakram be the real deal.

What makes a chakram be the perfect chakram?

> The Size: The real props are usually bigger than most replicas, so size's always a good starting point in any comparison. I took all the measures in centimeters, though, so don't trust too much the inches (I made a quick conversion, they are merely approximative).

- Outer circle: 25cm - 9,84 inches (aprox)
- Inner circle: 18,5cm - 7,30 inches (aprox)
- Blade width: 3,25cm - 1,27 inches (aprox)

> The Materials: The chakram is made of a silvery metal (normally aluminum). It should be solid, relatively heavy, and cold to the touch. Its shine/polishing degree varies, but it shouldn't be mirror-like (among other reasons, that'd be unpractical for on-screen use). The inlays are paui, New Zealand shells (green and blue) and NOT mother of pearl (white). The golden parts are ALWAYS painted - they are not made of any other metal nor a different material. Don't believe anything about alloys, it's plain gold paint, even in the most refined versions.

New Zealand paui always have green and blue hues, never white.

Contrary to what many people believe, prop chakrams seldom meet these guidelines. Many weren't even metal, as resin, foam or even wood chakrams were easier to produce and much safer to throw around. Metal chakrams were exclusively used for close-up shots.

Original Resin Prop: Normally used for stunt purposes. This is the real undamaged finish.
Photos by Otsillac.
Screen-caps: You can compare it to the previous pic and see the same rough surface.
Original Metal Prop: The look is completely different, better finished and much more elegant.
Left photo by Otsillac.

> The saw-like pattern: The saw-like pattern (also known as the jagged pattern or fire pattern, as some fans call it) is one of the most iconic visuals of the chakram, and also my personal favorite. Its design is comprised of nine golden bolts (or flames, or jags, or saw teeth... as you prefer), each with their respective paua inlay. The voids or empty spaces among the bolts look to have their same width, and almost the same shape too (only reverted). Thanks to that, each golden bolt looks equidistant and somehow perfectly balanced respect the others.

Although simple, such design is also very distinctive. The saw-like pattern is usually the easiest part to tell apart in any chakram, and thus the first thing to take into account when trying to identify any version. Every creator or replica maker that has ever done a reproduction of the chakram has left behind subtle differences and variations that give away the origins of the piece. I like to consider those "interpretations" a signature of sorts, identity marks, each unique in their own way.

In earlier seasons, mostly S1 and S2, the pattern was rougher, less defined. There were
visible "mistakes" that made the design something more organic and handmade.
Later versions, like this one (seen on Season 5) have a much
sharper design. The pattern lines are clearer and crisper.

> The greek squared pattern: The squared pattern is also equally memorable, and complements the fiery strength of the other side with its cold and stony austerity. Like its opposite, it's made up of nine golden squares, with nine paui and nine voids or empty spaces in-between them. The position of the paui exactly match the ones on the other side.

The most remarkable feature of this pattern is the nature of the squares: they are not completely regular, but slightly trapezoidal. The perimetric lines of the golden areas are extensions of the circumference's radii, and thus point towards the invisible center of the chakram. This means the upper sides of the squares (the ones closer to the outer circle) are wider than their lower sides (the adjacent to the inner circle). I know this might seem like a trivial fact, but it actually helps a lot to signalize some fakes. I've seen quite a few chakrams that instead of having these lines correctly pointing outwards have them pointing inwards.

Here you can see the lines pointing towards the center.
Look how the squares are actually trapezoids. 
Some fake chakrams show the wrong line disposition.
Ironically, the logo for official Xena merchandise sports a fake chakram.

> The Blade edge: The last characteristic to consider is the blade edge of the chakram. Now, there's a bit of a debate about this point. In theory, the chakram is sharp-edged. That's why it cuts throats (and fish!) and kills people. But then, how can it be that Gabrielle scratches her back with it, or that Xena makes it spin over her bare index finger? That should be a bloody mess! It could be that the chakram is harmless unless thrown, but then, why are they always saying just how sharp and dangerous it is?

As you can see there are quite a few contradictions, so it's up to everyone to decide which version they prefer. I myself choose to believe the chakram is razor-sharp, and those other moments are just for comical relief.

Some close-ups evidence that many props had a blunt and thick edge.
All things considered, that's logical: easier to make and to manipulate.
On the other hand, other props (above all from early seasons) do present
a very thin blade edge - not really sharp, but closer to the spirit of the chakram.

>> EDIT: You can check some first-hand photos of an aluminum crew chakram here, thanks to fellow Xenite Lara Vezzani aka Kimba.

With that much clear, let's begin analyzing the replicas, and seeing just how accurate they are. I'll be doing the reviews in chronological order, from the first replicas that appeared many years ago (the ones from Icons Prop Replicas) to the ones being made and sold today.


The Icons Logo, courtesy of the Icons Museum

Icons Prop Replicas was a company from Southern California specializing 1:1 scale replicas of film and television props. They started in 1995 replicating props from Star Wars, which were followed by replicas from other blockbusters like Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Independence Day, Men In Black, Jurassic Park, or Batman. They were also the first company to ever produce official chakram replicas.

As I stated a while back, Icons chakrams are rare. They were commissioned by Universal Studios in late 1996 early 1997, but were not available to the public until much later. They were for sale for about two years, until the Spring of 2000, when the company closed its doors and ceased all production. Although they had a license that covered 5000 units, they barely reached the 600, and the line was never finished.

Anyhow, they are well-know for being the "original" chakram replicas. That (along their cool rock base stand) is the reason why they are a very sought after item. But what about their accuracy?

> Versions of the Icons replica: The Icons replica went through at least three different versions, all of which deserve to be review separately.

1.- The Prototype

An Icons prototype with a later version of the rock base.

The Icons prototypes were made at the very beginning of the production process, when the company was still trying to figure out how they were going to proceed. They had been given a screen-used chakram by Universal, and it seems developing a plausible replica looked like a difficult and expensive task at first. Their earliest approach was making a white metal reproduction, much heavier, thicker and larger than their later (and better known) products. 

Quoting the Icons Museum article on the matter "(the Prototype) was cast in solid white metal at an outsourced metal casting company and then engraved, and the Abalone shell accent recesses placed. This version was then polished, stenciled with a computer rendered pattern that replicated the screen-used original and then hand painted". Also, it's important to highlight that the design lines of these first prototypes were a bit more primitive and rough than later versions (much like what happens with real props).

They made very few of them (about 10 units, of so I've heard), which were only sold when the company closed.

2.- Early Official Replica

Both sides of a typical Icons replica.
Photos by Justevan1129.

Quoting a section of their text once again "upon much examination, discussion, polite debates, heated arguments and knock-down drag-out-fights amongst Icons staff, it was decided to abandon the solid metal cast version of the Chakram and instead go with an all aluminum polished version, which proved to be much more elegant in design, lighter in weight, easier to manufacture and control quality".

In short, aluminum was a much ductile and cheaper material than white metal, and also less fragile (some of the prototypes broke by themselves due to internal imperfections in the metal). Once they had an updated design figured out, it was the best choice to make a long run.

A curiosity: Icons advertised their replicas as 1:1 scale reproductions, but it turns out they were not. The Icons replica is smaller than a prop. However, the prototype matches the real size.

3.- Late Official Replica

Some later Icons replicas have thicker and blacker contour lines.
Photos by Otsillac.

This might be just me being picky, but I've noticed some Icons replicas (above all later numbers of their limited production) show a peculiarity that earlier numbers don't share: they have much thicker and darker lines contouring the golden areas of both patterns. Why is that? I have no idea. It might be due to different people being involved in the painting process (let's remember it was manual) or due to having been made in a rush.

All in all, the fact is there are some models noticeably different, and that buying an Icons replica doesn't alone guarantee a strictly closed design. There might be visible differences, not all to our liking. Some people might prefer this variation to the others, or the other way around.

> Accuracy level: Now that we've seen the three different versions of the Icons replica, it's time to evaluate their accuracy. Just how accurate are they compared to the props and the "real chakram"? For these purposes, I'll be exclusively rating the chakram itself: I won't take into consideration any extra feature that comes with it. That comes later.

For the sake of objectivity, I'd like to give a score based on the five different points above mentioned. But to keep it simple, I'll only be explaining the rating of the Late Official Replica, given it can be considered the "worst-case scenario" in accuracy terms when getting an Icons repro.

       1. Size: Incorrect. The official replica is smaller than the original prop.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       2. Material (shine & color): Incorrect. It presents a mirror-like finish.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       3. Saw-like pattern: Incorrect. The lines (a) are too thick, and the bolt 
       frontal angle (b) is smaller than it should.
       ............................................................................................. Score: 0/1
       4. Squared pattern: Incorrect. The contour lines are too thick as well.
       .......................................................................................... Score: 0,5/1
       5. Blade edge: Correct. The replica has a thin blade edge.
       ............................................................................................. Score: 1/1

       ____________________________________________TOTAL: 2,5/5

I insist this is the "worst case scenario". According to these parameters, the Early Official Replica would score 3,5/5 (due to the correct thickness of the contour lines), and the Prototype would score 4/5 (due to the irregularities and rougher aspect of the patterns). Overall, we can say the Icons replica is a good chakram, though just how much will depend on the model we get.

Now let's see some of the bonuses that come with the chakram.

> Additional features: Icons replica chakram has an advantage respect some other replicas: it comes with a stand. The rock base. And it certainly is a very cool and distinctive feature.

The rock base is made of plastic, I believe, and airbrushed to look like real stone. It has a recessed area to introduce the chakram, lined in black velvet. The display's base is covered in velvet as well. It comes with a numbered plaque that shows the official Xena merchandise logo (yes, the one with a fake chakram in it lol) that marks the "front" side of the stand.

Here you can see both sides of the rock base stand.
Photos by Beatlesrock.
The replica chakram and the rock stand in their original box.
Photo by Beatlesrock.

The rock base definitely adds bonus points to the replica as a whole set. So much that, actually, most fans recognize this brand only for the display. 

> Certificates: To finish this recap of the Icons replica, and before we move to further chakram versions, let's analyze what papers or certificates came (and will still be included in some cases) with the set:

From left to right: The plaque, the COA, the Instructions and the Icons Guarantee.
Photos by Otsillac.

- The Rock Base plaque: Most likely included if you get the rock base.
- The COA: It usually comes with the set. I've seen quite a few Icons replicas being sold during the years, and most of them included the COA.
- Icons Guarantee of Quality: Not so common, but a nice detail to have. Though it serves no purpose nowadays, given Icons doesn't exist anymore.
- Chakram Instructions: Another neat addition. Mostly care and cleaning instructions. I've only seen it included a couple of times.

Papers are a funny thing for us collectors. We want to have them, but still we don't look at them twice. We store them in a drawer and rarely think of them again. But they clearly add extra value when selling or buying the item... Hence entirely up to you if you like/want them or not.

> Conclusion: Very briefly, what can I say? I like the Icons replica. In most cases it has an acceptable accuracy level, and it was the first replica of the chakram ever. That counts for something. In short, a big part of Xena's merchandise history, and an item that many fans will like to have.


And that's all for now! 

READ NEXT PART: Comparisons: The Original Chakram (II of IV)

Note: All photomontages by me. Original pics by collectors Beatlesrock, Justevan1129, Otsillac and me.