A missing spacecraft prop from the original 1977 Star Wars film has sold for a record-breaking $3.13million (£2.57million) after being discovered in a cardboard box.

The valuable prop, a 20-inch model of an X-wing starfighter, was used during filming of the climactic space battle in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and was believed to have been missing for decades. But the long-lost prop was found in the garage of the late Oscar-nominated modelmaker Greg Jein last November.

Friends of Greg, who died in May 2022 aged 76, had been clearing out his home when they discovered the X-wing starfighter model hidden in a cardboard box filled with packing peanuts. On Sunday it became the "most expensive Star Wars screen-used prop sold at auction," according to Joe Maddalena, executive vice-president at Heritage Auctions, who carried out the sale.

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“The worldwide response to the Greg Jein collections been outstanding a true testament to Greg and all he accomplished as visual effects artist and collector," he said in a statement. The starfighter model was built by Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’ visual effects company, for the first film produced in the Star Wars franchise.

Greg Jein
It was found in the home of late modelmaker Greg Jein

The "Red Leader" X-wing is just one of four "hero" filming miniatures created with servo-controlled wings that spread open into "Attack Position". Hero models were built for close-up shots of X-wings and were used in the final battle sequence, including shots during the trench run.

"This model has not been on public display and has not been exposed to UV daylight. As such, this miniature is in its original condition as it was filmed on the blue screen stage at ILM in 1977. Without question, this Hero X-wing miniature represents the pinnacle of Star Wars artefacts to ever reach the market," Heritage Auctions' description of the model reads.

It was found by visual effects historian Gene Kozicki, his colleagues and Greg's friends while they were helping Greg's family catalogue his collection. “I knew something was probably in the box, so I started to carefully scoop out the packaging peanuts when the nose of the X-wing showed itself," Gene told the Hollywood Reporter.

Director George Lucas presents the film "Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope" at AFI's 40th Anniversary celebration presented by Target held at Arclight Cinemas on October 3, 2007 in Hollywood, California.
The model was built by George Lucas' visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic

He added: "The four of us knew immediately that it was the actual filming model and then the magnitude of the discovery started to set in." It's unknown how Greg came into possession of the rare X-wing but Gene speculated it may have come into his hands while he was working on Steven Spielberg's 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was being made at the same time and with overlapping visual effects teams.

Heritage Auctions did not name who Sunday's buyer was but it beats out the sale of another rare X-wing model, which was auctioned off in June 2022 for $2.37million (£1.95million). Other Star Wars memorabilia collected by Greg was also put up for auction, including a Stormtrooper costume used in the original film, production shooting scripts and action figures.

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