‘Starship Enterprise’ Model Found on eBay Authenticated as Original

The 3-foot-long model that belonged to ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry had been missing since 1978.

The wooden model was built in the mid 1960s by Hollywood scale-model-maker Richard Datin Jr., a subcontractor for the Howard Anderson Company. [Courtesy: Heritage Auctions]

The model of the Starship Enterprise that showed up on eBay in November is (drum roll, please) the original—as in the first model of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) used in the filming of the original Star Trek television series—according to Heritage Auctions.

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, who in addition to being a prolific screenwriter, was a decorated B-17 pilot during World War II and later flew for Pan Am. He died in October 1991 at the age of 70.

Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Jon Maddalena, left, with Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry Jr., and the long-lost 'USS Enterprise' at Heritage Auctions' Beverly Hills location on April 13. [Credit: Josh David Jordan/ Heritage Auctions]

The wooden model was built in the mid 1960s by Hollywood scale-model-maker Richard  Datin Jr., a subcontractor for the Howard Anderson Company. The model is 3 feet long and was used in the show's pilot episode, as well as the opening credits. It later became the prototype for the 11-foot-long model used during production and is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

The model of Enterprise (NCC-1701)—no bloody A, B, C, or D—belonged to Roddenberry. It sat on his desk for years after the show ended its first run. In 1978, he allegedly loaned it to a production company for the filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and never saw it again.

The whereabouts of the model were often talked about in fan magazines and at Star Trek conventions.

In fall 2023, the model with its faded paint and drooping engine nacelles reappeared on eBay, with a starting bid of $1,000. According to multiple online news outlets, it was allegedly found in a storage unit in California. 

When it was learned that the model might have been stolen from Roddenberry or at the very least not properly returned, the auction was quickly taken down. The seller then reached out to Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Gene’s son, about returning the item to the family, and the blogosphere erupted in intense debates over the authenticity of the item that rivaled who is the better captain: Kirk or Picard? 

In an interview with the Associated Press, Heritage Auctions executive vice president Joe Maddalena said it was contacted by people who said they had discovered it in a storage unit. When it was brought into the auction house’s office in  Beverly Hills, California, Maddalena and a colleague “instantly knew that it was the real thing.” 

Heritage returned the model to Rod Roddenberry, who said he would like to see the model restored then put on display so that more fans can see it.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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