It's not easy to bounce back from an act of betrayal, and this becomes all the more difficult when such an heinous act includes a theft of $200,000. Steve Sansweet, the owner of the world's largest collection of Star Wars Memorabilia, recently issued a letter about an alleged theft at his 'Rancho Obi-wan' by his long-term friend and fellow Star Wars collector, Carl Edward Cunningham.
Steve Sansweet, the owner of Rancho Obi-wan, was a full-time employee for Lucasfilm as the Director of Content Management and head of Fan Relations. His incredible Star Wars collection was exclusive to his friends and colleagues until October 2011, when he retired from his 15-year career at Lucasfilm and decided to establish Rancho Obi-Wan, Incorporated.
After a theft-free 6-year run, it was sad to hear Sansweet announce that almost 100 "vintage U.S. and foreign carded action figures" had been looted off the premises between 2015 and 2016.
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.
Who Is The Culprit And How Did It Happen?
Back in 1996, Sansweet had befriended Carl Cunningham due to their shared interest in Star Wars memorabilia. Fast-forward 20 years and Cunningham has been slapped with felony grand theft. Although he is on a $25,000 bail, Cunningham is now scheduled for a preliminary hearing on 27th June.
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.
Sansweet still has a massive collection of 350,000 franchise artifacts, and it is necessary to keep track of every single item in order to hold onto that Guinness Book of World Records for owning the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia.
Despite such meticulous management, news of the theft didn't come from Sansweet's inventory department. Instead, he was notified by fellow Star Wars collector, Philip Wise, who had posted about the theft of his Boba Fett action figure.
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.
As A Star Wars Fan, What Can You Do For Rancho Obi-Wan?
In his letter, Sansweet addressed the fact that without the help of Zach Tann, it wouldn't have been possible to know about this act of thievery or the extent of his current financial loss.
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.
Without dwelling on the devastating nature of this crime, Sansweet came to the point by reaching out to fans with the necessary details to report the purchase of any stolen item.
If you have any information about Carl Cunningham’s activities or items that he has sold please write to [email protected]. 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.
Even though an extensive search for the stolen items continues, two ardent fans have already reached out to Rancho Obi-Wan to giveaway their Star Wars memorabilia that they had legitimately bought, without expecting to get their money back.
To maintain this spirit of hope and goodness, Mark Hamill himself took to Twitter, asking Rancho Obi-Wan to put up a list of the stolen material so that nobody buys it by mistake.
It is true that such an act of betrayal is severely damaging to one's psyche but one shouldn't lose hope and stop trusting their friends because that will just make the world a miserable place.
Do you have a collection of Star Wars memorabilia? Let me know your favorite item in the comment section - and may the force be with you!