The Force was brought back into balance this week when a thrift store in Arizona returned a special vinyl pressing of the original Star Wars soundtrack to Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. The record's sleeve had been autographed for the actor by none other than the soundtrack's legendary composer, John Williams.
“I wasn’t completely sure that it was mine,” Hamill told The New York Times of the newly discovered album — a gift he received from Williams prior to the release of Episode IV — A New Hope in 1977. “But I know that I’d had an album signed by John. How would they know that?”
The most shocking part is that Hamill had no idea the record (whose message reads “Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us") was even missing from his personal collection of priceless Star Wars memorabilia. His other prized possessions from the franchise include Luke's boots and the stormtrooper outfit he wore during the rescue of Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia.
"I never would have sold that record," added Hamill, who had not seen the item since the early '90s. “This is so above and beyond, considering they could’ve sold it.”
The object made its way to Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Flagstaff in the summer of 2018 when a woman sold off a number of boxes filled with her father's old Star Wars swag. For a year to a year and a half, the record sat in the back office of the 40-year-old establishment.
“It was marked as not made for distribution, which was a key to us that this was something special,” the business' appraiser, Kevin Iannone, explained to the Times, going on to say that "the pen indentations in the cardboard and the signature itself" were also indicative of its authenticity.
The vinyl was eventually put up for sale with a hefty price tag of $499.50. After just a few days, general manager Micheil Salmons took it off the market in order to return the keepsake to its rightful owner via snail mail with plenty of bubble wrap, the GM tells SYFY WIRE.
“I had talked to our marketing person and asked them to put on Twitter that, ‘Hey, if this is Mark Hamill’s, we'd love to get it back to him,’" says Salmons. "That night, when I had gone home, I [posted about it] on the Star Wars sub-Reddit. I was talking to a lot of different people about the record and if it was authentic or not. That’s when someone had linked that post that I had created to Mark Hamill and the next day, he had confirmed that it was his.”
"Totally unexpected & positively surreal. It was nice to get it back, but even more impressive that @bookmansflag would go to the trouble of returning it, when they could have just as easily SOLD it! I happily offered to sign any SW items they sent me," Hamill wrote on Twitter.
"It's a mystery," Salmons says of how the record ended up with the woman who sold it to the store in the first place. "I have no definitive [answer], especially for how long ago it was and everything like that. She just said that her dad was a huge fan and she wasn't, so she was just letting go of [his stuff]."
The collectibles Hamill signed for the store included a DVD copy of A New Hope (now on display in the glass case where the vinyl once sat) and a replica of the medals Leia gave to Luke and Han for blowing up the first Death Star. Hamill recently reprised his role of Luke Skywalker in The Rise of Skywalker, where the character came back as a Force Ghost to guide Rey (Daisy Ridley) through a turbulent time.
"I keep telling people that I was optimistic that Mark Hamill would reach out and say, 'Hey, that's my record!' But the internet's a pretty big place and he's a pretty big guy, who's pretty busy," explains Salmons. "And with the new Star Wars film out and everything, there was a one-in-a-million chance that he was actually going to reach out or want it back ... if it was important to him. I would say the most surreal part is definitely getting to interact with Mark Hamill. It's not every day that anyone does that, especially all the way out here in Flagstaff, Arizona ... We've enjoyed all of the love that we've gotten from it."
John Williams broke his own Oscar record on Monday with a nomination for his 52nd Academy Award.