PETALUMA, Calif. — A long time ago (about 1998) in the not-so-far-away town of Petaluma, a man by the name of Steve Sansweet purchased an old chicken coop.
Petaluma is known as the “Egg Capital of the World” but the man did not fill the chicken coop with egg-laying hens. Instead, he filled it with hostile aliens and galactic characters. He called this place Rancho Obi-Wan.
“It’s the Guinness World Record's, largest Star Wars collection in the world,” says Sansweet.
How big is the collection you ask? Well, on the property there are three buildings totaling 9,000 square feet, and there’s an additional 7,000 square-foot storage facility off the property.
Sansweet used to be a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, and in 1977 he was invited to an early screening of Star Wars: A New Hope. After seeing the film, he was an instant fan.
“My life has been Star Wars for 46 years,” says Sansweet.
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Eventually, Sansweet became a part of fan relations at Lucasfilm and literally wrote the book, or rather books, on Star Wars fandom.
“Seventeen books and two encyclopedias,” says Sansweet.
Authentic action figures and movie props get a lot of attention but Steve also likes to show off his collection of knock-off Star Wars items.
“From Turkey, they thought they could get away with making Star Wars toys by calling it 'Stars Wars,'” says Sansweet.
The Rancho Obi-Wan collection also includes food that had Star Wars branding on it. Sansweet even has an original box of Pepperidge Farm cookies from the 1980s that he keeps in a sealed container.
“Yes, it smells really bad,” says Sansweet.
Tours of Rancho Obi-Wan generally last three or four hours and you will need all the time you can get to see everything. From beautifully crafted fan art, to hard-to-find toys, there is almost no Star Wars item that Steve won’t collect.
“I love sharing my collection. If it is in boxes in your garage what good does it do?” says Sansweet.
Many of the items at Rancho Obi-Wan are priceless but the displays are not just for the Star Wars super fan; there’s a little something for everyone. Steve just has one rule: “We don’t talk about money in here. It’s all about the passion behind the collecting.”
Rancho Obi-Wan is a non-profit organization. Tours schedules can be found on their website.
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