Darth Vader, Yoda, and lightsabers, oh my (pictures)

At Steve Sansweet's Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, Calif., 'Star Wars' fans of all colors have a chance to see what might be the best collection of the films' artifacts in the world.

Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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Cantina band

PETALUMA, Calif.--If you think that George Lucas has the largest "Star Wars" collection in the world, you'd be wrong. That distinction belongs to an unassuming man named Steve Sansweet who houses more than 300,000 individual items in a nondescript building in the middle of what used to be a giant henhouse.

Sansweet's project is known as Rancho Obi-Wan, and it is a sight to behold. With more than 90,000 items on display, the museum is a must-visit for true "Star Wars" fans given that it houses countless one-of-a-kind items, from special promotional objects to fan-made projects to bootleg items.

Among the museum's treasures is this working animatronic cantina band, from the original "Star Wars." Sansweet was able to purchase it from former toy empire FAO Schwarz's bankruptcy sale in Las Vegas. It used to live behind the soda counter at the toy chain's Vegas store.

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Pre-launch poster

"Star Wars" opened to the public on May 25, 1977. This poster tantalized in-the-know would-be fans with the promise of something special to come.
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Original theatrical poster

If you were around in May of 1977, you might have seen this poster outside movie theaters everywhere. The image of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia is one that will live forever in moviegoers' memories.
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Main room at Rancho Obi-Wan

This is the main gallery of Rancho Obi-Wan, the largest "Star Wars" museum in the world.
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Original McQuarrie logo

Everyone is familiar with the world-famous stylized "Star Wars" logo. But Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who created the look for the first three films, actually created another logo first. This is a sign McQuarrie hand-painted with that logo. According to Sansweet, McQuarrie told him, "I still like my logo better than theirs." This is one of Sansweet's "most precious" objects.
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'Star Wars' 1976 novel

Many "Star Wars" fans think that the movie burst onto the scene in 1977 after having been kept entirely under wraps all throughout production. In fact, though, George Lucas had published a "Star Wars" novel in 1976, and a fanbase for the project had begun growing immediately afterwards.
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Play Dejarik with R2-D2

A replica of the Dejarik game from the Millennium Falcon from the original "Star Wars," along with an R2-D2. In the film, R2-D2 was convinced to let Chewbacca win in order to keep the wookiee from getting too angry.
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Press screening ticket

An invite to the cast and crew screening of "Star Wars," held at the Academy Award Theater in Beverly Hills on May 21, 1977, just days before the public opening. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Sansweet attended the screening, and his life was changed forever.
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Wars not make one great

Former street graffiti by artist Free Humanity at Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, Calif.
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Circus Poster

Sansweet says that this is George Lucas' favorite "Star Wars" poster, a work painted in 1977 and release in 1978 and known as the "Circus poster." It was done in the style of 1930s and 1940s movie serial posters.
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Gone with the Wind Empire poster

Sansweet's favorite poster is this one, the original "Empire Strikes Back" poster, which was created in the style of "Gone with the Wind," with Han Solo and Princess Leia posing like Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'hara.

The poster was used in theaters for about a month when "Empire" was released in 1980, but was eventually pulled because 20th Century Fox wanted something less romantic and more attractive to kids, Sansweet said.

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R2-Mr. T-2

This is an R2-D2 tricked out to look like Mr. T by the crew at the Conan O'Brien show for an appearance by George Lucas.
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This is one of just eight Yodas made from the original Yoda mold, which no longer exists because, being made out of latex, it deteriorated.
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Lawrence Noble Yoda

Any visitor to Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco will encounter a stunning Yoda sculpture made by artist Lawrence Noble directly outside the building's offices. This is a matching piece by Noble.
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Japanese Darth Vader

This is an interpretation of Darth Vader done by a Japanese doll company that had never made a licensed piece in over 300 years in business.
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New York Star Wars marquee

This is the original "Star Wars" theater marquee lettering from the opening-night showing of the film on May 25, 1977, at the Loews Orpheum theater in New York City.
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Han Solo showdown bookends

This set of bookends depicts the showdown in the Mos Eisley cantina between Han Solo and Greedo.
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3-PO hand from film

This is an actual droid hand worn by actor Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO in "Star Wars."
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White Boba Fett

The original plan was for bounty hunter Boba Fett to be white. But it was decided the color was too close to that of the stormtroopers.
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Series 1 Topps cards

A look at some of the very first edition of "Star Wars" Topps trading cards, from 1977.
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Carbonite Donald

Even prior to Disney's acquisition earlier this year of Lucasfilm, the two companies had a long history of working together. This Carbonite Donald Duck is just one manifestation of that work.
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Carbonite Donald rear

Showing a bit of a sense of humor -- a must for "Star Wars"-related items, the Carbonite Donald Duck has the beloved cartoon character's tail feathers sticking out the back.
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Cloud city cutaway

An artist's rendering of what the interior of Cloud City -- from "Empire Strikes Back" might look like in a cutaway.
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Light sabers

Sansweet has a case full of high-quality light saber replicas ranging from the first "Star Wars" film to many of the later projects.
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Luke light saber

This is a replica of Luke Skywalker's light saber from the first "Star Wars" film.
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3D Millennium Falcon model

Industrial Light & Magic, Lucas' famed visual effects studio, created this 3D "blueprint" of the Millennium Falcon as a base for a full-sized, 60-foot long model of Han Solo's spaceship.
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Turkish knock off

The collection at Rancho Obi-Wan contains a wide variety of knock-offs and bootleg items. Some manufacturers tried to evade Lucas' lawyers by doing things like saying the items were from "Starswar" instead of "Star Wars," as was the case with this Turkish action figure.
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Sansweet said that the maker of an early Japanese set of action figures had trouble with translation, and called every one of the figures a "stoomtrooper," regardless of whether it was a stormtrooper or not.
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Ladies of 'Star Wars'

This is the "Ladies of Star Wars" playing card set.
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During the filmming of the scene in "Return of the Jedi" when Jabba the Hutt tries to execute Han Solo and Luke Skywalker by throwing them into the mouth of the sarlacc, stuntman Paul Weston fell over the side of the set of the prison skiff and broke his leg. Weston's cast became part of "Star Wars" lore, as it was signed by many of the cast and crew.
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Sarlaac 5 Stuntmen 5

Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker, signed Weston's cast, "Sarlaac 1, Stuntmen 5."
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Simpsons fan art

In honor of a variety of "Star Wars"-themed "Simpsons" moments, fans created these figures, which are displayed at Rancho Obi-Wan.
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Kermit Skywalker

This is Kermit Skywalker.
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Carbonite Halloween costume

An ILM employee made this costume for his child for a Halloween party. The costume allowed anyone to put their head in the hold and be "frozen" in carbonite.
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Ewok fur

This plaque contains the "fur" of a number of Ewoks from "Return of the Jedi."
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Promotional brochure

This is the original "Star Wars" promotional brochure, which was sent to media around the country in the lead-up to the original film's release.
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Inside the brochure

A look inside the original "Star Wars" promotional brochure.
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Blue Harvest rain coat

In order to throw would-be snoopers off the scent during the filming of "Return of the Jedi" in rainy Northern California, Lucasfilm used the codename "Blue Harvest," which is emblazoned on this raincoat used during production.
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Topps boxes

Boxes of Topps "Star Wars" trading cards sit unopened on the shelves at Rancho Obi-Wan. The gum inside is probably stale.
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This fan-created item is a spoof on WD-40 and R2-D2 called "R2-D4."
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Cream of jawa

Who doesn't like a nice bowl of Cream of Jawa soup?
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'Star Wars' skateboard decks

The museum contains a number of artistic skateboard decks like these.
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Sgt. Pepper 'Star Wars'

To help promote the original "Star Wars" Celebration convention, Lucasfilm created this Sgt. Pepper-like display featuring many of the films' characters.

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