For some people the thrill of getting a piece of memorabilia is standing outside the stage door in the rain for hours just to get a star's autograph or tracking things on movie sets to find out where they wind up so you can get one first hand.
But for most people who don't work on Hollywood back lots or live in New York, the best way to get a collectable is buy one. That creates a challenge all its own. You can't really walk into Best Buy and say, "I'd like the gun that was used on the set of I-Robot, please". Rare items have a rare and traditional way of being marketed. The auction. Learning your way around auctions is a good way to get that collectable you'd like.
Many items of memorabilia belong to the stars or directors who used them. Want the original light saber Luke Skywalker used? It's in George Lucas' house. Sometimes celebrities will loan their items to museums or places like Planet Hollywood, but for the most part, the owners are keepers.
Celebrities are just as vulnerable as the rest of us to things like death, taxes and lawyer bills so occasionally items will go on sale in an auction. Auction houses are the places these events are held. It's a good thing because the house also insures the item, verifies its authenticity and makes sure you receive the item just as promised. They also have the legal means to make sure you pay for the item just as promised, so don't make a bid you can't keep. The website at http://nationalauctionlist.com lists auction houses and explains all the specifics about how to facilitate purchasing by auction.
The good news for memorabilia collectors is that stars have big hearts and lots of causes. They also have lots of money, but they prefer to donate their stuff and get your money for what is important to them. Charity auctions are usually more accessible to the general public than auction houses and still have the backer assuming liability for the delivery and authenticity of the product. If a CBS charity auction sells you some tiki torch instead of a real Survivor totem, they'll have to reimburse you. Charity auctions can be done via cable, phone or internet. Just keep up with the website of your favorite show or star and you'll find out the when and where's to getting the item you desire.
Personal auctions, such as EBay or classified ads, are the most risky. The items are usually second, third or fourthly owned. Can you imagine Harrison Ford putting an ad in the paper that says, "One bullwhip. Slightly used. Movie prop"? Items bought on EBay or out of someone's garage will require independent verification to assure their authenticity and because the chain of owners is unknown at best, the quality of the item or its condition may be lacking. Items bought through personal auctions are good for decoration or conversation pieces, but never as investment.
People who love entertainment tend to love entertainment things. Through the auction system there is always a way to get your hands on a little piece of the stars.