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For productions like Game of Thrones or The Hobbit, I assume prop and dress production is relatively easy -- While we have drawings and paintings, no one is alive who remembers what people wore in the middle ages, you can be a bit off in your representation and no one will care, for instance Ikea rugs were used for the nights watch cloaks.

For productions like Stranger Things however a good chunk of the target demographic remembers the eighties and remembers them pretty well. Props like the wired telephones and CRT TVs reminiscent of the eighties help to complete the feel for a more discerning audience.

How do productions acquire these props? Do they need to build fake replicas, do they go hunting for them at garage sales? Do studios just buy modern electronics/outfits/props and stores them for possible use twenty-some-odd-years down the line?

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    I still own T-shirts from high school that are over 30 years old. – PoloHoleSet Oct 30 '17 at 18:27
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    @PoloHoleSet I still have a few as well, but do you also still tote around your 1982 microwave, camera, bicycle, etc etc – Sidney Oct 30 '17 at 18:28
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    Have my phone/modem combo. Still used the phone part until I ditched my landline a few years ago. Had a switch on top to change it over to the data connection. 2400 baud.... 2400 bits per second. Also had the ability to "pulse" instead of tone to emulate dial phones for those who didn't want to pay the extra $.99 for touchtone phone service. But I'm something of a hoarder. We didn't have a microwave or cable TV until much, much later in the game. We convinced my parents not to throw out the old Intellivision video game. retrogamer.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/intellivision.png – PoloHoleSet Oct 30 '17 at 18:31
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    I have a pair of shoes I bought in 1972. Wedges that have roller skates that drop out of the bottom. Now you know why I kept them. As they have no brakes or toe stop, you also know why I don't still wear them. – DCook Oct 30 '17 at 19:20
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    One branch of my company in LA was in the same building where "picture cars" are kept. The bottom floor of the parking garage was full of mint condition cars from the 50s to present. I never saw a Ford Pinto or Chevy Chevette during the 1980s that didn't have rust on it, yet somehow, they have them in this garage! – user1118321 Oct 31 '17 at 2:10
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Wired actually has an article about this:

...

To get the amazing '80s stuff, Reiss scoured eBay, flea markets, prop rentals, and estate sales in Georgia. (The series is set in suburban Indiana but shot in Atlanta.) Her budget for the season was around $220,000.

...

Reiss has a warehouse full of props on the Isle of Man, but almost everything for Stranger Things was bought or made for the show. When filming wrapped, everything was inventoried and put into storage in Georgia.

So the answer is, that it depends, and will vary from production to production, and also most likely from season to season as production staff change. Some shows will have a high level of detail required, which is what Reiss on Stranger Things was held to, while other production staff may take it easier and just buy replicas that aren't exactly the same.

  • Archives too. – user50593 Oct 30 '17 at 20:33
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    I find the order of operations interesting. "When filming wrapped, everything was inventoried..." In most businesses one would inventory first, and then use the item. However, everything I have heard about the prop business agrees with their ordering: you get a last minute "we need this item. Can you have it on set tomorrow" and you find a way to make it happen. Paperwork can come later. – Cort Ammon Oct 31 '17 at 0:35
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    My family doesn't sell a lot of film memorabilia, but we sell (and buy) antiques on Ebay all the time for the past 10+ years--I have had a small British studio producer ask about shipping prices between the US and the UK on a few items--He did buy a large art deco two-piece glass lamp from us. – Darth Locke Oct 31 '17 at 13:01
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    The items were likely inventoried going onto the set, but more so the set designers could maintain the set (to ensure continuity). The inventory going into the storage is about knowing where a particular item it when it is next needed for a shoot. – Randall Oct 31 '17 at 14:08
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    @CortAmmon, when I worked in fast food, acquisition and inventory were almost never part of the same activity. Produce order would happen every other day(ish), inventory once a week, and a few days later, we'd get our non-produce delivery for that week. Standard was to verify deliveries, non-standard outgoing(sending supplies to a sister store on loan due to demand variance), and then inventory the store once a week, usually overnight to be more accurate. It'd be very difficult to do a proper inventory of supplies when an uncontrolled portion of the supplies were "checked out". – godskook Oct 31 '17 at 19:08
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If they don't go out and buy them or supply them themselves (early seasons of Married... With Children were largely dressed with stuff supplied by the crew, and the cast was known to wear their own clothes as the budgets were so low), then they rent them. There are prop suppliers around the country/world that basically just warehouse anything and everything you could possibly imagine, forever, in case a production needs to rent it for any reason. Here is just one such place in San Francisco... there are lots and lots of them.

  • "Married... With Children" wasn't a period production – Goose Oct 31 '17 at 1:33
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    No it wasn't, but the point remains that productions will often use prop houses or try to provide things themselves in order to save money. – Jonathan van Clute Oct 31 '17 at 1:35
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    That works for non period productions much better than shows that take place over 30 years ago. As the other answer states, a significant budget and much hunting had to go into the props for Stranger Things. This answer would work better if you could provide an example of a period production that was mostly supplied with props by the cast. – Goose Oct 31 '17 at 2:14

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