As a Star Wars fan, you may have heard the names Rancho Obi-Wan and Steve Sansweet, but ask yourself – how much do you really know about them?
Here at Fantha Tracks, we thought we’d give you the lowdown the Ranch and the man who made it all possible, as well as sharing some of the teams thoughts and experiences as part of the ever-growing family of Rancho Obi-Wan supporters.
So what IS Rancho Obi-Wan? Simply put, it’s the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars collection – a fact endorsed by the renowned Guinness Book of Records in its 2014 edition (and unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon). The collection has been amassed over 37+ years by Steve Sansweet, a former Wall Street Journal writer and Lucasfilm employee. His role at Lucasfilm evolved from Director of Specialty Marketing to Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations where he was at the forefront of developing both the StarWars.com website and putting together the first Star Wars Celebration in 1999.
During this time he moved to a former chicken farm in Petaluma, an hour north of San Francisco and the seeds of Rancho Obi Wan as we know it were born as he utilized one of the buildings to showcase his collection to friends and colleagues. Upon retiring from working at Lucasfilm full-time in 2011, Steve found that his collection had outgrown the original space and so he set about expanding into another building which was once home to over 20,000 chickens during its egg-producing heyday.
The new 9000 square foot/828 square meter space was then opened to fans and in October 2011, a non-profit benefit organization, was founded to manage the collection and fund the upkeep of the facilities. The collection is made up of Steve’s own purchases and items donated by both fans and companies, and covers everything from licensed merchandise to fan creations from every corner of the globe. Steve is also a renowned author, having been involved in many books on Star Wars and collecting and is still contributes to both Star Wars Insider magazine and StarWars.com.
As a recognized charity, Rancho Obi-Wan seeks to inspire fans (and non-fans) of all ages by hosting tours and events, as well as partnering with other fundraising organization to offer a unique environment for everything from corporate days to weddings. Rancho is also represented at Star Wars Celebration, often with unique themed exhibits such as the ultimate money can’t buy 70’s kids bedroom – featuring furnishings and toys from all over the world.
The main attraction for fans is obviously the legendary guided tour, where Steve walks you through the collection and reminisces with you over his favourite pieces or stories that reflect a particular era of fandom and collecting.
As fans, many of the Fantha Tracks team are supporters of Rancho Obi-Wan, so here are a few thought from us on how we got involved and what it means to us.
A (not very) long time ago, in a galaxy (not very) far, far away I was listening to an interview with Steve Sansweet where he was talking about an issue they had with a flood in one of the storage areas which had led to some items being damaged (these items weren’t even on display yet). As you may know, the collections is funded by Steve from his own pocket and donations made by fans and corporate licensees, but the running costs of the site and buildings are funded by supporters and donations to the charity. Hearing first-hand how part of this irreplaceable collection had nearly been lost spurred me to sign up for membership which currently is just $45/£38 per year, and not only gives you the satisfaction of helping to maintain this collection for the future but also gets you some awesome patches and pin badges as part of your annual membership pack, as well as exclusive offers.
I already knew of Steve’s love of Star Wars through the early 90’s book From Concept to Screen to Collectible, which I love, and the opportunity to get involved, albeit remotely, felt like ‘the right thing to do’. I hope to visit the Ranch in person someday, but right now I’m happy in the knowledge that I’m doing my own little bit towards helping Rancho Obi-Wan help others.
You can’t talk about Rancho Obi-Wan without talking about the inspiration behind it. Steve Sansweet has given so much to the Star Wars story, via both his role as the Head of Fan Relations and his position as the world’s most famous Star Wars collector. Back in the 90’s, when Star Wars was enjoying its first period of resurgence after the ‘Dark Times’, it was Steve’s books – most notably his 1992 book Star Wars – From Concept to Screen to Collectible – that instigated a torrent of interest in Star Wars collectibles, and I honestly don’t think his influence can be overstated in that regard. One of the minds behind Star Wars Celebration and its genial host for many years, Sansweet was a major part of moulding StarWars.com the fascinating and insightful website it was through the late 90’s and early 2000’s and the era of the prequels and a friendly, familiar face for brand Star Wars. And all the while, on his own time, he was developing, growing and cultivating Rancho Obi-Wan.
I’ve been very fortunate during my own 40+ year journey as a Star Wars fan to have had the pleasure of visiting Rancho Obi-Wan on five occasions. The first time I visited Rancho for the annual gala in 2013 was an eye-opener, and if I could bottle and sell the overwhelming tsunami of nostalgia and amazement that washed over me the first time I entered the museum then I’d be a very wealthy man. Suffice it to say, the collection is a chicken barn full of 70’s and 80’s vintage memories, props, fan made items, 90’s revival treats, prequel era collectibles and products running right up to the present day. How Steve and his amazing team of Anne, Stew, Bob and the wider team stay on top of it is beyond me, but the real treasure of Rancho isn’t the stuff, as eye-opening as it is.
There’s a genuine sense of belonging when you become a member. As someone who adored Bantha Tracks – the old Star Wars fan club that was the inspiration for this very website – I loved having something physical and tangible in my hands. When that membership kit arrived each year it was something very special indeed, so when my Rancho membership kit hits my doormat it’s a very evocative moment. Keeping that old school vibe while forging ahead with projects, events and fundraisers keeps Rancho relevant and always interesting, and catching up with people I now consider friends is never less than a pleasure.
I’ve not managed to get out to Rancho for the last couple of years, but with the gala returning in 2020 I’ve already pencilled it in the diary. Any chance to get away to the galaxy’s friendliest museum is one to be grabbed with both hands.
I’ve been a member of Rancho Obi-Wan for 5 years now. I’m hoping to visit within 2 years and have thoroughly enjoyed their exhibits at Celebrations, especially the one at Orlando. What I particularly enjoy about Rancho and Steve’s work is the tours he offers to school kids. As a school teacher, I recognise how vitally important it is to inspire the next generation, not into collecting as such, but educating and giving them a passion.
I was very angry at the terrible thefts which happened a few years ago and delighted that not only has the culprit been brought to justice but Steve has continued, and can see the enormous joy that the museum gives. It would have been very easy to wrap up and call it a day.
I have been a proud member of Rancho Obi Wan for 6 years now, signing up just prior to Celebration Europe in Essen if I remember correctly. Unfortunately I’ve not had the chance to visit ROW as yet, but it is very high on my list of places to visit over the next few years. The exhibitions at Celebration that I have been lucky to see have been outstanding and Steve and his team are preserving a true piece of history with the volume and variety of items on display.
I love what Steve has done for the fan community and it makes especially happy to see the amount of fan made items on display at the exhibits and at ROW. Will continue to support ROW for many years to come and hopefully my visit will come sooner rather than later. HOT DANG!
Steve Sansweet is a legend in the Star Wars community. I have met him three times now – each with the ‘touring’ version of Rancho at the last three Celebrations.
Along with a handful of noteworthy collectors, Steve kept Star Wars alive during the dark times (or as I like to call them 1985-1990). The saga had practically faded into obscurity, but thanks to Steve and his increasingly impressive horde, fans from around the globe can marvel at the nostalgic goodness from the likes of Kenner and Palitoy. I am sure it was partly down to him that it came back in such a big way.
I must admit, I am not yet a member of ROW, but having read some of the thoughts of my friends here, that is something I will be sorting out this week. After all, Star Wars is one charity very close to my heart.
As a fan and contributor to Star Wars, I feel it’s not only my responsibility to be a member and support Rancho Obi-Wan, but the right thing to do, more or less.
After all, Rancho Obi-Wan is the home of the biggest galaxy far, far away artifacts and memorabilia and without it, a lot of what makes Star Wars a phenomenon would be lost. It also serves as a means for charitable and educational events, supporting so many organizations that reach out to children and adults alike. That said, I’ve been proudly supporting Rancho Obi-Wan since 2018 and plan on doing so for many years to come!
My husband and I became members of Rancho Obi-Wan 5 years ago because we really believe in Steve Sansweet’s mission to share this amazing collection with as many people as possible. We consistently renew our membership every year and do everything we can to provide our support.
Unfortunately, we have not had the privilege of experiencing this amazing museum ourselves except the Experiences at Star Wars Celebration.
We really hope that our donations and support help keep Rancho Obi-Wan going.
Although I am couple of years too young to have seen A New Hope in 1977, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to see the rest of the films in theater upon their release. Essentially, I had grown with Star Wars and it has always been in the background of my life. Through my adolescence to adulthood, each period is marked by the transitions in the saga. Steve Sansweet’s Rancho Obi-Wan is a monument to this phenomenon shared by millions of people.
I became a member of Rancho Obi-Wan because I fully realized the importance to archive all that represents the genius embedded in Star Wars. I have witnessed in others the same fascination with Star Wars as I had at their age and am intrigued to see it carry on to another generation. I’ve even used it as common ground to help explain some of those things in life that are a bit too abstract for their developing minds and have been astounded by its success.
Rancho Obi-Wan’s motto is fittingly “Inspiration Beyond Imagination”. Star Wars films, artifacts and merchandise have left an indelible mark on society. On the rare occasion of meeting someone that has not seen at least one film, they still recognize the characters because of that resounding presence. Rancho Obi-Wan preserves the imagination of Star Wars which has been seeded among millions of minds. That is why I am member #3518.
- Chronicle Books CA
- Stephen J. Sansweet
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Edition no. 102912 (11/28/2012)
- Paperback: 352 pages