“True enough, this compass does not point north….it points to the thing you want most in this world.” – Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain Jack’s compass is one of the most iconic props featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. In “Curse of the Black Pearl” the compass leads Jack and his crew across the Caribbean to the dreaded Isla de Muerta and to his precious ship, the Black Pearl. In “Dead Man’s Chest” Jack can’t seem to make the compass work on his own and has to con others into using it so he can find the heart of Davy Jones. And in “At World’s End” the compass is constantly changing hands from one character to another as the double-crosses and triple-crosses pile up.
While looking for a replica of the compass for my costume I have found everything from elaborate wooden replicas priced over $200, to cheap plastic toys that barely look like the original at all. Forgotten Seas Trading Co. offers a fantastic resin version of the compass that uses earth magnets to make the dial spin (hide one in your palm glove to make it point in whatever direction you desire). It’s a version I certainly wouldn’t mind having at some point since a wooden replica might be a bit fragile, and if I got up to some crazy Captain Jack high jinks I’d hate for an expensive compass to get damaged.
But probably the most common compass that a lot of Jack Sparrows out there carry is a modified version of the Disney Store compass. These have become a bit of a rarity, though, and as such are usually a bit pricey when they show up on eBay. It wasn’t my first choice (naturally I’d prefer a wooden replica or the Forgotten Seas version), but when I found one on eBay that wasn’t outrageously priced I thought, “why not?”
The compass arrived looking every bit like the children’s toy it is, packaged with a vinyl replica of Sao Feng’s map, an eye patch, a pint-sized plastic skull ring, and a plastic clip-on hoop earring. But what makes this particular compass such a favorite among Captain Jack cosplayers is that it’s a fairly accurate size and has a free spinning dial.
Of course the dial face is all wrong, as is the latch and the lack of a ring to attach a leather cord to for tying it onto your belt, but that’s why this compass is a modifying project and not a ready-to-use prop.
One of my Jack Sparrow pals over on the message boards and facebook offered to do the mod, so I sent the compass his way to be decked out and made to look more authentic. First, he used a dremel to replicate the nicks and dings and make it look a bit beat up. Then he gave it a new coat of paint and replaced the dial using a more accurate one from an image he printed off the internet. Next, he replaced the flimsy plastic latch on the front with a metal one. And lastly, he added a brass ring to the back and a leather cord, and the compass was complete.
Once the compass was returned to me I finished it up by giving it a bit more age and weathering using acrylic paint and a sponge. And thus, the finish product looks something like this:
Is it a perfect replica of Jack’s compass? Of course not. But for an inexpensive plastic toy from the Disney Store I’d say it came out looking pretty darn great! Eventually I hope to own a more accurate version of Jack’s compass, but for now this one looks really good and will work just fine.
One vendor’s site that I’ve browsed many, many times is called Swag Arts where Tia Jill offers up some fantastic replicas of Jack’s Piece ‘O Eight and other various beads and coins for his wig, as well as some other awesome trinkets for Jack’s gear. I’ve recently been lucky enough to grab a couple of her items while they were in stock, and I’ll be discussing them in an upcoming post, but for now I just want to mention one small item I purchased from the site a few months ago. Tia Jill had been going through a big move and most of her items were out of stock, but since I was on the site with a few extra doubloons to spend I ordered some kohl eye makeup because it was available. Sure, any old black eye pencil could probably be used to achieve the same effect, but I like buying things within the Jack Sparrow costuming community whenever possible. I’ve only played with the makeup once since it arrived, and (although I clearly need a lesson or two in applying eye makeup) it seems to work really well. It was the middle of the night and I was bored, so I put on a silly Rastafarian beanie with dreads and my Jack Sparrow bandanna and snapped a selfie.
The checklist of things I need in order to finish my Captain Jack outfit is getting ever shorter, but the things still left on that list are also some of the biggest and most expensive parts of the costume. Some things I can substitute with bits of my Captain McAnen costume for the time being, like the shirt, pants, and waistcoat. But there is one item I need above all others in order to pull off even a passable Jack Sparrow look: the wig. Luckily I know exactly where I’m going to get it, and it’s going to be my Christmas present to myself this year.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been bumbling around mimicking everyone’s favorite wobbly-legged pirate for over 10 years, but it looks like 2014 will be the year I finally look the parts as well. So until next time, here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
My first item of 2013 has arrived, and it’s something I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now: the cursed Aztec gold medallion from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
While technically not a part of Captain Jack’s costume, it is still an iconic prop and one that is instantly recognized by all who see it. The one I recently acquired may just be the most accurate pirate medallion out there, but it certainly wasn’t my first. In 2008 while attending the Texas Renaissance Festival I picked up a cheap but passable coin for like $5. It isn’t made of gold and has a huge loop at the top for a necklace to go through. It was also a bit too “shiny”, but I recently fixed that with some acrylic paint (one of my favorite things to use for weathering props). For the past 4 years it has sat inside a treasure chest with other assorted doubloons, but after my new gold coin arrived I decided the old one would make a great keychain, so now I carry it with me all the time.
Years ago I also bought my kid sister the Master Replicas Elizabeth Swann necklace, but I never purchase one for myself because the “gold” finish quickly wore off of hers and left the necklace and medallion looking like copper instead of gold. She eventually gave it too a friend. Then last year we found a 24 karat gold plated version of the necklace on eBay from a seller in China, and my sister now has one of them and is quite happy with it. I also aged it with some acrylic paint to make the designs stand out more, but it is a decent enough copy of the pirate medallion necklace.
But the version of the coin I’ve wanted for years was the Master Replicas Cursed Aztec Gold Coin Set. It features two 24 karat gold plated versions of the famous medallion: one with the skull and Aztec calendar design on the front and a maze-like pattern on the back (like most versions of the coin that are available), and the other with the skull and calendar design on both sides.
And now I finally have it!
The detail on the coins is fantastic, and they came in a collectible box with a Certificate of Authenticity. Master Replicas went out of business years ago, and as such this set hasn’t been available for a long time so they are incredibly hard to come by. I stumbled upon mine by luck on eBay. A seller had it listed as part of a lot that included 4 Master Replicas .45 scale lightsabers, and I won the auction for just $45! After it arrived I put the lightsabers up on eBay as individual auctions, so once they sold I had the pirate coins and even turned a profit!
I am truly convinced that these are the best versions of the Aztec gold coins that have ever been available, and I’ve been searching the internet for them for a very long time. I even had a minor fiasco a few years ago when I found them on a website and placed an order, only they never arrived and the merchant told me they’d been out of stock for years. Then the merchant tried to refuse me a refund by claiming it was my own fault for ordering a discontinued product from their website. Luckily I had placed the order via Paypal so I was eventually able to file a claim and get my money back. I later found out that the merchant had a lot of bad reviews. It turned out that many other customers had had similar problems placing orders from them only to find their items never arrived. and having little luck getting responses when they would message the seller to check on their orders. Unfortunately I no longer remember the name of the website, so I can only hope they’ve since gone out of business and are no longer mistreating customers.
Anyway, I am absolutely thrilled to finally have my hands on these amazing props, and they are proudly displayed on a shelf in my room. There was a time when Master Replicas was a leader in movie prop replicas, and this is quite possibly one of the greatest items they ever produced. I definitely won’t be letting these go.
I may only now be getting off to a slow start with my costuming adventures for 2013, but I still have several items to share with you that I acquired toward the end of 2012. Some, like the ones below, are relatively small and insignificant, and yet they are still an integral part in making a completed Jack Sparrow costume come to life.
One of these is Jack’s trophy lace, a long strip of lace that Jack has worn tied around his left wrist since “Dead Man’s Chest.” We find out in “On Stranger Tides” that Jack took this memento from Angelica while to two were on the island of La Martinique. This would be an easy enough piece of the costume to make myself as a strip from any old off-white lace would do, but I took the lazy way out and bought mine from a seller on eBay. It still needs to be weathered, but it looks pretty good.
The reason I decided to buy this particular bit of lace on eBay was because the seller had it listed with another small item: Jack’s black spot wrap from “Dead Man’s Chest”. In the movie Jack grabs a bit of old cloth to wrap around his left hand after Bootstrap Bill places the dreaded black spot upon Jack’s palm.
I’m not really blown away by this particular piece, it really should be longer and was definitely a case of something looking much better in the photo, but once I dirty it up a bit and weather it it’ll work fine. After all. it’s not a necessary piece for the costume, and really I purchased it more for the trophy lace than for the black spot wrap. In the end I feel like I helped out a fellow Captain Jack by buying from him, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
Now I really need to get busy and make more stuff to list on eBay and Etsy because I’m ready to start adding the bigger, more expensive pieces to my Jack Sparrow costume, and that takes money. Lots and lots of money. Costuming definitely isn’t a cheap hobby, but it sure is a lot of fun.
So I’m curious: what fun creative ways have you come up with for making extra money to spend on your costume?
Leave your answers in the comments section below, and I will see you all next time!