Why it matters: Few things in pop culture hold the same level of reverence as the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, so it's no wonder Star Trek fans are excited at the prospect that the original three-foot model of the starship from the show, lost for five decades, could have appeared on eBay.

The Enterprise NCC-1701 model was made by prop-maker Richard Datin Jr, with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry directing, during the preproduction phase of the original Star Trek series, writes Ars Technica.

It was used in the famous opening credits sequence and all but one scene in the pilot episode – the 11-foot version of the ship based on the smaller model wasn't ready in time. Datin's creation appeared in other shots during later episodes, including one where it played itself: an actual model of the Enterprise sat on a table.

The original ship ended up on Roddenberry's desk. At some point in the 1970s he is believed to have loaned it to the people working on the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture but never saw it returned, despite writing to the production house asking for the model back.

It was presumed that the model had been lost for good, but an eBay listing last week suggested otherwise. The listing, which had a $1,000 starting price, was removed within a few hours after enthusiasts said in the private Facebook group "Star Trek Prop Makers & Collectors" that they believed it was real and had contacted the seller suggesting they return it to the Roddenberry estate.

Roddenberry's son, Rod, wrote a message on social media asking if anyone could put him in touch with the seller.

The listing included several images of the model, including one with a tape measure showing its 3-foot length. There was also a photo with Datin's business card taped to the stand.

While the eBay seller refused to say how they acquired the model, it's believed that they specialize in selling items found in storage lockers that have been abandoned when a person stops paying rent due to one reason or another – Storage Wars, basically.

When asked how they got their hands on the model, the seller said the matter was now "out of my hands and with a proper team."