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Home > News, Articles & Multimedia > Blog Entry > The Collector’s Minute: Out of this World Prices for ‘Flown’ Items

The Collector’s Minute: Out of this World Prices for ‘Flown’ Items

by Mike Wilcox (08/30/10).

A Fisher AG-7 Zero Gravity pen, developed and patented by Paul C. Fisher in 1965. If a pen like this had “flown,” meaning it traveled into space, it would increase its value some 20-fold.

To collectors of items related to space flight, nothing is nearer and dearer to their hearts than the word “flown.” While any item related to space exploration from the early days of NASA to the latest space shuttle flights are sought after, “flown” items are the most desirable.

What the term “flown” refers to are items that actually made it into space, and is what makes the difference between the ballpoint pen used by an astronaut to write out the list of what everyone wanted on their sandwiches at the local deli and the same pen used on a shuttle mission. In many cases, it’s items from the earlier missions that are the most sought after, as there was not very many items to make it into space at the time of the Mercury and Gemini missions that were not absolutely needed on the flight.

The most famous of flights was, of course, the Apollo 11 mission—the first human spaceflight to land on the moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon, while Collins orbited above. Flown items used by any of these men on this mission
or other Apollo missions would be considered the pinnacle for a collector.

The pen illustrated at the top of the page is an example of a “flown” item. It is a Fisher AG-7 Zero Gravity pen, developed and patented by Paul C. Fisher in 1965. The design of this pen allows the use of pressurized ink cartridges that allows it to write in zero gravity, underwater, upside down and in extremes of hot and cold. Every astronaut from the Apollo 7 mission on used this type of pen in space, as have the cosmonauts of the Soviet space program.

In the current market, the difference between a Fisher Zero Gravity pen used in the office at NASA and one that was actually “flown” is substantial. A Fisher Zero Gravity pen that never made it off the ground and with some vague connection with NASA or an astronaut might sell for less than $200. But a pen that was used on an Apollo mission could sell for more than 20 times that amount. One such pen, used astronaut James McDivitt on the Apollo 9 mission, sold this past April at auction for $4,182.50. One actually carried on the surface of the moon by astronaut Gene Cernan on the Apollo 17 mission sold for $23,900.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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