Space: An Infinite Opportunity for Collectibles
This Apollo 11 patch could have been yours for $42.
It was an amazing afternoon at my grandma’s house on July 20, 1969. Being 13 at the time, I wasn’t quite clear on the whole historic idea of space travel or landing a man on the moon. I was watching the black-and-white image on the large console television as Neil Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” That finally did it for me. We talked about nothing else for days. But, I wondered, how did Apollo 11 get there?
It turns out the only way to leave Earth’s gravitational pull is through the use of booster rockets. According to Wikipedia, “… a rocket is the only form of propulsion [that] can continue to increase its speed at high altitudes in the vacuum outside the Earth’s atmosphere.” For the space program, the F-1 booster rocket pushed the spacecraft for about three minutes at 32 million horsepower into space—only to be discarded once past Earth’s atmosphere. The boosters fell into the ocean and were never expected to be recovered. Until now.
At nine tons each, the rockets became the focus of a sea-recovery mission by Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos, whose team located and recovered the boosters earlier this year from 14,000 feet of water off the Florida coast. That makes them an ultimate space collectible.
This Soviet-era Krechet lunar spacesuit was never used, but it still garnered $87,000 at auction.
The WorthPoint Worthopedia, though, shows that many otehr forms of space memorabilia are highly collectible, as well. Included in the almost 58,000 items found at auction was a Soviet-era incomplete Krechet lunar spacesuit that brought $87,000 at auction in 2008—only one of several similar style space suits to come to auction, as the Soviets never landed on the moon or sent manned missions there.
There is quite the collector market for all manner of space-program equipment. From an Apollo Command Module flight director altitude indicator that sold for nearly $90,000 to a globus originally on the Salyut-7 space station showing the position of stars that sold for nearly $14,000 in 2010.
You need to be sure that all of the equipment you come across has the correct identification numbers and plates still attached.
This Apollo Lunar Rover Vehicle license plate was carried to the moon on Apollo 15. It sold for $11, 352.
What I particularly like, though, is a lunar rover license plate carried to the moon by Apollo 15 by mission commander Dave Scott. This very interesting and unusual piece of space memorabilia sold at auction for $11,352. The Apollo Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) was a battery-operated, four-wheeled “moon buggy” that helped transport three sets of Apollo astronauts on the moon during missions in 1971 and 1972. Three sets of LRVs from Apollo 15, 16 and 17 remain on the moon.
And then there are plenty of medals for distinguished service for both NASA and the Soviet Union’s Soyuz astronauts, such as the Apollo Soyuz Distinguished Service Medal awarded to NASA astronaut Donald Slayton in 1982. It sold at auction for $3,750 with other similar medals ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Another interesting items at auction was a handmade Soviet-rocket desk model that sold for $350.
This collection of early Apollo Mission NASA crew patches were a pretty find for one collector who sold them for $210.
The most iconic image of any space flight from Apollo to the Space Shuttle to the Space Station is the mission patch. According to the website CollectSPACE.com, early patches were designed by Allen E. Stevens, a graphic designer for Rockwell International, who designed for Apollo publicity brochures and contributed to several early Apollo patches.
There are all manner of space patches that correspond to missions beyond just Apollo. These include the Soyuz Soviet missions, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and missions of other countries. Many of the patches may be reproductions or commemorative in nature and made well after the fact. Without a proper certificate of authenticity that the patch was officially flown, used by the astronaut corps or intended as part of the official flight, most patches should be considered a commercial patch sold to the general public with values from $10 to $40.
The difference in value between the commerical patches and the real deal is striking. Official patches can command from $100 to $5,000, with the higher amounts afforded to signature or framed collections.
This NASA Distinguished Service Medal awarded to astronaut Dick Slayton sold at auction for $2,500.
Each of the space programs, wherever they originated, provide a wealth of additional space collectibles and memorabilia such as signed photos, stamps, commemorative coins and hats, all within the $10 to $40 range. You can even find a stripped-down version of the Apollo replica spacesuit available at auction that sold for $1,700 or one with full accessories including backpack, chestpack, boots, gloves, gold reflective visor and realistic helmet for nearly $3,000.
These days, we have civilian space flight. SpaceShipOne was the very first commercially successful, privately funded space vehicle that flew into low-orbit space and returned without assistance of government planning, cost or control. The team was awarded the Space Achievement Award by the Space Foundation in 2005 after 17 different launches. The vehicle is now on permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, right next to the Wright Brothers’ plane.
Future collectible? This SpaceShipOne patch commemorating the first civilian sub-space flight went into someone’s collection for $13.
Already, SpaceShipOne memorabilia is joining the list of collectibles. All manner of photos, stickers, patches and model kits are being offered most within the $10 to $100 range, for now. One can also collect the autographs of the early pilots and unusual items, including manuals and instructive materials similar to the Apollo items.
These are just a new way for space collectors to continue mankind’s eternal quest to visit the stars and the galaxy beyond by holding a piece of the universe closer to home.
Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.
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