There’s a famous saying among space buffs that if you took all personal items and mission-used materials that went with the Apollo astronauts to the moon and then came back to earth – excluding moon rocks – then the total contents would just about fill a large suitcase. Three times Heritage has been fortunate to visit that mythical Samsonite, and each time the lots, and the prices, continue to amaze collectors of Space and to set auction pricing records.
On Oct. 7, at its downtown Dallas headquarters, Heritage held its Space Exploration Auction for a rapt in-person audience and telephone bidding. When the rocket fuel had cleared the total sales of the auction exceeded $826,000, against the $713,000 pre-auction high total estimate.
“Many of the consignments in this sale were received directly from the Apollo astronauts themselves,” said Howard Weinberger, Senior Space Consultant for Heritage. “Demand for Apollo 8 and 13 memorabilia is very high, and the availability of it very low. ”
Items from the Apollo Space Program saw fierce bidding and unexpected prices. In many cases, bidders pushed the prices to three and four times its pre-sale estimate. The Apollo 17 Command Module Flown Flight Plans, Volumes I and II, realized an astounding $35,850 against a pre-auction estimate of $7,500-$10,000. The Apollo 8 Flown Update Book, signed by Mission Command Module Pilot James Lovell, garnered a final bid of $33,460 (estimate $7,500-$10,000). The Lunar Module Flown Lunar Rover Malfunction Procedures Checklist Card, with smudges of lunar dust on it, and signed by Mission Commander Gene Cernan brought $28,860 against a pre-auction estimate of $7,500-$10,000.
Of particular interest to space buffs were the very strong prices realized for signed photos by Neil Armstrong. An Armstrong color spacesuit photo, inscribed, sold for $7,170 against and pre-auction estimate of $800-$1,200, while another Armstrong color spacesuit photo, not inscribed, realized $8,365 against a pre-auction estimate of $1,800-$2,500. All prices quoted include a 19.5% buyer’s premium.
Several items in the sale were sold to benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and featured special dinners, trips and other family-focused activities with different American astronauts. The highlight of this special section of the sale was the Apollo 14 Lunar Module Flown Portable Utility Light as Presented by Mission Commander Alan Shepard to Support Crew Member William Pogue. This light was flown to the surface of the moon as part of the Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares that spent more than 33 hours in the lunar highlands of Fra Mauro, on Feb. 5-6, 1971. It realized $20,315.
Following on the success of this sale, and the increasing demand for such rarified material, Heritage is already moving its plans for its May Space Exploration Auction onto the launch pad. The auction, coming as it will in the year that marks the 40th anniversary of human kind’s first step on the moon, is expected to garner just as much interest and as many record prices – if not more – than the previous three, and a tremendous amount of national and international interest.