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To The Moon And Back

August 23, 2019

To commemorate the golden anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission, Heritage (Dallas), Sotheby’s (NY), and Christie’s (NY) held auctions which offered thousands of space exploration items…some brought prices that were sky high and others never left the launch pad.  The highlight of Heritage’s sale came from Neil Armstrong’s personal collection, a 14K Gold Robbins Medallion.  The Robbins company minted gold and silver medallions that were only available to astronauts – the silver medallions could be purchased by any astronaut, while the gold medallion was only available to the crew members of the specific mission it was issued for.   Armstrong’s Apollo 11 medallion, which accompanied him to the moon and back, enticed enthusiastic bidding. Estimated to make in excess of $100K, the medallion landed a really solid price when it made $2.055M (w/p).  Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collin’s medallions are in private collections.

Apollo 11 tapes
Apollo 11 Tapes

Sotheby’s most successful lot was described in the cataloging as “the best surviving NASA videotape recordings of the Apollo 11 moon landing,” which was comprised of 3 reels of videotape recordings of the first moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  In 1976, Gary George, a NASA intern, purchased a lot of over 1000 tapes from a government surplus auction for just $216! Unknown to him at the time, these 3 reels were among the tapes, and while he did sell off most of the other tapes over time, he held on to these for the past 43 years…smart move!  Sotheby’s placed an aggressive estimate of $1-2M for the reels and after some strong bidding, I am sure George was not disappointed when the tapes sold for $1.82M (w/p)!

Apollo 11 Timeline Book
Apollo 11 Timeline Book

And finally, Christie’s had the lot with the highest estimate and greatest expectations for all three sales -the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book, with hand written notations from Neil Armstrong…the bidding took one giant leap to NOWHERE!  The book was last sold in 2007 for $253K and this time around Christie’s put a really aggressive estimate of $7-9M…it failed to attract a single bid…guess when you shoot for the moon, sometimes you miss.