History of Space Exploration Auction Results

. July 21, 2009

On July 16th space buffs around the world were tuned in to Bonhams New York’s first ever Space Sale. Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of man’s first steps on the Moon, the sale consisted of nearly 400 lots of objects and documents pertaining to the history of Space Exploration.

The importance of the auction was not missed. Space aficionados from around the globe filled the phone lines and the Madison Avenue galleries were at standing room only capacity, even drawing Apollo 13 astronaut, Fred Haise, to appear in person.

apollo-11Without a doubt the most coveted item of the event was the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface star chart used to take celestial measurements on the surface of the moon immediately after the Eagle’s landing. Used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the partner star chart made just prior to their departure from the Moon is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. Of great historical importance, the lot sparked a long round of furious bidding- resulting in the lot soaring past its estimate of $70/90,000 with a final price of $218,000.

Also causing a great amount of auction excitement was an official Apollo 11 crew emblem (pictured, left) originally from astronaut Michael Collins’ collection. Silk screened onto non-flammable Beta cloth, the lot is one the few items carried on the Apollo 11 mission that was later signed by Neil Armstrong. With its extraordinarily rare Armstrong signature and its visually powerful tie to the Apollo 11 mission, the piece inspired fierce bidding. As the gavel fell, the emblem brought $61,000- well above than its estimate of $25/35,000.

Other Apollo 11 lots that proved irresistible to bidders were a flown set of sheets used to align the Eagle’s navigational equipment, which brought $33,550 against an estimate of $15/20,000, and two flight plan sheets which each brought $27,450 against estimates of $15/20,000.

However, it was clear that auction-goers were interested in much more than just Apollo 11.

A model of a Saturn V rocket from the collection of Dr. Maxime Faget drew much bidder interest. Adding to the model’s appeal was a 1966 black and white photograph of Dr. Faget with this model while discussing aspects of a lunar mission with visiting foreign dignitaries. Carrying an estimate of $10/15,000, the lot well surpassed expectations bringing $27,450.

Also from Dr. Faget’s collection was one of the earliest constructed scale models of the Mercury spacecraft and an early Space Shuttle model. Both outperformed with the Mercury model fetching $21, 960 against an estimated $10/15,000 and the Space Shuttle model bringing $22,800 against an estimate of $7/9,000.

Apollo 13 devotees were also given exceptional collecting opportunities. A contingency checklist sheet providing critical steps for rapid activation of the Lunar Module during the mission’s emergency conditions was on offer. Bearing several notes from astronauts Fred Haise and John Lovell, the lot sparked no less than a bidding war fetching $27,000 against an estimate of $3,500/4,500 – more than six times its top estimate. Additionally, Fred Haise’s standard-issue, military sunglasses with a Beta cloth case were presented. Expected to fetch $3/4,000, this lot also dramatically outperformed bringing a final price of $18,000.

Other items bringing exceptional results were an extra large flag carried on Apollo 10 (Est. $5/7,000) which drew an impressive $19,520 and a bible carried to the Moon on Apollo 13 (Est. $1,500/2,000) which fetched $14,400 – an amazing seven times more than its top estimate. Also not to be overlooked were an Apollo 15 Flight Attitude Controller for the Lunar Module Falcon and an Apollo 16 cuff-mounted checklist from astronaut Fred Haise’s collection which both brought $206,000, and the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing sequence which sold post-auction for $152,000.

“This sale was truly extraordinary and drew in a lot of collectors who had not bid in a traditional, live auction before,” stated Bonhams Specialist, Matthew Haley. “The atmosphere in the saleroom was amazing and with such an overwhelming response, we’re definitely aiming to repeat the success in the future.”


Category: Auction News

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