When SpaceX launched NASA astronauts into space on May 30, we all seemed to forget everything bad about 2020 and watch intently with hope. It was a historic mission, not only because it marked the first time NASA astronauts blasted off from Earth since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, but because it was the first time a private company, owned by Elon Musk, put humans into orbit.
History was made on October 4, 1957 when the USSR successfully launched Sputnik 1, the first
Earth-orbiting satellite in history. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified over 20 years with high points and low points. And then the U.S. made history on July 20, 1969, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon. Their lunar landing was seen worldwide on television by an estimated 723 million people.
Collectors of space memorabilia are fascinated with science, space exploration, technology and history. They collect everything from space flown objects, instruments and tools, flight maps and spacesuits to full scale models, patches, pins, historical photographs, space art, stamps and coins and other space paraphernalia.
It might surprise you to know that most space memorabilia is affordable, unless you come across a rare piece. We’ve auctioned space-themed books, stamps and coins for under $100, various mission patches for $375, and celestial art for under $500. In 2016, we sold a Buzz Aldrin autographed photograph from the Apollo 11 mission for $750.
The value of space paraphernalia depends on many factors, such as:
If the item was space flown: It’s harder to authenticate artifacts from some of the older missions, like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo because there was not as much detailed documentation as there was with the Space Shuttle Program.
The mission: Collectors will pay more for items from missions that had significant outcomes, such as the Apollo Program, which landed a man on the Moon.
Who the astronaut was: Just like sports athletes, famous artists and celebrities, authentic items associated with the most famous astronauts will command higher prices.
How an instrument or tool was used: Was the item used on Earth for training or was it stored away in the spacecraft? Or even better, was the item used outside of the spacecraft and exposed to deep space?
These are just some of the factors that savvy space collectors seek when deciding on which items to add to their collections. What’s really exciting, though, is that there’s a new generation of collectors, thanks to SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other space exploration firms. And with their own race to establish space tourism as a credible industry, I think collectors will always have a fascination with space memorabilia.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.