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Collecting the Space Race

Some people collect because of personal reasons, saving/displaying an item gives them pleasure. Some people collect for financial reasons, to diversify their holdings. Regardless of why, collecting the space race is very popular and is gaining increasing attention.

Since the original Mercury 7 astronauts were announced, people have been fascinated by space and collected a variety of items mostly to capture a piece of the thrill that the space program provided them. Today, a range of materials is out there -- from stamps and first day covers to medallions to autographs to commercially-produced items.

Valuing Items
For those that collect because they love, choose a theme and run with it. For those curious about collecting for financial reasons, there is a value hierarchy.

Flown Material
Flown material such as flags, documents, medallions, etc are the most desirable with mass market books on the space program at the bottom. And of course rarity and coolness play a big factor. Even within the category of 'flown items' there is a hierarchy:

  • Apollo program items that went to the surface of the Moon
  • Apollo items that went to lunar orbit
  • Items that went into space during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo programs
  • Items that went into space during the Space Shuttle/Space Station era
  • Medallions with material from flown missions follow the same hierarchy.

    First Day Covers
    Most stamp and cover collectors, collect for fun. Regional stamp clubs likely have at least one person interested in this topic. Similarly most stamps shows will have dealers with a 'space' category and many individual stamps can be bought for prices from less than a dollar to several dollars for rarer international ones. Covers usually cost between $1 and up. Like flown material there are of course more desirable items. For example, a cover stamped on the mission recovery ship is more valued than one stamped on another ship that was in the area.

    Similiarly with autographs, some are rarer and hence worth more than others. Neil Armstrong, as the first person to set foot on the Moon and someone who rarely autographs items, it highly prized. Likewise, photos signed by the Apollo 11 crew, those signed by the Apollo 1 crew who died in a fire in 1967, and that of the first astronauts, the Mercury 7.

    Two groups gather a number of the astronauts including many of the early ones, for an autograph signing event. Even if you don't have the resources to get items signed, it is still worth it to attend and meet them.
  • Novaspace sponsors: Spacefest , held the past two years in Tucson, Arizona.
  • The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation sponsors: a fundraiser in Cocoa Beach, Florida

    Fakes do abound and a number of autographs might actually be an autopen or signed by an assistant. There are several books and websites that have been created to help collectors identify whether they have an original.

    Auction Houses
    Obviously when collecting anyone, one should check the provenance of the item -- fakes abound, especially on higher-dollar items and Russian autographs/documents. Several reputable auction houses offer appraisal services and hold space auctions throughout the year. Among these are:
  • Heritage Auctions ha.com (a regular sponsor/advertiser of Quest)
  • Bonhams bonhams.com
  • RR Auction rrauction.com

  • Learning More

    There are a number of resources and collector groups on the internet. The largest of these is Collectspace.com . The site has a number of blogs that space enthusiasts share information

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