By Antoinette Rahn
If you were watching television the weekend of July 16-18, 2019 it’s a good bet you saw coverage celebrating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
One unique event celebrating this history-making mission and honoring the crew was Heritage Auctions’ presentation of The Armstrong Family Collection™ III Space Exploration Signature Auction. The collection featured items saved by Apollo II crew member, astronaut Neil Armstrong, as well as his immediate family members.
Legendary Robbins Medal
The headlining lot of the 944 lots sold during the three-day auction was an extremely uncommon 14K gold Robbins Medal, carried by Armstrong during the Apollo 11 lunar mission. The medal is one of three specially-minted gold medals representing each of the crew members: Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, according to the auction catalog. The medal was graded by NGC at NGC MS 67, while an affiliated company, CAG, certified its provenance to the Armstrong Family Collection.
The 28mm medal sold for $2,055,000, including the buyer’s premium.
The history of the Robbins Medal began in 1968 with astronaut Walt Cunningham, a crew member of Apollo 7. Cunningham contacted the Robbins Company, to produce commemorative medallions recognizing the space program and missions. The Apollo 11 Robbins Medal’s obverse depicts an early concept created by Apollo 11 astronaut Collins, for the mission insignia with the eagle carrying an olive branch in its mouth. The reverse contains the dates of the mission, surnames of the crew, and the recognizable gold hallmark.
In addition to this top-selling lot, the Heritage Auction sale saw many exciting items generate bidding battles and surpass pre-sale estimates. Below are four additional highlights from Part III of The Armstrong Family Collection auction.
Wright Aviation Artifacts
Two items of United States aviation history, carried by Armstrong during the Apollo 11 lunar mission, brought the second and third highest prices of the sale. A specimen of spruce wood from the propeller of the flyer manned by the Wright Brothers in 1903 fetched $150,000 during the sale. The 1903 flight took place near Kill Devil Hills, mere miles from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and marked the first successful flight of a self-propelled aircraft.
In addition to the piece of the propeller, Armstrong also carried a 1.25” square of muslin cloth cut from the wing of the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer, according to the auction catalog. During the Heritage Auctions’ sale, the piece of fabric, certified by CAG, commanded $143,750.
Apollo 11 U.S. Flag
A sizable silk U.S. flag, featuring rare red stitching around the edges and the history of traveling with Apollo 11 to the moon, sold for $137,5000 during the sale. The flag was a souvenir kept by Mission Commander Armstrong, following the historic 1969 lunar landing.
First Day Cover
Another lot that captured attention and realized $45,000 at auction was a first day cover featuring a single stamp and the special dual Washington DC/Moon Landing USA “First Day of Issue” postal cancellation dated Sept. 9, 1969. A first day cover is mailed on the first day of issue of a particular stamp and is a popular category of collectible within the philatelic (collecting postal items) community.
The first day cover includes signatures of all three crew members.
For more information about other lots that sold during this Heritage Auction event, click on this link: http://bit.ly/2Zb8FmO.