The 11 Most Expensive Space Artifacts Ever Auctioned

If you want to own an iconic piece of space history, know that it doesn’t come cheap. The most recent space item sold at auction was astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 mission jacket, which fetched over $2.77 million. via Sotheby’s late last month– a higher price than any other American space artifact in auction history. Compare that to the autographed transcript of The First Phone Call to the Moon, which sold for just $31,325 in 2019; still an expensive proposition, but not nearly as lucrative.

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People are so fascinated by early space programs that the prices of unique everyday items have skyrocketed from their original value. Take Apollo 15 Commander David Scott’s original wristwatch, worn on NASA’s fourth mission to land on the moon. It originally sold for $500, but sold at auction in 2015 for $1.6 million. The recent Aldrin-themed auction also sold items that were not directly related to space exploration, but are still intimately linked to the astronaut: a MTV Video Music Awards statuette sold for $88,200; and a 1973 letter from Neil Armstrong to Buzz Aldrin, trying to convince him not to sell his life story for a biopic, which sold for $21,420. (The film aired in 1976, so it seems Armstrong’s point was ignored.)

Together, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s sold the most expensive items. But smaller auction houses are players too, like the website CollectSpace.com.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 most expensive coins in space history that fetched the highest prices at auction.

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1

Russian space capsule ‘Vostok 3KA-2’ ($2,882,500)

2

Buzz Aldrin White Apollo 11 Mission Jacket ($2,772,500)

During his mission to the Moon and back in 1969, the astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore a tailored white jacket with NASA insignia and crest. On July 24, 2022, the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew’s return to Earth, this well-preserved jacket sold for a remarkable $2.7 million. After nine minutes of intense bidding, the auctioneer called it “the most valuable American space artifact ever sold at auction.” The New York Times reported. It’s also the most spent amount on a jacket at auction, according to Forbes. Sotheby’s auctioned off dozens of memorabilia from Aldrin’s illustrious space career, but the jacket fetched more money than any of them. Almost all of the memorabilia have been sold, for a combined total of $8 million.

Additional Credit: Why I Walked on the Moon, a review by Buzz Aldrin

3

Neil Armstrong’s bag with moon dust from moon rock samples ($1,812,500)

An anonymous buyer bought a white zippered bag that Neil Armstrong once filled with moon rock samples at a Sotheby’s auction in July 2017. The bag contained the dust leftovers from those rocks.

Part of a space program-themed auction to mark the 53rd anniversary of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s iconic moon landing, the bag was just one of 173 items, including photographs , artifacts and models of spaceships, according The New York Times. More than 500 people, representing ten countries, were present at the auction. Sotheby’s identified the buyer or buyers of the Armstrong bag solely as American.

The bag has a strange history. NASA lost it after loaning it to a space museum in Kansas. It has been traced back to the man who once ran the museum, who was convicted of theft and related crimes. Then government officials who recovered the bag ended up mistaking it for another bag that hadn’t been on the moon and auctioning it off. Before it arrived at Sotheby’s, its new owner verified its authenticity with NASA, which then attempted to retrieve it as a historical artifact. But the owner refused and eventually won over $1 million at Sotheby’s sale in 2017.

Prime: The Moon Rock story in Joe Biden’s Oval Office

4

Apollo 15 Commander David Scott Bulova Chronograph Wristwatch ($1,592,500)

NASA released Omega Speedmaster wristwatches for Apollo astronauts who went to the moon. But because Apollo 15 commander David Scott’s wristwatch broke, he replaced it with a Bulova watch; it was wrapped around his wrist during the 1971 Apollo 15 mission. Its original retail price was around $500, according to the auction house RR Auctionswhere it sold for around $1.6 million in 2015.

Up Next: 3 Reasons Why Today’s Space Race Is Better Than Apollo

5

Moon rock samples collected by the Soviets ($855,000)

6

Sputnik-1 EMC/EMI Test Model ($847,500)

The Sputnik-1 satellite was the catalyst for the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. It circled the Earth for three months in 1957, causing consternation about Soviet Cold War intentions among US security officials and the burgeoning space agency. A 23-inch-diameter full-scale test model of Sputnik-1 garnered so much attention that it sold for over $800,000 at a Bonhams Auction 2017.

Dive Deeper: How Sputnik Worked

seven

Apollo 11 Summary Flight Plan ($819,000)

8

Apollo 11 LM Systems Activation Checklist ($567,000)

The first mission to land on the moon, Apollo 11 needed a 69-page checklist just to document the state of the Eagle lunar module as it prepared to land on the moon. The checklist includes handwritten annotations that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong jotted down on it during the mission, according to the Sotheby’s announcement. At least some of these notes were taken using the aluminum pen that Aldrin used to fix a broken circuit breaker and re-ignite the lunar module’s ascent motor, allowing the mission to continue safely. Sotheby’s made over $500,000 on this item.

Next: Man’s first day on the moon

9

Apollo 11 LM EVA Checklist Three-Cue Cue-Card Set ($352,800)

Yellowed by time, this set of three large double-sided cue cards is individually signed and transcribed with “Flown to the lunar surface on Apollo XI/Buzz Aldrin.” The Apollo 11 crew used this detailed crew procedures checklist for their moonwalk. They include instructions for removing the spacesuit, storing rock samples, and jettisoning any excess equipment. The cue card set sold for more than $350,000 at Sotheby’s recent auction.

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ten

Apollo 11 flight plan sheet demonstrating ‘Eagle’ lunar module touchdown on the Moon ($327,600)

The plan details the landing of the lunar module and the first hour of the first human landing on the lunar surface, with the many tasks that mission commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, command module pilot Michael Collins and mission control had. to be completed when the lunar module lands. The first hour of activity after touchdown on the moon describes many tasks, including the now-historic instructions to notify mission control that “The Eagle” has landed, according to the Description of the Sotheby’s item.

Extra Credit: Literally Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Moon

11

Apollo 11 Lunar Module Water Dispenser/Fire Extinguisher ($327,600)

The water dispenser looks a bit like a metallic squirt gun. It was designed to dispense measured amounts of hot or cold water. Astronauts used it to rehydrate their meals and drinks, and to put out fires. Both Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong used it during the Apollo 11 crew’s lunar sojourn. They could also squirt water directly into their mouths, according to Aldrin. cover letter.

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