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Swann Galleries to host first space sale

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Swann Galleries space sale a success

April 13, 2003 — "Less books, more patches."

Such was the advice offered by auctioneer and Swann Galleries' President Nicholas Lowry to Gregg Linebaugh, advisor for Swann's first space memorabilia auction, as Lowry called a long series of books that failed to meet their reserves.

Flown Apollo Beta cloth insignias had elicited higher bids earlier in the day.

With approximately 25 bidders in attendance and at least six agents on the phone, bidding began April 12 at 1:00 p.m. Hammer prices spanned a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. [Prices realized as recorded by collectSPACE.]

When Lowry triple tapped his hammer after the sale of a Russian typescript, the last of 408 lots to be auctioned, he had presided over bids totaling $640,000. Estimates made before the auction forecasted at least $1.35 million.

The highest bid of the day was for a data card book used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for the Apollo 11 moon landing. The cards, stained with traces of moon dust, sold for $200,000, meeting the lower limit of the published pre-auction estimate.

Patches, both embroidered and printed on beta cloth, the same fire-resistant material used to cover the space suits, were the most steady performers. A flown Apollo 11 beta cloth emblem reached bids of $7,000, while $10,000 was seen for an embroidered patch flown on Apollo 12 and $3,000 for a similar lot from Skylab 1. Even unflown patches sold well, with a rare 2TV-1 beta cloth emblem selling for $750.

While most items sold for their published estimates, at least one exceeded expectations: an official NASA 8x10 inch color print of Buzz Aldrin working on the Moon signed by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Aldrin. The second moonwalker signed the front and the back, where he inscribed the photo as his. Expected to sell for $6000 to $8000, at least three bidders pushed the final hammer to an unprecedented $34,000.

That's not to say that everything sold. Approximately 30 percent of the lots offered went unsold, with bids, if there were any, failing to reach undisclosed reserves. Among the returned lots were several artifacts identified by Swann prior to the auction as highlights.

Most notably, Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan's left overglove, heavily stained with moon dust, raised bids up to $180,000 but ultimately was returned to the moonwalker's collection. Another item of Cernan's, a retractable tether advertised by Swann as "one of the few operational tools returned from the lunar surface" was also passed over by bidders.

Lowry introduced lot 228, the only full-size Playboy centerfold to fly to the Moon, as a "double hemisphere, heavenly body map". Despite the moment of levity, the three-page, well traveled spread failed to sell.

Even with the unsold lots, Lowry was heard telling a bidder after the auction that the day's proceedings were "stellar". Though bidders reactions afterwards were mixed, most agreed that the auction's results were encouraging and that Swann was a welcome addition to the space memorabilia market.

Swann Galleries to host first space sale

March 7, 2003 — Rare book specialists, Swann Auction Galleries will host their first space memorabilia sale on April 12 in New York.

"Swann has been selling books, manuscripts and autographs related to milestones in science, technology, and worldwide exploration since our very first auction over 60 years ago," said Chairman George Lowry in a press release. "It is a natural progression for us to move on to space exploration, a growing area of interest that is reinvigorating collecting in the 21st century."

Under the guidance of Gregg Linebaugh and Richard Austin, the same team responsible for organizing the Christie's East "Space Exploration" auctions in 1999 and 2001, Swann has assembled 408 lots related to American and Russian space programs, ranging in value from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands.

Among the items for sale will be three artifacts used by astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

From Apollo 11, is a Data Card Book, essentially a navigational notebook, annotated by the first men to set foot on the moon. Buzz Aldrin inscribed and signed the cover and the data cards, some of which bear smudges of moon dust (estimate $200,000 to $300,000).

As Aldrin explains in a letter that accompanies it, the Data Card Book "was a critical flight document carried in Lunar Module Eagle that enabled Neil Armstrong and myself to make the first manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969. Neil and I both made data entries and notes in this book before landing, while on the lunar surface, and after LM lift-off during rendezvous operations with Mike Collins in Columbia."

Also offered is a map carried on the lunar rover during the April 1972 Apollo 16 mission, one of only a few maps used on the lunar surface that were brought back to Earth ($80,000 to $120,000).

Perhaps most noteworthy, is the first complete article of space suit equipment with a substantial coating of lunar dust to be offered at public auction.

Swann will sell a protective "overglove" that was worn by Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan when collecting lunar samples in December 1972. The white fabric is so heavily embedded with lunar dust that it now appears gray ($200,000 to $300,000).

In addition to Apollo artifacts, the auction will also highlight other eras of human space flight.

Forty-two years to the day after Yuri Gagarin took his historic flight, a typescript of the report submitted to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, to support the Soviet claim to have put the first man into space, signed by scientists, engineers, and the designer of the Vostok spacecraft, will be sold ($80,000 to $120,000).

Another Russian highlight is the application submitted by first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova to be a cosmonaut ($5,000 to $7,000).

Among the more lighthearted offerings is a complete Playboy centerfold that was inserted in the Apollo 17 flight plan by the backup crew as a gag, which has been inscribed and signed, "Flown to the Moon on Apollo XVII, Eugene Cernan" ($40,000 to $60,000).

In addition to the featured lots, the auction will also include signed and unsigned photographs, first day covers, letters, charts, maps, manuals, equipment, and artifacts including flags and other flown items from the NASA astronauts and their families.

The auction will begin at 1:00pm on Saturday, April 12. The lots will be on exhibition on Saturday, April 5 and from Monday, April 7 through Saturday, April 12.

An illustrated catalog with information on bidding will be available beginning the week of March 17 for $25 from Swann Galleries, or online at

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