Apollo astronaut sells artifacts online|
April 19, 2004 -- Walter Cunningham decided to cut out the middleman.
For the past few years Cunningham, who flew into Earth orbit on the first manned mission of the Apollo program, has sold souvenirs of his space flight career through public auctions, dealer-assisted direct sales and private negotiations with collectors. After using his website to offer autographed copies of his book, "The All-American Boys" for sale, along with other signed pieces, and observing how his fellow astronauts Alan Bean, Edgar Mitchell and Charles Duke had offered items online, he chose to expand his online store to include flown and unflown artifacts and collectibles.
"If you have a mission like I had, Apollo 7, it can get lost at a large auction. Objects that went to the Moon tend to overwhelm other missions' items," explained Cunningham in an interview with collectSPACE about his decision to offer items for direct sale. "Also, at auctions there are the buyer's premiums. This way, collectors can avoid those extra fees," said Cunningham.
The first selection of flown artifacts and memorabilia were listed for sale on Cunningham's website this evening.
"I am offering some flown and unflown items," described Cunningham. "Among those not flown, probably the most prevalent will be signed [event] covers. My object was to build two complete mission sets [of signed covers] for my kids and I haven't yet completed that, but along the way I have acquired multiples, including some the rarer crew signatures."
The first such cover to be offered by Cunningham was signed by the crew of Apollo 14, including the autograph of the first American in space Alan Shepard. Postmarked on the day of the launch in Houston, Texas, it is offered for sale for $600.
The highlight for many collectors will be the items for sale that were in space October 11 through 22, 1968, stowed aboard Apollo 7.
"Items were carried in PPKs [Personal Preference Kits], some in suit pockets, and some were squirrelled away in the spacecraft," said Cunningham.
Two 4 by 6 inch flown silk flags -- an American flag and the state flag of California -- were listed for sale today, as were two checklist pages used by Cunningham during the Apollo 7 mission. All but the stars and stripes can be had for $2000 each; the U.S. flag is offered for $3500.
Also for sale for $2500 is a sterling silver medallion minted by The Robbins Company for Cunningham to fly as a souvenir of his 4.5 million mile, 163-orbit journey. Apollo 7 was the first mission to carry the astronaut commemoratives, beginning a tradition that continues through today's Space Shuttle and International Space Station flights.
The first group of artifacts is rounded out by an actual piece of Cunningham's spacecraft. Encased in acrylic, the heat shield plug was removed post-flight from the blunt end of the Apollo 7 Command Module. As with all the items offered, sale of the $750 lucite display will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Cunningham that it is from his personal collection.
When ordering, collectors will also have the benefit of interacting directly with Cunningham.
"Our website designer, Tracy Kornfeld, was very helpful creating the listings and researching the items that I am selling. He set up the web store so you're dealing directly with me when you make your purchases."
Cunningham is optimistic that serious space collectors will welcome his offerings and has an appreciation for why they seek his possessions.
"I didn't really comprehend until the last 15 years or so how important these early missions were," reflected Cunningham. "Apollo 7 was one small piece in building a mission to the Moon. In 500 years, Apollo 11 will be the only thing remembered of our century."
"Space collectors who have items flown on these early missions are going to have something of great value."
Walter Cunningham's website can be accessed by pointing your browser to www.waltercunningham.com. In addition to artifacts, the site also offers items signed by Cunningham for as low as $25 each.
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