posted 04-30-2007 10:42 AM
I collect them !
There are literally hundreds of designs related to Vostok 1 and Yuri Gagarin - so much so that currently I look for just the vintage age (genuine 60's era pins produced at the time of flight).
Often these will be made of metal, but in reality it is difficult to know without the space pins "collector's bible" published in 1977 loosely translated "Cosmonautics on Pins/Badges".
These pins are unique in that in most instances they serve as the only reference for a mission badge or patch. (Kind of like the collectors versions of the Mercury patches - except part of the logos in these were based on what was painted on the spacecraft - early Soviet flights had no designs)
One could arguably say the first mission patch ever was worn by Valentina Tereshkova on Vostok 6. On the left upper part of the inner spacesuit garment was an embroidered dove or seagull. This emblem was not seen during the mission, and was not made into a pin or a patch design later. The first true mission specific emblems came with the Interkosmos series later on.
The offerings on e-bay will allow the beginning and intermediate collector to find about 95% of the available pins. The other 5 % is the domain of the "serious" collector. For these luck and or connections are necessary. Some were made not to be available for public collections at the time which makes them all the more collectible today
BTW - a good piece of advice of collecting in general - be cautious of the word "Rare" is it can be a relative term. In my definition here a "Supreme Soviet" lapel pin, an original "Pilot-Cosmonaut Medal" or the golden coiled orbit version of Vostok-2 would be rare.
On the other hand take 100 people you see at the grocery store - any cosmonautics item would be rare ! "That's a nice Sputnik brooch Mrs. Miller. Did you hear they were sending another Progress to the ISS ?"