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  Long-term value of space-flown memorabilia

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Author Topic:   Long-term value of space-flown memorabilia
Gonzo
Member

Posts: 510
From: Lansing, MI, USA
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 05-15-2014 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A thought came to me concerning the value of flown items. So I'm throwing this out for a friendly discussion.

My thought is simply, will the value of flown items hold in the long-term? Since I've been interested in space exploration (40+ years), spaceflight has certainly become more common. Some would argue routine. And it will certainly become more so as we move forward. With that, what's to become of the value of flown items?

I can see that early flown items (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo era for example) will certainly hold, if not increase in value due to their historical value, but what about more recent items as spaceflight becomes more common practice?

When airplane travel first started it took a handsome sum to experience it. And collectibles garnished appropriate sums. But look at it today. How much is a first class wine glass worth on the open market today? How about those "nice" blankets and pillows you can stuff in your carry-on? In the day, collectors would have loved to get them. Today? Some airlines now charge you just to use them. (Let alone what they'd do if the caught you taking them home.)

So what are your thoughts? Will space flown items suffer the same fate?

Kizzi
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Posts: 19
From: Manchester, England
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 05-15-2014 04:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kizzi   Click Here to Email Kizzi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My parent's generation were avid antique furniture collectors. But now, it seems no one one wants to buy these items for their homes anymore. Turns out, when they thought they were investing for the future, they were simply driving up prices by trading amongst themselves. As that generation passes, prices are plummeting. Of course, some rare or attractive pieces will always hold their value, but most will be sold off at a loss.

I think the collector should buy what they particularly like, and want to own. If it goes up in value, that's a bonus. But if you are investing, it should be noted it is just one asset class out of many.

jonspace
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Posts: 92
From: VA/MD USA
Registered: Jan 2014

posted 05-15-2014 05:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jonspace   Click Here to Email jonspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm always wary about discussing the value of collectibles. The value of these items are solely determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. The only index that exists are historic prices of what people have previously paid, and that metric does not forecast what someone is willing to pay for it in the present or the future.

With that being said, human space flight is not that common and nor is it routine. The early history of human spaceflight will probably live on in the history books just like the voyages of Columbus, the expeditions of Lewis and Clark, and early aviation history. There will be likely be demand for these items in the future but how much demand (which ultimately determines value) is impossible to tell.

My fear is that as the generations that grew up in the 60's (witnessing the hay day of this stuff) begin to retire and die off, the number of folks interested in this stuff will decline. This means the market size would likely decline, thus driving down prices. On the other hand, this stuff is an important part of American history. That opens up the "market" to not just space enthusiast but also American history collectors.

p51
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Posts: 1167
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 05-15-2014 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's silly to think ALL space collectibles will hold their value or increase over time. There are plenty of previously 'hot' collecitbles which simply don't hold the public interest that they had. It ebbs and flows too (just ask anyone who's collected Titanic stuff since before that movie came out).

quote:
Originally posted by Kizzi:
My parent's generation were avid antique furniture collectors. But now, it seems no one one wants to buy these items for their homes anymore. Turns out, when they thought they were investing for the future, they were simply driving up prices by trading amongst themselves. As that generation passes, prices are plummeting. Of course, some rare or attractive pieces will always hold their value, but most will be sold off at a loss.
Good point. Any Beenie Baby collector can tell you a tale of woe of fortunes gained and lost. Not the same thing, of course, but it's still a valid point.

Only a fool collects as an investment. Even previously considered 'solid' things are taking a beating over time, value-wise.

With people dying off, certain items have plummeted in value due to availability. For example, I'm into railroad history. One book on a certain RR was very rare for years, and fetched way more than 300 bucks because they were so hard to find. the same book today, only a few years later, can be gotten for less than 100 (I just scored one on eBay for 90 with nobody bidding against me). Why? Train collectors are dying off now, and the guys who bought copies of this book in the early 90s as middle aged or retired aged men are at the end of their lives now, and those books are back out there. Much to the dismay of people who bought copies for top dollar. A pal of mine went bonkers over the weekend to find I paid less than 100 for a book he paid almost 500 for ten years previously, and mine was in better condition than his.

spkjb
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Posts: 126
From: Merritt Island, Florida USA
Registered: May 2011

posted 05-15-2014 06:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spkjb   Click Here to Email spkjb     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Values will fluctuate, but long term will increase.

WE LEFT THE EARTH! This is arguably the second most important event in human (and life on earth's) history.

Guillaume
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Posts: 46
From:
Registered: Apr 2010

posted 05-15-2014 07:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Guillaume   Click Here to Email Guillaume     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm convinced that flown artifacts from the early days of space exploration will become unimaginably desirable in the next centuries and millennia. I can easily imagine an Apollo 11 checklist page selling for 8 figures in today's dollars.

Leaving Earth for the first time was a tremendous achievement for our species. It's on par with the invention of writing. Sadly, most of our contemporaries don't appreciate the magnitude of that event.

Our era will be remembered for our first steps into space, for the first computers and hopefully for the advent of artificial intelligence.

Our conversations on this forum will blow the minds of future archaeologists. People casually trading these flown objects for a few hundreds or thousands of dollars will sound crazy to them!

I bet that by the year 2500, every single surviving flown artifact from our collections will sit either in museums or in the safes of the wealthiest individuals in the solar system. There might not be many flown objects from the 60s and 70s with ironclad provenance left by then, perhaps just a few percents of what we have now, but I'm sure they'll be priceless.

SpaceAholic
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Posts: 3304
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-16-2014 05:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Guillaume:
There might not be many flown objects from the 60s and 70s with ironclad provenance left by then...
...or even left intact.

Go4Launch
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Posts: 432
From: Seminole, Fla.
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 05-16-2014 07:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think some analogies mentioned here are a little off. Fragments of cloth from the Wright Flyer still command a high price, but a fork flown on STS-120 has minimal value. Just because more items have been flown in aviation and space does not diminish the historical significance of those which were among the first.

Although I'm no expert on train collectibles, the Golden Spike is today valuable enough to be in a museum, but I'm not surprised that a book — of which many copies were printed and sold commercially — has dropped in value.

fredtrav
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Posts: 1173
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 05-16-2014 09:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My 2 cents worth. Flown items with solid provenance from the M-G-A era will hold value and increase over the long run. We may see a dip in some items such as flags flown on Apollo as there were hundreds or thousands flown. As the astronauts sell off their collections (like us, they are not getting any younger), prices may drop some for these items. Others that are one off or just a few will increase. Apollo 11 items will always be worth a lot and will increase over time.

As collectors sell off their collections, signed items will have difficulties in price. As in the RR field, many of the collectors are old farts (like me) and we are not being replaced by enough younger collectors. We may see prices rise short term on certain items as we try to finish off collections, but eventually they will fall, there are thousands of signed photos and covers out there.

Shuttle material is not going to be a problem to collect. There is a lot out there, both flown and signed. It will stay reasonable.

We may see an increase when we finally go to Mars on early stuff, but that is a long way off.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 31204
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-16-2014 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Today, space memorabilia collecting is driven in large part by nostalgia, rather than historical importance.

That's not to say that today's collectors are not considering the history behind the items they are purchasing, but the fact that many, if not most, were alive to witness the events their objects of desire celebrate (or were part of) is a strong motivating factor.

It is why I believe we will see an increase in interest in space shuttle memorabilia in the next 10 to 20 years, as members of the shuttle generation enter their 40s and 50s.

Eventually though, as the generations that lived through the events dies, the collectors who follow will be less influenced by personal experiences and, if other areas of collecting hold true, historical relevance will play more of a leading role in guiding their purchases.

That may result in some items losing market value, while others increasing. Overall, I believe the market will realign itself with historical relevance, rather than the collector-driven trends we see today.

SkyMan1958
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Posts: 492
From: CA.
Registered: Jan 2011

posted 05-16-2014 11:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Robert vis-a-vis the increasing desirability of STS items as the generation that grew up with it gets older and has more disposable income. Over the long run, I would suspect shuttle pieces would follow the track expressed below for MGA pieces.

As far as MGA items go, once the current generation who grew up with the MGA era dies off, in my opinion prices will bifurcate. More common items will decline in value, while rarer and more one of a kind items will increase in value. The most rare items with historical significance will increase in price the most.

fredtrav
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Posts: 1173
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 05-16-2014 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The reason I am skeptical of STS items increasing much in value in relation to M-G-A is the sheer volume of material. There were 6 Mercury flights, 10 Gemini, and 11 Apollo (not including ASTP and Skylab)

There were 133(5) STS missions with as many as eight on a flight. There were a total of 852 crew members overall and 352 individuals that flew. They all carried patches, flags, pins etc. with them so there will be a lot more of this material that will come to market in the future which will keep prices down.

I agree with Robert in that historical relevance will take the market. Apollo 11 will always be a collectible item. Apollo 8 because it was the first to leave earth and 13 because... The other Apollo missions will have relevance as well, but no to the same degree. STS-1 will be the top of the shuttle market as it was the first.

That being said, collect what interests you today and don't worry about the market. I collect what matters to me, not whether it will sell for more in 10 years.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 31204
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-16-2014 01:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While there were indeed more space shuttle missions, there were also greater restrictions on what the astronauts could fly and keep for themselves, and because the spacecraft was reusable, less spacecraft components (per vehicle) released into public hands.

If your interest is only collectibles (e.g. autographs, patches, pins), then yes, shuttle material is plentiful. But if you are seeking artifacts, at least for now, it can be easier to obtain Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo-era items.

That's not to say that shuttle-era items will ever outperform Apollo on the market, but the number of flights is only one consideration.

p51
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Posts: 1167
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 05-16-2014 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert of course made a good point on people passing away and how that will affect value in regards to people being around who remember the time. That's mostly why I made my railroad collectible comparison, as that's happening there, too. There will always be train buffs, but those who fondly remember steam engines on main line RRs are starting to die off and in another generation, nobody will be left who remember that. Same thing for the Apollo era.
quote:
Originally posted by Guillaume:
I bet that by the year 2500, every single surviving flown artifact from our collections will sit either in museums or in the safes of the wealthiest individuals in the solar system. There might not be many flown objects from the 60s and 70s with ironclad provenance left by then, perhaps just a few percents of what we have now, but I'm sure they'll be priceless.
I truly doubt this. I know of a collector who has sections of wood from the sailing ship Mayflower and I was shocked to find out how little he recently paid for them (far less than one might imagine).

I know of plenty of people who have things from history you'd assume were already in museums (or would think to be priceless. And none of them are rich people.

The bottom line is that just because YOU think something is priceless, doesn't mean everyone else does. The average person wouldn't care that you had, say, Armstrong's EVA helmet from the surface of the Moon. You'd get an disinterested, "Oh, that's cool" from many people. And this would be considered a 'holy grail' item for space collectors.

Just spend some time with someone who has a collection of items you don't care about and you'll see how it feels from the other side (I recently looked at one of the biggest collections of NASCAR stuff in private hands with a pal of mine. Yawn. I recognized it was cool to a race fan but it meant very little to me).

Another friend has some fragments from the Hindenburg, and he tells me that the values of that have dropped, he feels because the people who ever cared are now passing away en mass.

There will ALWAYS be a few people into something they have no personal connection to, but a niche market is not an especially thriving one, generally...

onesmallstep
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Posts: 765
From: Staten Island, New York USA
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 05-16-2014 02:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All the points and opinions are excellent, but let me add one important one: inheritance. As the families of M-G-A astronaut pioneers put up their artifacts for sale (witness the current Swigert estate auction), the interest peaks in any rare or unique item - and being 13, one of the three most desirable missions (after 11 and 8) to collect, I expect the prices on Swigert items to go high.

As for Shuttle; I guess it depends on supply and demand-for more 'common' missions, prices tend to be lower. But for unique and historic flights (STS-1, -51L, -107, -133 to -135) prices can go high. For -51L and -107, the flown items are pre-accident missions of course. Still, I just saw a signed crew litho for STS-135 go for $400(!), while I got mine during a crew appearance in NY for - $0. Let's see if even unflown items go down after a few years, or hold steady.

The matter of inheritance cuts the other way too, for any cS member here can tell you that compiling a large collection inevitably leads to another question: Will my collection accrue in value, if I need to sell part or all of it to meet unforeseen expenses? What about insurance? And most important of all, Can I hand down my collection to a next of kin in the family, to keep it intact and perhaps auction it after my death-or keep it 'in the family' so the next generation can treasure it as much as I did? That's no less an important question as to the future of this collecting hobby as the long-term value of the artifacts themselves.

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