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Author Topic:   The future of space collecting
sapper82
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posted 06-03-2003 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sapper82   Click Here to Email sapper82     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great post Rob, obviously it got everyone's brains churning.

A couple of comments if I may. Concern over the demise of a hobby is a fear that almost all avid collectors of a particular genre hold, and as already mentioned all hobbies go through ups and downs. That being said, I'd argue that your estimate of 1500 collectors is way too low for many reasons.

First you have different types of collectors. There are active, passive, investment, and even accidental collectors. Active collectors surf sites, buy lots, actively engage in all aspects of their hobby, cry when they miss an auction (I missed the weekend auction due to a deployment - I cried) and lament about its untimely demise. Passive collectors collect but don't advertise to their friends that they do so. They surf sites, avoid autograph shows, hate bothering people in person for their autograph, buy what they like on-line, and silently build impressive collections that some day end up in museums or national archives. Investment collectors "hoard for the future" and collect to profit. They are usually most concerned with market trends and hate when their target audience - the active and passive collector - write away for free autographs or find other ways to improve their collections without going through a dealer. But the last and probably most common type of collector (especially of autographs) is the accidental collector. I work with one. His sister is at NASA and he would regularly arrive at work every other month with a new crew signed litho. He hangs them in his office for people to browse and comment on. When we were in Colorado Springs, he got Lovell, Aldrin, and Gene Kranz to sign his awards menu. He had no idea what the item is now worth (G12 crew + Kranz, hmm...) and doesn't care. He thinks it's cool that he got to meet them.

It's this last group of which there are likely thousands, of which several will possibly look at their accidental collections and think, "I wonder if I can complete it?" So, I would argue, that regardless of age, there will always be inflow into our hobby.

Also, an age estimate can be misleading. Kids generally don't have lots of disposable income, hence why it seems that the collecting circle is older. Marketing has shown that the largest consumer group of new video games for Playstation or whatever is the 28-34 crowd. Why? We have credit cards and jobs (or at least one of the two). Plus the passive collectors tend to avoid public meets, and this also skews the demographic.

What might hurt the hobby, especially with younger collectors, is technology and the frailty of the autograph as a collectible. The fact is forgery is getting easier all the time, especially for more modern 1960-present) autographs, has probably not helped. I am extremely reluctant to purchase any autographs unless I can validate the providence, and simply, am not about to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars for something that may be proven as forged years after I bought it. As such IF I spend the money, it has to be because I really want it, and frankly, if I can, I'll make the effort to put a sincere request straight to the source rather than pay a dealer an inflated price for it. I'll pay what i think it's worth to me, but nothing more.

Also, saturating the market with autographs is a double edged sword. While I very much appreciate the fact that the surviving astronauts of the M-G-A era are still signing, I know some collectors who rather wished they weren't. Take the last aurora auction for example, there were a lot of Dave Scott signatures. What will this do the value or desirability of the item? Does it even matter? If so, why? These are questions the hobby will have to face.

One last issue, like all hobbies, I think this one is almost past the golden age of collecting. Frankly, I think we're lucky that we can still buy some items as cheaply as we do. Twenty years from now, with the Internet, auctions, etc. it will be much more difficult to obtain older items that are currently still available. One only has to compare a space auction catalog of ten years ago with one of today. There is a noticeable difference in the quantity of quality items. Like sports and art price and rarity will clearly separate the men from the boys. It may be expensive, but now is the time to buy that Neil Armstrong.

Well, my two cents. Comments?

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Andrew B. Godefroy, MA, FBIS
Ontario, Canada

Rob Sumowski
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posted 06-05-2003 12:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Sumowski   Click Here to Email Rob Sumowski     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The original estimate of approximately 1500 active collectors was based on discussions I had with veteran collectors and with the assistance of the head of a popular online message board who has regular contact with collectors worldwide.

Mainly, I was referring to active collectors. The others mentioned - accidental, passive, etc., are certainly there - I don't doubt that. I was just trying to guesstimate a rough number of those who are actively involved (i.e., regularly participate in collectors' groups, eBay, Astro-Auction, outside auctions, shows, purchases from various dealers, etc.).

The point about the recent signings is very valid. Having Stafford sign my items was great, for example, but he also signed the choicest items belonging to my "300 closest friends" at the same time. So he definitely flooded at least one end of the market. The same goes for the regular for-fee signers. Take Cernan, Duke, Bean, Gordon, Cunningham, and more recently, Worden and Schirra. As far as market numbers go, I'd bet the number of items each of these guys has signed over the past two to five years is pretty astronomical. I see the point about some collectors (especially investment collectors) possibly wishing some of these fellows wouldn't sign - it floods their markets.

My suggestion for involving the younger kids involved some of us possibly giving away some freebies, hopefully to stir interest.

If this hobby is now passing its golden age, a decline in collecting the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo guys may be, as earlier alluded, simply inevitable. Any thoughts?

Best-
Rob

collshubby
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posted 06-05-2003 03:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collshubby   Click Here to Email collshubby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know of at least one new collector who will be joining our ranks in the next one to four weeks: my son, who isn't born yet! I am going to pass my collection, however small, onto him one day. Also, his name will be Brian too. Therefore, he will already have a bunch of "To Brian" autographs. I am not going to force him to like the space program, but I am going to gear him towards it.

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Brian Peter
astronautbrian@hotmail.com

sapper82
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posted 06-05-2003 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sapper82   Click Here to Email sapper82     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First, congratulations Brian! My best wishes.

To Rob's question with respect to the decline in collecting M-G-A period guys, I would suggest that this won't happen for a couple of reasons. Eventually, these incredible men and their legacy will pass on and though they will be gone, new generations of collectors will enter the scene all wanting to add a "John Glenn" or "Al Woden" to their collection. As with other hobbies such as militaria, aviation, sports, and comics, the 'golden age' material continues to be the most sought after by serious collectors and while you may see a decline in the general stream of items (beta cloth patches, autographs, etc) the more individual and unique items will certainly continue to increase in value.

What's affecting the market for space collectibles, in my opinion, is the simple fact that the hobby has yet to mature. An analogy if you will. I also collect military medals which in itself is a fascinating hobby and not unlike space miliaria in the sense that there is no biblical price setting for items and each item can have unique attributes that may affect its worth.

In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, one could buy Crimean War (1853-56) medals for about $5-$10. You'd find them in the 'medallions' bin at the coin shop, considered spares and junk because they weren't real coins. In the early 1980s, the medals hobby peaked, where a few auctions raked in astronomical prices for these new found treasures, in the $2000-$3000 range. There was a subsequent drop in the hobby by the late 1980s, with prices falling back to $300-$400, and over the last decade as the hobby has gone mainstream these items have slowly crept back up into the $800-1200 range. Other medals experienced a similar ebb and flow. What affected the values and the general state of the hobby was its maturation, collector network of supporting materials, and increasing collector base going after a finite amount of material.

As such, I don't think the MGA period of collecting will decline, as the serious collectors will always chase this period. Someone previously used the analogy of baseball showing that younger collectors forego the older heroes. This may be true for most, but there will always be an audience for choice items.

Cheers,

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Andrew B. Godefroy, MA, FBIS
Ontario, Canada

nojnj
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posted 06-06-2003 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nojnj   Click Here to Email nojnj     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent comments by all who have replied. One of the most exciting aspects of collecting astronaut and cosmonaut memorabilia is the time sharing it with my son and daughters. I always take them with me to signings, we have met Aldrin, Bean, Carpenter and Stafford so far. We have spent many hours at the Air Force Museum and have watched many videos together. Every year I get together with my son's scout troop and science class to share some of my collection and tell stories of the missions. Keep up the great work of passing on the great hobby everyone!

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Evan

Russ Still
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posted 01-25-2008 01:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russ Still   Click Here to Email Russ Still     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking thru the archives, I found this thread started by Rob Sumowski some five years ago.

It's pretty obvious from that discussion that people recognize the need to educate current and future generations. I, however, will not be around in 50 years to see how successful we have been.

It makes me wonder about the shorter term viability of this hobby.

When I first discovered that old CompuServe forum back around 1988 or 1990, I wasn't aware that anyone else collected space "stuff". What a delight it was to find a group of fellow geeks that shared my fascination... and compulsion. Many from that group are still valued friends to this day. I think the internet has had a huge influence and has helped to expand the hobby to many more people.

Around the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11, there seemed to be big pulse in the hobby. A lot more people joined the online community and we had "Moon Shot" and "Apollo 13" to help reinvigorate the general public.

Astronauts were making a lot of public appearances and we all had plenty of opportunities to meet these guys. Paid signings were not yet the norm.

I guess it was about that time (or shortly after) that a friend, Ricky Lanclos, told me about eBay. Although nothing as big as it is today, this online capability gave the hobby another shot of adrenalin.

Next, the autograph shows with astronaut guests began to appear. These gave people even more opportunities to briefly get to know the personalities they had idolized for years.

A large contingent of baby boomers and the immediate generation following them took great interest in the pioneering days of the space program. The hobby was "booming".

Now we have the relatively near future upon us. Long-time collectors and the astronauts they "collect" are passing into the generation of elders. In 10 years, the landscape of humans involved in the hobby will have dramatically changed. Many of the most avid current collectors won't be in the hobby. Paid signings with guests from the M-G-A generation will have ceased. The entire inventory of pioneering relics will exist with virtually no new additions.

Without opportunities for people to engage themselves personally with the history makers of the 60s and 70s, what do you think will happen to this hobby of ours? In 10 years will the closed inventory of relics become even more sought after, or will people lose interest and drift away?

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www.spaceracerelics.com

Matt T
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posted 01-25-2008 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think a lot will hinge on the direction taken in space exploration over the next ten years. A revitalized manned lunar or planetary exploration program would give the hobby a new relevance.

Otherwise I'm concerned that our collections may go the way of the early aviation and zeppelin collectables - steadily decreasing interest to the general populous and declining market value.

Except for Armstrong WSS autographs of course

Cheers,
Matt

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www.spaceracemuseum.com

mjanovec
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posted 01-25-2008 06:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Matt T:
I think a lot will hinge on the direction taken in space exploration over the next ten years. A revitalized manned lunar or planetary exploration program would give the hobby a new relevance.

Otherwise I'm concerned that our collections may go the way of the early aviation and zeppelin collectables - steadily decreasing interest to the general populous and declining market value.


On the surface, what you say makes a lot of sense. Then, after some thought, I had to wonder if perhaps the exact opposite would be true. Perhaps the interest in the Apollo program has remained strong among collectors because it represents an accomplishment that still seems so big and spectacular...and frozen in time. The fact that only 12 people have walked on the moon makes it seem as if it's a very exclusive club of people (which it is) who have shared that experience. Therefore, memorabilia and autographs from those 12 are cherished and highly sought after. If 106 people had walked on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, would we value the memorabilia from all 106 moonwalkers as highly?

Or, in the same vein, if the lunar landings resume and we have another 50 or 100 people who have walked on the lunar surface, will those original 12 still seem all that special to the eyes of the general public? Granted, Armstrong will always be remembered for being first. But will people still care about who was 4th or 5th while number 73 (or number 373) is walking the moon?

I don't claim to know the answer, but I figured it was worth pondering. After all, did certain aviation collectibles lose their appeal because of the passage of time...or did aviation become so commonplace in everyone's lives that all but a very few of pioneers were simply forgotten? The passage of time certainly doesn't seem to have hurt markets like Civil War collectibles...and nobody today was alive during that war.

I can't help but wonder if the original 12 moonwalkers have retained more of their fame simply because we haven't been back to the moon in over 35 years...

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 01-25-2008 06:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the situation with aviation collectibles really analogous - ...i.e. isn't the loss of interest in early aviation history primarily because flight is so ubiquitous now? Similarly once spaceflight for the masses becomes routine the "novelty" will decrease and less collectors will engage in the hobby.

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Scott Schneeweis
http://www.SPACEAHOLIC.com/

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-25-2008 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LCDR Scott Schneeweis:
Similarly once spaceflight for the masses becomes routine the "novelty" will decrease and less collectors will engage in the hobby.
With very little doubt, once commercial suborbital travel takes off (no pun intended), the value imparted by something simply entering space will diminish quickly.

But, conversely, that same rise in space travelers may have a very positive effect on the hobby and market for historical artifacts. After all, it's certainly not uncommon to find, for example, hobbyist scuba divers seeking souvenirs of their pastime (e.g. sunken ship parts, coral/shells, undersea art). The space tourism market could indeed expand our community, attracting those who were prior to their spaceflight uninterested in the history of exploration but gaining a passion for it as a result of their trip.

And unlike with aviation, where nearly all the records and barriers have been set or broken, there will always be a more distant horizon for explorers to reach in space. Thus, so long as humankind continues to desire new challenges, it's realistically foreseeable that at least a core set of enthusiasts will continue to appreciate the history that made those new endeavors possible.

Matt T
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posted 01-25-2008 06:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK, new thought - zeppelins are a historical curiosity that never went any further, whereas plane aviation is part of the everyday life of the world.

Given that space travel could be in either position 50 years hence maybe it's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation?

Cheers,
Matt

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www.spaceracemuseum.com

leslie
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posted 01-28-2008 05:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for leslie   Click Here to Email leslie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My personal perspective is that I sense the inevitable evaporation of interest will come at the time when the so called 1,500 existing collectors are sat on porches throughout the world, sipping their food through a straw, myself included, I hasten to add!

I hestitate to use the sporting analogy but in the UK it is fair to say that autographs from current soccer players are of greater interest to the young than those of between ten and fifty years ago.

There will always be serious aficionado collectors willing to pay the high dollar for books, art, autographs and, particularly, flown space memorabilia, but with specific reference to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, I see the interest declining with a so called "new generation" unless immediate and substantial efforts are made to address the problem.

Furthermore, I would look to the major scientific institutions, particularly museums, to raise the standards of exhibits, I refer to the UK and Europe, as the current presentations are less than satisfactory.

Our own Science Museum has a phenomenal attendance each year, the majority of which is school or organised parties and this should be the target audience for the future.

To be fair to one major European museum, the problem is recognised and efforts are being considered to raise the profile of the US Space Programme as a whole however, the perennial curse (Probably the same Stateside) is "lack of budget".

With regard to America, the Smithsonian is, I believe, the key. I think I am I am correct in saying they have a current policy of reviewing the "quality of presentation" of items loaned to other museums throughout the world. Perhaps Mike Griffin and his cohorts in Washington should receive letters from the so called 1,500, in the form of a petition, stating the concern we all have of the absence of positive PR from NASA addressed to the younger generation(exclude the Disneyworld atmosphere of KSC) on the subject of the history of the Space Programme.

There are many fine institutions who work hard to maintain extremely high standards but that cannot be said for all.

Next year sees the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, thus presenting a great opportunity for many of the educational institutions throughout the world, some already are active on this subject, to teach or remind the younger generation of man's greatest exploration.

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Leslie Cantwell

FFrench
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posted 02-13-2008 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

As part of our education classes at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, we do many different kinds of rocket launches with kids, to try and inspire them to become the engineers, scientists and astronauts of the future. We got some great shots of a rocket launch here yesterday morning!

paulushumungus
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posted 08-12-2008 04:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for paulushumungus   Click Here to Email paulushumungus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When our generation dies out - the generation that witnessed and grew up at the time of the moon landings - will our hobby die out too? Did you "have to be there" to have a truly enthusiastic appreciation of the achievements of space flight in the 60s, 70s and beyond?

bruce
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posted 08-12-2008 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bruce   Click Here to Email bruce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paul,

Of course, no one can know for sure how space exploration memoribilia will fare 100 years from now, even our precious signed "Armstrongs". But, have you ever wondered what a photograph of the Wright Brothers first Kitty Hawk flight, autographed by Orville & Wilbur, would be worth? Or, what about a Charles Lindbergh autograph on a photo of his plane landing at Le Bourget Field after the first transatlantc flight?

I think this is a great thread and there are many things herewith to consider.

Best,
Bruce Moody

Philip
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posted 08-13-2008 03:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, don't know about autographs but Apollo-mission memorabilia will always be interesting. These items become rare, especially for Apollo 11, just try to find the book NASA SP-214 entitled "Preliminary Science Report of Apollo 11"...

But then again, everything becomes available in digital format.

Machodoc
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posted 08-13-2008 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Machodoc   Click Here to Email Machodoc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perhaps its possible that if we actually do return to the Moon and then onto Mars, that interest in the MGA programs will receive a significant boost.

After 40+ years of low earth orbit, man will finally be returning to deeper space, and I think its a fair bet that will spark a renaissance of interest- and collecting values - in the pioneers whom we on this board know and admire.

The Wright brothers did something that sparked a revolution and dramatically remade the planet. It still remains to be seen if the MGA era will still have an equal mythological impact beyond those who post here.

If man does however return to the Moon and beyond, then I have no doubt that our current collections will be more valuable.

As a huge baseball card collector, I wish I could get into a time machine with only a $500 budget and buy up fresh unopened packs of 1909 through 1911 Sweet Caporal cigarettes, 1933 Goudey baseball gum packs, and 1952 Topps wax packs. With my time machine knowledge, that $500 would be worth millions today. The same goes for coin, or really any other types of collecting.

*sigh*

DChudwin
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posted 08-14-2008 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It might be instructive to look to the philatelic world for an example.

After the Wright Brothers initial flights, the U.S. mail started using airplanes for airmail delivery of letters. This spawned the philatelic hobby of collecting envelopes flown on airplanes, especially first flights.

This was a popular area of collecting, but interest diminished as airmail became routine, with most long distance letters dispatched by air.

While some airmail covers remain valuable (e.g. Zeppelin flights), most of these covers from the 1920's through 1950's are inexpensive.

Might the same thing happen to space collecting as earth orbital and sub-orbital launches become common-place?

Space covers from secondary recovery ships are actually less expensive now than years ago, presumably because the shuttle lands on land.

Similarly, launch covers for most shuttle missions are worth next to nothing (exceptions are STS-1 and STS-51L). With over 125 shuttle flights, there is not much novelty or rarity.

I would agree that autographs and artifacts are in a different sphere than philatelic items. Also, memorabilia from Mercury through Apollo will probably maintain their value. However, I don't think shuttle and future Orion memorabilia will account for much. MOO.


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