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SkyMan talks about space flown coins, currency and collectibles.

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I've been collecting space flown memorabilia for a little over 5 years now. As far as numismatics and space flown memorabilia go, there are 4 main areas; coins, currency, medalliions and "flown metal" medallions. Flown metal medallions are an area that I will not cover. Basically they were created by having an ingot carried along on a flight. When the flight returned to earth the ingot was melted along with a MUCH larger portion of comparable metal, and then medallions were printed out of this mixture. A somewhat more valuable variant of these medallions used a part of the spacecraft instead of a flown ingot of medal. I'm not a big fan of these flown metal medallions, as they really don't have any significant amounts of flown metal within them, and there is essentially no record keeping as to how many exist.


As far as actual flown medallions go there are two main types; Flitelines and Robbins. Both of them are about the size of quarters, with the Robbins medallions being a little larger than the Flitelines. The medallions designs are a medallic representation of the mission patch.


Fliteline medallions got their name via the boxes they came in. The boxes had the name Fliteline printed on them, hence the name given to the medallions. Fliteline medallions were created during 1965 - 1967 for the Gemini missions and for Apollo 1. They were not numbered, so it is not known how many were created. The best guess is that ~ 100 were created for each mission. They were made of of sterling silver, brass, or base metal. A portion of all of them were gold plated. For the most part, these medallions will run you somewhere in the $750 - $1,500 range. (ALL prices in this thread INCLUDE commission) Given their relative rarity compared to Robbins medallions this is a testament to how the Gemini program has been overlooked compared to the more "sexy" Apollo program. Here is a Gemini 10 Fliteline (ex: John Young) of mine:





Robbins medallions were first created for Apollo 7. Since then every NASA mission has included flown Robbins medallions. They got their name via the name of the company that produced them, e.g. the Robbins Company. They are made out of sterling silver. During the early Apollo missions all of the minted medallions were flown, during the latter Apollo missions somewhere between 1/4 - 1/3 of the minted Robbins medallions would be flown. Generally 300 - 350 medallions were minted per mission. Apollo 11 had the most medallions minted during the Apollo era, 450. On each of the Moon landing missions generally 3 gold plated medallions would be carried to the Moon's surface (1 each for each crewman). All the rest of the medallions stayed in orbit in the Command Module.


During the 5+ years that I've been collecting space memorabilia the price of Robbins medallions has definitely increased, in some cases substantially. In the last year NGC has started to slab and grade them. Nowadays the least expensive Robbins medallions, Apollo's 7 and 9, will run you somewhere in the $3,000 - $3,500 range, basically double what they were 5 years ago. The most expensive medallions are Apollo's 11, 16 and 17. Apollo 11, for obvious reasons, is a popular one for collectors to get. When I first started collecting in 2007 they would tend to run about $25,000. Nowadays they tend to run about $35,000. Apollo's 16 and 17 are expensive because they have the least number of flown medallions, 98 and 80 respectively. They are now tending to go in the $30,000 range, an increase of $5,000 - $10,000 since I first started collecting.


Here is my Apollo 7 Robbins:




As far as flown coins go, BY FAR, the most common flown coins to see are the Roosevelt dimes flown on Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 (LB-7) flight in 1951. There were 100 of them flown, and all the ones that I've seen images of are either 1961 or 1961-D. The prices on these have gone up, but generally not by huge amounts. There were two big space auctions in the last 50 days, one by Heritage, one by RR. Both had a Grissom dime and they went for $2,629 and $3,586 respectively. From what I've seen this about encompasses the price range on LB-7 dimes. Here's a picture of mine:





All the other coins that I've seen that have been flown are one of a kind for the given mission, and their prices have ranged widely from ~ $3,000 for a Liberty Nickel from Apollo 14 to ~ $31,000 for a Peace dollar from Apollo 11. It is hard to make any judgment as to how their prices have changed over time as they trade so infrequently, but flown coinage in general appears to be on a slow, steady, upward climb.


In the 5 years that I've been collecting space memorabilia, probably the largest percentage increases in price for numismatic items have been for flown (and signed) currency, specifically US currency. At the most recent Heritage auction there was a $1 bill flown on Freedom 7 (Alan Shepard), the first US manned spaceflight. The bill was one of only four flown. It was expected to go for $12,000 - $18,000. I was VERY interested in the bill and kept bidding up through $26,000. Unfortunately other people with larger wallets were even more interested, and the final price was ~ $33,500. The very next lot was a $1 bill flown on Friendship 7 (John Glenn), the first US orbital flight. There were 52 of these bills flown, and the estimate was $5,500 - $6,500. It ended up going for ~ $20,300. Various other more commonly found bills also went on the block at this auction, and the prices increased substantially from previous reference points.


Here is the Freedom 7 $1 bill (I do NOT own this):



That is the end of the numismatics part of this post. For those of you interested in other space memorabilia keep on reading.



It's been an interesting year collecting in the space memorabilia field. During the latter half of 2011 and accelerating through 2012 the US Govt. attempted to claw back many items that the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (MGA) astronauts had been given at the end of their missions. It had been the tradition back then that the Smithsonian got first dibs on everything on a given mission. Anything that the Smithsonian did not want was fair game for the astronauts to keep. Many of the items they kept they then gave at the end of the mission as gifts to people who were working on the US space program, and the given mission in particular.


Beginning roughly in the mid 1990's, many of the items that the astronauts kept they then started to sell, After the US Govt. seriously pursued clawing back these articles in 2011-12 there was enough of a public outcry, not to mention some very politically savvy astronauts, to have various Congressional Representatives and Senators introduce a bill to legally verify the astronaut's titles to these items. The bill passed unanimously and was signed into law in late September 2012. Since the bill became law there has been a noticeable increase in the price of these sort of items as they've come up for auction.


As in many collectible fields, there are the generic items and the one of a kind items. Generic items in the space memorabilia field would include small pieces of kapton foil and small pieces of a heat shield. These items are increasing in cost, but modestly. The more one of a kind items are going up substantially in price. Recently an Apollo 15 cufflist (basically a spring-loaded checklist that is attached outside of a space suit, essentially where a watch would go) used on a Moon walk went for ~ $330,000. The last Apollo cufflist to hit the market 5 + years ago, went for ~ $120,000, so prices are increasing quite a bit. Other comparably rare items have also been increasing substantially in price.


As far as my collecting goals go, I've been trying to get at least 1 flown item from each of the MGA flights. There are 27 flights in total, respectively 6, 10 and 11. At the start of the year I still needed to get items from two Mercury (Freedom 7 and Aurora 7) and two Gemini flights (Gemini 6 and Gemini 8). I was able to get a flown patch from Gemini 6 early in 2012, and a nice unflown add-on in late November.


The add-on is Wally Schirra's PPK list for Gemini 6. PPK stands for Personal Preference Kit, and it is a small group of personal items an astronaut is allowed to bring on his flight. The items are kept in a small bag on the space craft. Before the flight an astronaut would give his boss (in Wally's case his boss was Deke Slayton) a list of what he wanted to bring in his PPK, and the items would be OK'ed (or not as they case may be). Intact PPK lists from this era are very rare, so I was lucky to get this one. You can see listed in slot # 11 the number of patches Schirra brought on the flight (also, most likely slots 8 and 9 deal with Fliteline medals). Personally, one thing I would love to be able to find and get is the 1950 D coin listed in slot 3. I have NO idea what sort of coin it is, but it would be a lot of fun to find it and match it up with the PPK list, (needless to say, it would be important to know the provenance trail).


Here's the GT-6 patch:



Here's Wally's PPK list:




I also have been increasing my collection of Apollo 12 items. Apollo 12 prices, while still expensive, are substantially less expensive than Apollo 11 pieces. Apollo 12 was only the second Moon landing in history, so it is still quite significant historically. Over the last several years I also have had the chance to get to know Richard Gordon, and to a lesser extent Alan Bean, so it's been fun to find pieces associated with either of them.


Probably the most dangerous event in the Apollo program, behind the Apollo 13 explosion, occurred during the launch of Apollo 12. In essence the exhaust trail of the rocket caused the rocket to become a giant "structure" (or "tree" if you prefer). The rocket was struck twice by lightning and the electrical systems of the Command and Service Module (CSM) shorted out. Luckily the Saturn V had it's own electrical system which was not affected by the lightning strikes, and the rocket continued to boost the spacecraft to orbit. While this was occurring Mission Control Center in Houston was able to figure out how to, in essence, reboot the CSM. The order was given, "SCE to Aux". To put it mildly this was a very obscure procedure, and Bean was able to flip the appropriate switch.


In the recent RR auction I was lucky enough to win the two 2-sided CSM flown checklist pages associated with the launch of Apollo 12. Most flown checklist pages do not have writing on them (particularly for a fast moving event like launch), they are used for reminding the astronauts through the specific order items are to occur for a given event. The writing on the pages occurred when Gordon eventually sold them. The checklist pages give you an idea of how complicated launches are, and cover the period from 9 seconds before lift-off to orbital insertion at 11:39 minutes.










Here's a picture of the launch of Apollo 12:



At the same auction I was also able to win a hardware item used on the Apollo 12 LM "Intrepid" on the Moon's surface. It is tough enough to get checklist pages that were used on an Apollo LM. It is MUCH more difficult/expensive to get hardware that was used on an LM. This item is a tie down strap that was used to stow items in the right hand side stowage compartment (e.g. Alan Bean's side of the LM). The strap is about 10" in length.





Here are some pictures that I was able to get Bean and Gordon to sign when I saw them this summer:


Bean deploying the ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package).



The deployed ALSEP with the LM in the background.



Picture of the Apollo 12 landing site taken in the last couple of years by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Note that you can see the astronaut's Moon walk(s) tracks as lines on the picture.



It's been a fun 5+ years collecting these sort of items. The good Lord willing, I hope to be able to continue to collect MGA material for years to come.


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Thanks for sharing part of your collection AND all of your passion with space program. I enjoy reading your posts and remembering things that were happening during that time. Keep up the great work.

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Thank you for your kind comments guys! I'm glad you enjoy these sort of things.


very cool!! Is there is a holy grail that you would like to get one day or even hold?


As far as holy grails go, there are no singular items that I'd give a left testicle for. There are a lot of neat items out there, most of which I probably don't even know that exist. The thing that amazes me is how RELATIVELY inexpensive some of these items are compared to other collectible fields. For example, about 3 years ago the log for Apollo 8, the First Trip to the Moon, went for ~ $55,000. Unfortunately that was well beyond my budget, but still, in the grand scheme of things, given the significance of the document, that was dirt cheap. Given how prices have escalated in just the last 3 years I'd bet that the price would now be in the $75,000 - $100,000 range


Personally, given the chance, I would enjoy having pieces of hardware used on the lunar surface from each of the 6 Moon landings. You'd probably be talking about $250,000 - $300,000 in total, which is well beyond my reach, but it would be a Cool grouping.


With regards to holding items that could be considered "The Holy Grail", one afternoon I had the VERY good fortune to hold and read the Apollo 11 LM Timeline checklist, which was in essence the log for the LM from when it departed from the Command Module (CM) in orbit, through landing on the Moon and lift-off thereafter, until it returned to the CM. (It did NOT include the Moon walks, which were on another checklist). Needless to say, this is arguably one of the most important documents in human history, roughly comparable to (if there was one) the log for the day Columbus saw the New World and then landed on it.

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Would love to visit the Skyman Museum some day!!


He's getting ready to open the Moon Wing.


I love reading about all your space memorabilia Sy. Very historical.

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