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Numismatic Memorabilia From American Space Race This Week at Heritage Auctions

Apollo Robinson Medallions - Space Race Ephemera

By CoinWeek …..

When astronaut and Apollo 11 Mission Commander Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface at 10:56 Eastern Time on July 21, 1969, it was the culmination of the great scientific and engineering effort known as the Space Race. Among their other military and geopolitical rivalries, the Space Race pitted the United States against the Soviet Union in a quest for domination of space and, by implication, proof of which country had the superior system. With the launch of the first manmade satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviets in 1957, the U.S. began a push for scientific excellence that resulted in a generation of American children whose imaginations were enraptured by the seemingly endless technological marvels that streamed out of corporate and government labs in the ’50s and ’60s.

Once upon a time these children could only dream of owning a “spaceship” of their own. Now that they’re older, that dream can perhaps become a reality.

To that end, Heritage will be holding its Space Exploration Signature Auction at the company’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Friday, May 11.

Session One, which covers lots 50001 through 50197, starts at 11:00 am Central Time (CT). Session Two, which covers lots 50198 through 50562, starts at 2:00 pm CT. Live floor and phone bids will be accepted during Session One; mail, fax and internet bids will be taken during both sessions. Proxy bidding ends 10 minutes before each session, although live proxy bidding on Heritage Live starts 24 hours before the session and continues throughout.

The following are but a few of the numismatric highlights of this fascinating auction of memorabilia.

Numismatic Space Memorabilia

Lot 50012 is a collection of 12 flown Fliteline medallions produced to honor individual missions of the Gemini program, starting with Gemini 3 and ending with Gemini 12. All are silver in color, with five of the medals being struck in Sterling. The obverse of each medallion features designs based on the patches of the respective Gemini missions, while the reverses are mostly plain with minor inscriptions, usually referring to the mission’s codename, the names of the participating astronauts, or the hand-engraved date of the mission. Each piece was flown aboard a Gemini mission and comes with a Letter of Authenticity signed by Astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.

The opening bid is $12,000 USD.

$1 Note flown into space

Lot 50011 is a unique piece of space program numismatic memorabilia: a $1 Silver Certificate, Series 1957A, serial number H36497499A, hand-signed below the Treasury Seal by NASA Astronaut Wally Schira. The circulated note was flown aboard Schira’s Sigma 7 spacecraft on October 3, 1962–only the fifth manned space mission conducted by the United States–and is one of three notes that were secretly stashed inside capacitors on a circuit board. After the vessel returned to earth, the notes were retrieved and this example was given to NASA engineer Charles D. Clary.

Current Bid: $800 USD.

Lot 50072 is a 28 mm Sterling Silver medal struck by the Robbins Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission, which marked mankind’s first steps on the moon. 450 pieces were struck; this example is number 405. The obverse features a rendering of astronaut Michael Collins’ original design, which was altered before being adopted as the Apollo 11 mission patch. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro also adopted it for use as the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar. This piece comes with a hand-signed Letter of Authenticity from mission astronaut Buzz Aldrin dated August 24, 1998 on his personal letterhead.

Current Bid: $16,000 USD.

Lot 50073 is another example of the same medal, darkly toned, serial number 419, from the collection of NASA Astronaut Richard Gordon.

Opening Bid: $15,000 USD.

Lot 50113 is a rarely offered Robbins Medallion struck to honor Apollo 12. This piece is marked as serial number 37 and is one of 82 pieces struck from a Spanish shipwreck ingot. The remainder of the 262 space-flown run were struck in Sterling. The piece comes from the personal collection of Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon.

Current Bid: $5,500 USD.

Apollo XIII Gold Medal

Lot 50122 is an exceedingly rare gold Robbins Medallion struck from metal flown aboard Apollo 13. A last-minute crew change and an explosion that crippled the command module aborted NASA’s plans for a lunar landing. What followed was an incredible feat of engineering and human bravery as NASA astronauts and engineers cobbled together a series of makeshift solutions in order to return the hobbled craft back to earth and land it safely off of the coast of American Samoa. Only six examples of this medallion were struck in gold, making it one of the rarest and most important pieces of NASA numismatic memorabilia ever produced.

From the collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, who famously stated “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Opening Bid: $20,000 USD.

Other Numismatic Lots

Other items of numismatic interest beyond the highlights mentioned above include:

  • Lot 50015 – Gemini 9 – Gemini 12 Flown Fliteline Medallions on Silver Bracelet Originally from the Personal Collection of Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, with Handwritten COA.
  • Lots 50119 and 50139 – NASA Silver Snoopy Awards with Signed Letters of Presentation.
  • Lot 50138 – Apollo 15 Flown 14K Gold Mission Insignia Medallion Presented by Dave Scott, with Original Certificate of Authenticity.
  • Lot 50150 – Apollo 17 Unflown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 099, Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Ron Evans.
  • Lot 50162 – NASA Exceptional Service Medal in Presentation Case.
  • Lot 50169 – Skylab II (SL-3) Unflown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 154, Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Commander Alan Bean.
  • Lot 50219 – Buzz Aldrin: Numismatic and Philatelic Framed Displays (Two) from His Personal Collection.
  • Lot 50324 – Gene Cernan Signed Limited Edition, #AP 094/200, “Golden Age of Space” Framed Display with Apollo 17 Medal containing Flown Metal, Directly from the Family Collection of Astronaut Alan Bean.
  • Lot 50449 – Apollo 11 Medals and Coins: Collection of Eleven in .999 Fine Silver.
  • Lot 50450 – Apollo 11 Medals: Collection of Ten in Sterling Silver.
  • Lot 50451 – Apollo 11 Medals: Collection of Five in .999 Fine Silver.
  • Lot 50452 – Apollo 11 Medals: Group of Five in Silver, All Depicting an Astronaut on the Moon.
  • Lot 50453 – Apollo 11 Medals: Group of Seven Featuring the Famous “Eagle Landing” Mission Insignia.
  • Lot 50454 – Apollo 11 Medals: Group of Seven High Quality 2″ (51 mm) Examples.
  • Lot 50455 – Apollo 11 Medals: Group of Five Depicting the American Flag on the Moon including a Manned Flight Awareness Medal with Flown Metal.
  • Lot 50456 – “America in Space” 1988 Limited Edition Silver and Bronze Proof Medals in Presentation Box, with Additional Non-Proof Example.
  • Lot 50487 – NASA Manned Flight Awareness Medals for Apollo 8 and Skylab, with Apollo 13 Launch Team Tie Clasp and Four Anniversary Items.
  • Lot 50499 – Apollo 11 Original NASA Limited Edition Medals (Two).
  • Lot 50522 – “The Apollos” Set of Thirteen Franklin Mint Silver Medals for Apollo Missions 1 through 12, Directly from the Family Collection of Richard Gordon.
  • Lot 50054 – I.S.S. Expeditions 1 through 45: Complete Collection of Unflown Silver Robbins Medals Directly from the Personal Collection of Astronaut Walt Cunningham, with Signed LOA.

Those interested in lot viewing can stop by Heritage Auction headquarters at 3500 Maple Ave on Thursday, May 10 for a full preview.

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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