Want six pure gold plates that flew in space aboard an unnamed
mission? You have only a few days to get your bids in at the General Services Administration, where the
federal agency that handles sales of public property is auctioning the
In a sale closing Jan. 22, GSA is offering what it dryly describes
as "One lot consisting six 24KT gold plates weighing 6,015.5
grams. These plates were reportedly flown in space for 69 months."
The GSA lot description does not identify which space mission the
gold flew aboard, but space enthusiasts have probably identified the
mission. An article at the website CollectSpace theorizes:
"The '69 months' ... may be a clue as to the plates' spaceflight
history. That specific length of time matches exactly how long the
Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) orbited the Earth. The
school-bus-sized cylindrical satellite circled the planet from 1984 to
1990, collecting data on the long-term effects of space exposure on different
types of materials."
Space-flown items enjoy immense popularity in the collecting
community, whether an object be a piece of a lunar astronaut's space
suit coated in moon dust or a Robbins medallion carried in the
personal baggage of Buzz Aldrin. Numerous space-flown numismatic items
have been auctioned over the years, from the first Mercury missions of
the early 1960s to the Apollo missions a few years later to the
missions of the space shuttle era of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Most sales of these numismatically themed objects, however, have
been conducted by private firms, like Heritage Auctions' upcoming May 22, 2015, sale. GSA sells a lot of
government property, from buildings to equipment, but it may not
necessarily be known for selling numismatic or bullion objects that
have flown in space.
Coin collectors, however, may recognize the GSA from its 1970s sales
of Carson City Mint silver dollars. These silver dollars, the last
remnants of the Treasury Department's once vast holdings of the coins,
had been held back from public distribution at face value because
Treasury officials recognized that silver dollars from the Carson City
Mint had special value, as noted in this Coin World article about one of the
coins still housed in its original GSA holder.
As for the gold plates the GSA is auctioning on behalf of NASA, bids
must be entered by 5:15 p.m. Central Time on Jan. 22. Better be ready
to pony up a six-figure payment for the gold bars, too. The current
bid is $151,101.