Some people go to great lengths to build a collection, but
sometimes a collection features items that have traveled great lengths.
Twelve different silver medals from the collection of Apollo
astronaut David R. Scott are being offered in RR Auction’s online
space and aviation auction. Online bidding opens Nov. 15 and ends Nov. 29.
Most of the medals in the auction have made the nearly
half-million-mile round trip from the Earth to the Moon and back. The
medals are the numismatic highlights of the auction, and include an
very rare Apollo 17 medal, an Apollo 11 medal and a medal marking the
Apollo 15 mission commanded by Scott.
Scott had three flights into space, the last of which was the
Apollo 15 mission, which provided the first extended scientific
exploration of the moon.
The medals in the sale are from a series known to collectors as
Beginning with the first manned Apollo flight, Apollo 7, mission
crew members contracted with the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass., to
create a series of gold and silver medals. The Robbins medals were
ordered and paid for by NASA crew and staff, who were allowed to buy
medals for any mission, regardless of their participation in the
mission. A small number of each Robbins medal was placed aboard the
Apollo spacecraft during a mission; the number flown aboard the
spacecraft for any mission was limited.
Apollo missions carried between three and seven 14-karat gold
medals per flight, and anywhere from 80 to 450 silver medals were
“space flown” per mission, according to Howard Weinberger, author of
two books on the Robbins medallions.
The silver medals remained in astronauts’ personal preference kits
in the command module during the flights. However, on the lunar
landing missions, the gold medals were taken to the lunar surface,
according to Weinberger.
Still, with a celestial history, the silver medals are very
popular, with those from the famed Apollo 11 mission and the final
Apollo mission, when fewer medals were flown than on earlier missions,
among the most desirable.
If collectors were to follow a few general succinct “rules” for
collecting the Robbins medals, they would be — (1) a medal that has
been flown into space is better than an unflown medal, (2) those from
the collections of astronauts are worth more than those owned by other
NASA staff, and (3) those medals that are from the crew members who
flew aboard the specific mission commemorated on the medal usually are
the most desirable.
Apollo 17 medal
Bobby Livingston, vice president of RR Auctions, expects the
collection’s Apollo 17 silver medal to realize between $30,000 and
$35,000 in the firm’s fourth space and aviation auction.
Scott’s Apollo 17 medal is serial numbered “F15,” the number being
a reference to the Apollo 15 mission, which Scott commanded. Beginning
with the Apollo 17 medals, an F was added to the serial number to
distinguish the flown medals from those that were not flown. Perhaps
as few as 80 silver medals were flown on the Apollo 17 mission, from
the 300 total mintage, according to the auction firm.
The medal for the flight features a raised design of the Apollo 17
mission insignia on the obverse. The reverse features the minted
inscription AMERICA-CHALLENGER APOLLO XVII, with separate dates
representing the launch date, moon landing date and return date
hand-engraved into spaces reserved for the information.
Scott’s Apollo 17 medal is graded Mint State 67 by Numismatic
Apollo 15 medal
The obverse of the medal for the Apollo 15 flight shows the
mission insignia while the reverse features inscriptions, including
MAN’S FLIGHT THROUGH LIFE IS SUSTAINED BY THE POWER OF HIS KNOWLEDGE,
along with hand-engraving of the launch, moon landing and return dates.
Because of a designer error on the reverse, two different medals
were produced for this mission, and Scott’s collection contained one
of each. The name of the landing spot, the Apennines Mountains, was
misspelled as Appeninnes on the reverse of the original medals, in the
fields adjacent to the space for the landing date. Medals with the
correct spelling were produced, but only after completion of the mission.
Because of the misspelling and spacecraft weight concerns, the
number of flown silver medals on the mission was limited to 127
pieces, with 177 pieces held back.
Post-mission production of corrected medals allowed the minter to
do something special in their production. During the mission, Scott
carried aboard in his personal preference kit a silver ingot from the
1715 Spanish Plate Fleet. Upon the crew’s return, the Robbins company
melted the 177 unflown medals, added the silver from the ingot and
struck 177 new medals from new planchets. These new medals thus have
the corrected spelling and incorporate the flown Spanish silver (which
had a higher fineness than the .925 fine silver in the other medals).
Scott’s flown medal in the auction, serial numbered 25, is graded
MS-67 by NGC and has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
Apollo 11 mission medal
Perhaps the most famous mission was the Apollo 11 mission, which
landed a human on the Moon for the first time.
The mission insignia graces the obverse of the Apollo 11 medal.
The surnames of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael
Collins, along with the hand-engraved launch, landing and return
dates, appear on the reverse.
Scott’s medal, serial numbered 231, is in Mint State condition and
is housed in its original numbered case. It has an estimate of $25,000
View the auction at www.rrauction.com/. ■