Space-flown silver medals soar at Heritage auction in Dallas

May 20 space exploration sale highlights growing interest in category
By , Coin World
Published : 06/03/16
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Multiple space-flown medals brought big prices in Heritage Auctions' Space Exploration Signature Auction, May 20, in Dallas. 

The sale was the latest in a rapidly expanding auction category that is growing in popularity with collectors as more material becomes available on the market from the estates and collections of astronauts. As of May 23, the sale totaled nearly $800,000. 

Among the numismatic lots — and the fifth most expensive lot overall in the sale — was an Apollo 11 flown silver Robbins medallion, serial number 218, originally from the collection of Mission Support Crew Member Jack Swigert that sold for $30,000. 

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Robbins medallions were minted by the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass. These .925 fine silver medals have been produced for every manned U.S. mission since Apollo 7. The medals were paid for by the crews and available for purchase only by NASA astronauts at the time. 

Medals that were actually flown on missions are especially coveted. 

The small .925 fine silver medal measuring 28 millimeters in diameter was one of 450 flown aboard Apollo 11, July 16 to 24, 1969, which is notable as the first manned moon landing. Swigert supported crew members Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. On that mission Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon and Aldrin followed.

The design — familiar to collectors as interpreted on the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar — is explained in the catalog as follows, “The obverse depicts Collins’ early and original concept for the mission insignia with the eagle carrying an olive branch in its mouth. NASA thought the sharp, open talons of the eagle looked too ‘warlike’ and the olive branch, representing peace, was moved to the claws. This is one of, if not the only, major official item that renders the insignia as it was meant to be by the astronaut designer.”

The reverse includes the dates of the mission, surnames of the crew and a serial number. Provenance is key with valuing these medals and this one included a letter of authenticity signed by Virginia Swigert, Jack Swigert’s sister, stating, “this Apollo 11 Robbins medal flown — serial number 218 — was personally owned by Jack Swigert.” 

Buzz Aldrin medals

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