For collectors of medals marking the Space Age, some of the most desirable are space-flown pieces — medals that were taken aboard manned missions to Earth orbit and to the moon.
When the medals are from the personal collection of one of America’s legendary astronauts, they can take on even greater significance.
Heritage’s Nov. 12 Space Exploration auction in Dallas contains a number of such pieces from the collection of the second man to walk on the surface of the moon. The medals were once part of the personal collection of Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot for the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
The .925 fine silver medals were manufactured by Robbins Co., a company that has had a long relationship with astronauts, beginning with the lunar era of the American manned space program.
It became commonplace for America’s early astronauts to carry souvenirs with them into space, and oftentimes, they took with them coins, paper money and other numismatic items. Throughout the Mercury program and early days of the Gemini program, flight souvenirs were permitted by NASA officials (if unofficially) since most of them were distributed to family, friends and crew after the completion of the flights. However, in 1966 the highly publicized sale, at what was then a very high price, of a large cent carried aboard Gemini VII eventually resulted in stricter control over what could be taken into space, and what could be done with the souvenirs afterward.
Among the officially sanctioned medals that were produced after restrictions were imposed are those manufactured by Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass.
These debuted during the Apollo program. As detailed in Coin World in its May 6, 2013, issue, beginning with the first manned Apollo flight, Apollo 7, mission crew members contracted with the Robbins Co. 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 number of each Robbins medal was placed aboard the Apollo spacecraft during a mission.
Space-flown Robbins medals are now immensely popular with collectors of space memorabilia. Prices in the tens of thousands of dollars are not unusual.
For example, in the Nov. 12 Heritage auction, the opening bid for the Robbins medal originally in the Aldrin Collection was $20,000. The medal is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000.
The medal, bearing serial number 51, was one of 450 carried aboard the Apollo 11 flight.