On the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the bag used by Neil Armstrong to bring back to Earth the very first samples of lunar material sold to applause for $1,812,500 at Sotheby’s. The historic price was the culmination of a week-long exhibition that captured the attention of thousands; the bag, prior to its public debut on the 13th, had been misidentified and lost for decades before being acquired by the consignor from a US Marshall Service auction for $995. Overall, Sotheby’s first Space Exploration sale totaled $3.8 million with 87.3% of lots sold, including 64% above their high estimates.
Cassandra Hatton, Vice President & Senior Specialist of Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts Department in New York commented: “We are thrilled that the tremendous excitement around Sotheby’s first space-themed sale in nearly twenty years translated into a great result. Reflecting the enduring and universal fascination with space, the $1.8 million achieved for the Apollo 11 lunar sample bag and strong prices for objects related to other missions were driven by over 500 participants from dozens of countries with many buyers new to Sotheby’s.” In addition to the
Apollo 11 lunar bag, early space photography by noteworthy astronomers and NASA innovations obtained substantial prices while Chesley Bonestell’s artistic interpretations of space flew high above expectations; in particular, “Stone Architecture on Mars, Demonstrating Mars’ two-thirds less gravity than Earth’s” sold for $125,000, over twelve times its high estimate. Materials from the Soviet space missions drew bids online and on the telephone while a Snoopy Astronaut Doll, Mascot of the Apollo 10 LM Crew, leapt above its estimate of $2/3,000 to achieve $27,500. One of the final lots of the sale also found significant interest in the auction room this afternoon. The Flown Apollo 13 Flight Plan, with handwritten notations by all three crew members following the onboard explosion, launched far above its pre-sale estimate of $30/40,000. Chased by nine collectors, this eye-witness account of courage and tenacity sold to an online bidder for $275,000.