For All Humankind

One of the hot topics in the world of space collectors right now is one relating to the sample return bag used on Apollo 11 for collecting the lunar rocks, which for over 46 years have provided scientists with some of the most remarkable examples of material in any lab, anywhere.

The Apollo 11 lunar sample return bag: Image by Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers
The Apollo 11 lunar sample return bag: Image by Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers

Many of you will know that it is a criminal offence to own any Apollo moon rocks (bar a few exceptions, where dust collected from cameras and a few other items, on various pieces of tape, have been legitimately sold). With estimates for just a few grams of lunar material ranging in the tens of millions of dollars, and many of the “donated” moon rocks (known as goodwill rocks) given to various governments around the world also declared “missing”, it’s no wonder that controversy still shrouds some items.

We at the Space Collective are thorough with our research in to all of our items, checking their provenance and legitimacy both for our own personal collection items and also for anything we pass on to others. So it was interesting to read the story behind the Apollo 11 bag, and how it’s now ending up in a bitter legal court case, with the owner, who paid the staggeringly low sum of $995 for an item that would be worth closer to $100,000 at least, fighting the U.S Federal authorities.

One of the key points raised is that the bag itself is stained with lunar dust, which came from the rocks that Buzz and Neil picked up in their short time on the lunar surface. We know of several collectors who have similar ”dusty” items in their personal collections, these ranging from over-gloves to checklists, all used on the lunar surface, so it is still possible to own pieces of this nature.

We ourselves are working with museums and projects to display and support the legacy of Apollo, so it somewhat saddens us to see items which should be seen for the benefit of all humankind, maybe in a museum or at events, being pulled from pillar to post in legal battles. But with that said, we understand that not everything can be on display in a museum, and many objects of historical significance sit in storage, gathering dust. There are two sides to every coin, and this is no exception. With that being said, a mistake was clearly made in selling this item, least of all at the price it actually sold for. Anyone who knows anything about lunar surface flown items will know they command the highest prices at auctions, and rightly so.

If you do ever purchase pieces of memorabilia from this remarkable time in our history, either from us or from any other reputable source (making sure you get all the correct certification), we only ask you do a  few small things… Treasure it…. Hold it and remind yourself every day what went in to those missions which made it possible.

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