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Auction will offer little bits of 'heaven'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 26. 2008 - I have to believe humans are the only animals that are truly sentimental. For instance, give someone a lump of coal, and they'll roll their eyes and sarcastically say, "thanks a bunch." But, tell them it was recovered from the Titanic, and they'll treasure it. The same is true with a rock. Who wants it? I have loads in my backyard. But, if notified the rock is from the moon, anyone would pay a fortune to own it.

The bottom line: Each has no value until its origin (read sentiment) is affixed. Then it's priceless.

A moon rock is a good example -- the government owns all those. But, for anyone 40 or over, space travel has always been magical. The intrigue of John Glenn's 1962 orbit of the Earth or the popularity of the movies "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" are continued proof of that.

In the big scheme of things, comparatively few people have been to space. From those trips, some artifacts have been brought back. Of those, only a handful have ever been available for the general public to own. A collectibles auction to be held on Oct. 10 may change that.

Regency Superior Auctions will offer more tha 900 lots of space-related memorabilia to the public -- many of which have flown in space, been to the moon or owned by those who traveled there.

Naturally, included in the auction are legions of letters, documents, books and envelopes signed by early and latter-day astronauts. Some early Mercury and Gemini materials are there. One is an actual piece of the "Liberty Bell 7" capsule flown by Alan Shepard -- the first American in space. Upon return his capsule sank in the ocean but was recovered in 1999 from more than three miles under water.

Due to their role in moon landings, the Apollo missions captivate space enthusiasts and collectors. Numerous items signed or belonging to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are up for sale, including an encased piece of the Command Module and a cloth patch flown to the lunar surface and signed by all three Apollo 11 astronauts (estimated value: $10,000 to $15,000.) Three "Lunar Operator Licenses" for the Apollo 15 astronauts (jokingly issued to allow them to drive lunar rovers on the moon) are also part of the sale.

Due to the movie "Apollo 13," a few items from that failed mission could spark special interest. Two of the auction lots include pieces of the Aquarius and Odyssey spacecrafts from the flight.

Since the beginning of Apollo, each mission has had a special medal minted and issued in its honor and given to select individuals. So, too, for Apollo 13. The medals for that mission were carried on the space flight but, because they did not land on the moon, the medals were melted down and reminted, making them unique to others. One of those medals in the sale is estimated to sell for up to $3,500.

Details of all the auction lots are included in the catalog, which is available online at www.RegencySuperior.com . Anyone wanting a hard copy can get one by calling 1-800-782-0066.

For everyone who's looked into the sky and wondered what it's like to be "up there," the items being offered might be a little slice of heaven. I suppose that's natural. After all, we're only human.


Peter Rexford has long been recognized as an expert on collecting. 

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