An unsung legend from the Apollo space program's heyday died on December 30. Artist Paul Calle (1928-2010) was one of the first artists - who eventually numbered eight - chosen by NASA in 1962 to portray its manned space flights.
Calle's role placed him in some historically important situations, including being the only artist with the Apollo 11 astronauts on the morning of their landmark launch.
Although his name may be unknown to non space buffs, Calle's artwork's iconic status in popular culture is assured - not least thanks to the Postal Service's "First Man on the Moon" 1969 10¢ stamp.
Calle's stamp design depicts Neil Armstrong stepping from the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle onto the Moon's surface in July 21, 1969. In line with US Postal Service criteria ruling that postage stamps can't honour living people, Armstrong isn't honoured specifically but rather "by portrayal".
Unsurprisingly, Paul Calle's 1969 10¢ stamp - which also happened to be the first jumbo-sized US commemorative stamp - has made a few notable appearances on auction blocks over the years.
In April 2010, Heritage Auction Galleries' blockbuster Space Exploration sale offered a lower right plate block of Calle's 10¢ US airmail stamps. What's more, the block of four was signed by Armstrong himself and sold for a bargain final value of $1,314.50 including buyer's premium.
The lot was billed as a "very desirable crossover collectible appealing to space and autograph collectors as well as philatelists" and in excellent condition. Considering that Neil Armstrong is the world's most valuable living signature, these stamps will no doubt appreciate as alternative assets in future years.
Earlier, in 2009, Calle's son published a book, "Celebrating Apollo 11: The Artwork of Paul Calle," featuring more than 40 of the sketches that his father made of the Apollo 11 crew.
Among Calle's numerous published sketches of the heroes of Apollo 11 was this signed limited edition profile sketch of Neil Armstrong which later went under the hammer. Numbered 82/1,000 and autographed by Armstrong himself, the 18" x 23.5" sold for $3,883.75, also at Heritage.
While Calle's stamp depicts Armstrong at the apex of his journey on the Moon, the black and white lithographed sketch shows the astronaut back on Earth, suited up on July 16, 1969, and ready for his rendezvous with history.
Given the past form of Paul Calle's artworks on the auction blocks, it's more than likely that collectors will continue to contribute to his legacy - and the appreciate value of his artworks - in years to come.
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