50 years after the first trip to the stars, Bonhams offers unique pieces of space history

This May, Bonhams will be holding a very special sale to celebrate one of the most important anniversaries in the history of space travel - the first journey of a human being beyond the Earth and towards the stars.

On April 12 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go into space, setting a landmark in the progress of mankind.  50 years on, Bonhams will be commemorating this momentous achievement with its 3rd 'Space History' auction - which is certain to be popular.

In July 2009, the auction house held the first of these events, at that time marking another benchmark: the 40th anniversary of the first men on the moon. 

The sale was a roaring success; highlights included an Apollo 11 lunar module flown star chart, which realised $218,000, and an Apollo 15 lunar module hand controller - actually used to steer the module - which sold for $206,000.


Neil Armstrong autograph
The 'rarest living signature' of Neil Armstrong

Bonhams followed this with its second auction in April 2010, with more fantastic results.  One of the more notable items of space memorabilia was included in this sale; an Apollo 11 flight plan inscribed by 'first man on the moon' Neil Armstrong.

The inscription is one of the most famous quotes of all time - "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind".  This utterly unique and iconic piece realised $152,000.  Also featured in the 2010 sale was a space-flown emblem belonging to the third member of the Apollo 11 mission, General Michael Collins.  It sold for $85,400.

The incredible popularity of these sales is likely to be repeated in May; and the signs are already pointing to a general boom in the space memorabilia market over the next two months, which is good news for collectors and investors with an interest in such things.

As we reported last month, the test capsule sent into space three weeks before Gagarin's mission will be auctioned at Sotheby's in April - with an estimate of £2m-10m.  This colossal amount is entirely justified for an item which helped man's first adventure into the cosmos.

Collectors might also be intrigued by this recently acquired Neil Armstrong signature - one of the rarest living autographs in the world.  After Armstrong gave up signing in the early 1990s, the value of his autograph grew by 900% over ten years.  This makes it one of the best alternative investments around.

Bonhams have not released the catalogue for 2011's auction yet, but as soon as they do, you can read about the wonderful items they will undoubtedly offer, courtesy of Paul Fraser Collectibles.


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