How to collect space memorabilia

Apollo 11 medals, space-flown suits, Moon dust coated artefacts. If the thought of owning any of these makes you weak at the knees, you'll make the perfect space memorabilia collector.

Since the Space Race kicked off in 1955, the world has been enthralled with collectibles from our exploration beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

Celebrating the history of man's endeavours among the stars, more collectors, enthusiasts and now, investors, are joining the market. Here's everything you need to know on collecting space memorabilia.

  The Vostok capsule sold for $2.9m


The Apollo Moon landing in 1969 was a global event, and anyone who was watching at the time will tell you of the public hysteria at three men's brave journey to our only natural satellite.

As kids and adults alike became obsessed with spaceflight, toys, commemorative items and memorabilia were produced in their millions. Yet, despite this attention, the market for quality pieces in those early days was small.

"There weren't conferences. There weren't conventions," said Robert Pearlman, the American founder of the number one destination for the space collecting community CollectSPACE to technology website Tested. "[Collecting] really was in small pockets around the country."

Jim Lovell Astronaut training boot space memorabilia
Astronaut Jim Lovell's training boot

However, the advent of the internet was to change the face of space memorabilia collecting forever, with collectors connecting for the very first time. The readership of CollectSPACE reportedly rose to over 250,000 almost overnight.

The hobby has thrived during the new millennium, though some collectors believe that when NASA's Space Shuttle programme was cancelled, some of the gusto behind the market disappeared.

However, the recent developments in space programmes from other nations, such as China and India, as well as the rise of private space companies, has reignited the market, which is now truly global.

The total value of the space memorabilia market is around $3.2m, according to the Financial Times.

What to buy

The best advice for any collector is to discover what fascinates you. Go to shows, attend auctions and visit dealers simply to look at the range of collectibles available to you before deciding what area to collect.

Like the universe, the space memorabilia market seems infinite. Millions of potential stars will jostle for a prime position in your collecting galaxy when starting out, so the key is to specialise. You may end up "specialising" in more than one area, but this method will make sure you don't get lost in space memorabilia.

Your choices include astronaut patches, autographs, space-flown items, models and toys, medallions and coins, and artwork, but don't just limit yourself to these - grab anything that takes your interest and chances are, others will be interested by it too.

With new wealth in the country, Russian space memorabilia is on the rise

The most valuable items of space memorabilia are generally those from the NASA, particularly the Apollo space programme, and for those looking to make a profit, these collectibles are likely to continue to rise in value.

However, this market is far from undervalued and requires a substantial outlay to secure anything of significance. A top-grade photo signed by all members of Apollo 11, for example, is worth around £11,000 ($18,000)

For those looking to collect long-term, the space programmes of other nations, especially China, could be a solid option. The media is full of articles praising the now-defunct Jade Rabbit - the first great leap in China's space exploration career.

Another emerging market is meteorites, though this stands apart from the field of space memorabilia collecting and requires specialist geological knowledge. 

Five space collecting facts

1. Coca-Cola spent millions developing cans that could be used in space, only to discover the cans rendered the liquid unpalatable. Nonetheless, memorabilia from this failed endeavour is both rare and desirable.

2. The personal belongings an astronaut is allowed to take into space are placed in what is known as a "Personal Preference Kit". These are very popular at auction.

3. The US recently passed a bill allowing NASA astronauts to sell the memorabilia they brought back from their missions. This has brought some fantastic consignments to the market and reignited the interest of the top collectors.

4. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is the largest of the organisation's 19 museums, with over 60,000 objects in the collection.

5. One of the original Sputnik satellites was bought for just $15,000 after the Soviet Union collapsed, and passed through US customs disguised as two salad bowls.  

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