The Story of... What Apollo 17's legacy means for collectors

One of the great things about collecting - particularly when investing in collectibles - are the chances to spot strong alternative assets that other buyers may have missed. This is especially true in space memorabilia...

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are, or course, household names and rightly so. Because Armstrong gave up signing autographs in the early-'90s - thus making them a) very rare and b) incredibly sought-after - he also happens to be the world's most valuable living signature.

But what about other astronauts who deserve to be household names, but aren't? For example, everybody's interested in the first man on the Moon. But how about the last? That honour goes to Eugene "Gene" Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17, man's final mission to the Moon in 1972.

Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan on the
Moon's surface

Commentators often like to make Apollo 17 synonymous with 'the end' of mankind's Moon missions; comparing it unfavourably to the 1960s exuberance which greeted Armstrong and Aldrin's first Moonwalk.

Dwindling funds and diminishing public enthusiasm may have meant that the final curtain was coming down mankind's missions to Moon in 1972. Yet, despite this, Apollo 17 offered a spectacular finale...

Apollo 17's landing site, Taurus-Littrow, was a beautiful and mountain-ringed valley on the edge of the Sea of Serenity. The locale promises a geologist's paradise - so it was just as well that Apollo 17 was the first Moon mission to have a proper geologist among its crew, Lunar Module pilot Jack Schmitt.

In fact, Apollo 17 is marked out by having perhaps the most broadly-capable crew of any of the Apollo missions. A little over three years since mankind had set his first steps on the Moon, NASA already had its share of experienced space veterans.

Commander Gene Cernan was a veteran of two prior missions, and this was also his second visit to the Moon. He'd flown on Gemini IX and also on Apollo 10. Consequently, Cernan was the only Apollo mission Commander to claim prior experience as a Lunar Module pilot - and few in the astronaut corps new the spacecraft as thoroughly as he.

Likewise Schmitt, who had been an active participant in the planning of the previous Apollo missions.

What's more, boasting a focus on scientific discovery which outstripped the other Apollo outings, Apollo 17 ended up breaking several records. These included the longest manned lunar landing flight, the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities, the largest lunar sample return and longest time in lunar orbit.

Apollo 17's discoveries also contributed to one of the most iconic photographs ever taken in human history: "The Blue Marble photo", one of the few images to show a fully illuminated Earth which was taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft at a distance of about 45,000 kilometres (28,000 miles).

Eugene Cernan's training-used A7L Lunar Boot, sold for $21,510

These are just some of the reasons as the why the memorabilia of Apollo 17, while being mankind's final Moon mission rather than the first, offers plenty of opportunities for collectors and alternative investors on the look-out for new opportunities.

For more evidence, you only need to look at the markets... For instance, at Heritage's recent blockbusting Space Exploration sale in Dallas, Texas, the sixth-highest selling lot was a training-used A7L Lunar Boot bearing Cernan's nametag­­.

Identical to the boots which made mankind's iconic footprints on the Moon's surface, its value was no-doubt boosted by Cernan's eminent status among astronauts and that fact it was making such an exceptionally rare appearance on the market.

In the end, Cernan's boot sold for $21,510, almost double its $8,000-12,000 estimated value - evidence that although Eugene Cernan isn't a household name like Neil Armstrong, there is still plenty of passion and profit to be found in Apollo 17 memorabilia.


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