Video of the Week: The Soviet space memorabilia of a proud collector

This week's video presents an avid collector's Soviet space memorabilia collection. Whilst the Russians were beaten to the moon, they made the running in the early stages of the space race, which functioned as a propaganda battle to show one side was superior to the other.

A fine Soviet space collection with stirring music
(which can be muted)

Arguably, the most famous space traveller after the first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong was Yuri Gagarin, the first man to escape the Earth's atmosphere into space (ahead of Alan Shepard) in the first place.

Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity immediately. He remarked on how touched he was to receive an enthusiastic reception in Britain despite the great tensions between the countries at the time. (A statue was dedicated to Gagarin in London last year.)

Autographs from Gagarin, the first cosmonaut to go into space twice Vladimir Komarov and to a lesser extent the first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova are all valuable.

Of course it isn't just autographs that are valued. There are a number of Russian spacesuits on the markets which are always fascinating - even those which never saw active service.

Collectibles from Gagarin's flight are naturally highly coveted too. For example, a tube of coffee which Gagarin 'drank' in space (in order to check whether eating in space was possible, despite a lack of gravity) sold at Christie's for $12,925.

Coffee milk Gagarin tube
The tube of 'coffee with milk' which Gagarin consumed

Even more remarkably, the auctioneer sold Gagarin's original typescript account of the event. "On the twelfth of April, 1961, a Soviet spacecraft called 'Vostok' was put into orbit around the Earth; and I was aboard."

Towards the end he adds notes of his unique personal experiences, "The Earth has a very characteristic, very beautiful blue halo,... a smooth color transition from tender blue, to blue, to dark blue and purple, and then to the completely black color of the sky."

The historic document sold for $171,000. But the most valuable piece of Soviet memorabilia of all - indeed the most valuable space collectile of any kind, sold earlier this year at Sotheby's.

That was the Vostok 3KA-2 capsule which launched in 1961 to test the feasibility of Gagarin's planned flight. As it had paved the way for history, the capsule sold for $2.9m to Russian investor Evgeny Yurchenko.


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