Apollo 12's pilot, Alan Bean, stands on the moon during the second lunar landing in November 1969. A Hasselblad camera is fixed to his chest, and mission commander Pete Conrad is clearly reflected in the visor of his helmet , while Bean lifts a shiny cylinder full of dusty moon.
Space-philes can download a high resolution version of this iconic black and white photograph for free from the NASA website at any time. But if you're looking for something a little more luxurious and you have $ 3,000 to spend, you can buy a much rarer vintage silver gelatin print from Sotheby’s. The image, developed in NASA photo labs immediately after the mission and autographed by Bean himself, is one of the more than 200 prints sold by the auction house in its first sale of space photos, which takes place today.
"I love things, people love things," says Cassandra Hatton, who started the space exploration auctions at Sotheby's three years ago. "Give people what they want, you know?"
The space souvenir market is growing. Five years ago, Hatton handled a Bonham sale that generated $ 1 million for just under 300 lots; his most recent in July at Sotheby’s, with 218 lots, earned $ 5.5 million. The 275-year-old auction house began trading in space in 1993, when it sold three moonstones weighing .0007 ounces, almost as much as a raindrop, for $ 442,500. Hatton sold them last year for almost double. He has also negotiated the sale of $ 1.8 million of the cloth bag that Neil Armstrong used to bring back the first lunar samples and various space suits. "I usually put them and the models for our catalog," she says. "I can not resist".
The 50th anniversary of the moon landing has fed even more attention in space, particularly in the photos. In July, Hatton sold a vintage print of Buzz Aldrin coming down the lunar module ladder during the Apollo 11 mission for $ 40,000, his biggest sale of images so far. People bid from everywhere [Middle East, Central America, Asia], although buyers from the United States, the United Kingdom and France dominate. While some have a niche, such as lunar photography of the nineteenth century, others are less demanding. "I have a particular client who is just an obsessive collector of space photography and this is all they do," says Hatton. "They are simply shopping constantly."
NASA's offers in the current sale include official photographs numbered in red or black ink, most of them taken with Hasselblads by the astronauts themselves and printed directly after the mission on 8×10 glossy Kodak paper for distribution among the press. As they were handled frequently, popular images were sought, such as Earth exit of Apollo 8, the first American spacewalk, or Buzz Aldrin's space selfie, which does not scratch or tear, is not easy.
It is a similar story for the Lunar Orbiter prints for sale. They were fired by drones between 1966 and & # 39; 75 with the purpose of locating possible landing sites. Most represent land, craters and other land. The most exciting shots outside the mission, such as the first view of the Earth from the moon, are not as common. "Usually, they would be printed at the request of a higher ranking person in the army or NASA," says Hatton. "They were not printed in large batches."
The most pristine impressions tend to reach Sotheby's former government workers in the army and at NASA who received them through their jobs, says Hatton. Years ago, someone found a pile in a dumpster outside the Edwards Base of the Air Force in California: "One man's trash is another man's type of treasure deal." Most of the current sale comes from private collector Phillip Kulpa. There are also some intimate snapshots and candidates from the estate of NASA's first senior photographer, Bill Taub, who documented the missions of the Mercury and Apollo Project and hung his favorite snapshots on the walls of his home.
Oh too: UFO photos. The auction includes several taken in 1976 by "Billy" Eduard Albert Meier, a Swiss ufologist who claimed that aliens began communicating with him at age 5 in 1942. Most famously, an image appeared prominently on a poster in the office of the David Duchovny character in The x files. "Many of my clients who are interested in space exploration are also interested in the concept of extraterrestrial life and UFOs," says Hatton. "It's not far from the base." Or, perhaps, one person's space shuttle is another person's spaceship.
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