Today in New York, at the Sotheby’s “Space Exploration” auction of outer space exploration memorabilia, there was a remarkable result for a very unremarkable looking object. The “Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag” is exactly what the name says: a bag used to hold samples of minerals from the lunar surface, and which was intended to protect them from any sort of contamination biological or chemical before the bag could be opened under controlled conditions for analysis at NASA’s labs. The bag was used during Apollo 11’s surface mission, by Neil Armstrong, to bring back some of the first lunar mineral samples.
As it turns out, the bag has a rather exciting past (for a bag anyway). US News And World Report says it was stolen from NASA at some point, after the return of Apollo 11, but in 2003, investigators, ” … searching the garage of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artifacts, including some that were on loan from NASA,” discovered the bag among other items. However it was later sold by mistake, at a government online auction, to a Nancy Carlson, of Inverness, Illinois who, “got an ordinary-looking bag made of white Beta cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and a brass zipper.”
The cost to here was $995, and the bag sold for $ 1,812,500, including buyer’s premium. Now, for anyone interested in aerospace memorabilia and astronautic memorabilia this isn’t an unexpected result; these are historically important one of a kind artifacts. As we reported in October 2015, a Bulova chronograph worn by astronaut Dave Scott hammered for $1.3 million. It’s not a result you’ll see duplicated any time soon though as we noted in that story, Speedmasters issued by NASA were and remain government property so the chances of finding another Apollo surface mission watch are basically slim to none. And it’s certainly evidence, if any were needed, of the power of collectible exploration memorabilia in general, and Apollo mission related memorabilia in particular.
Check out the listing from Sotheby’s right here.