WHAT: The recent $847,500 sale of a full-scale model of Russia’s Sputnik-1 satellite in a Bonhams New York auction shows how scattered space-race artifacts have become. The Air and space sale included Soviet and Russian uniforms, equipment and gear, plus early flight memorabilia from the U.S., including Apollo and Mercury gear, and more. The presale estimate for the model was $100,000 to $150,000.
An artificial (man-made) satellite, Sputnik was launched into Earth’s orbit by a Russian rocket on Oct. 4, 1957, and was visible around the globe. Anyone with a shortwave radio could pick up its signal.
MORE: The Sputnik-1 EMC/EMI lab model satellite weighing 42 pounds was made in Prague. The polished aluminum sphere with four external antennae is about 23 inches in diameter and has a brass stand with an anti-static O-ring. Together, the orb and stand weigh about 100 pounds. The satellite sold with a vintage Tesla broadcast receiver, seen in the photo.
SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: Without museums dedicated to amassing artifacts from early aviation and the early space race, memorabilia from those periods has been scattered worldwide.
Dissolution of the Soviet Union and politics within NASA — plus the theft and subsequent hoarding here of government property from those eras — have brought history to auction, where items are sold to the highest bidder.
HOT TIP: The unhappy fact of having so much history in private hands is that usually the public lacks access to it.
Without laws governing the selling and stewardship of such items, a “Wild West” market continues.
BOTTOM LINE: Entrepreneurial sorts hope that space memorabilia they buy today will build value into the future.
The truth is that, like all items bought for speculation, some will and some won’t.