If you’re a serious fan of the United States space program and have your heart set on owning the 36-foot-long Apollo 11 flotation collar that was attached to the spacecraft’s command module by Navy swimmers helicoptered from the USS Hornet on July 24, 1969, a few days after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon, you're out of luck. That rubber, nylon webbing, and stainless steel piece of NASA history is part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. On the other hand, if you're yearning for a simpler NASA souvenir, such as a U.S. flag that has actually been to the lunar surface, you can pick one of those up for the relatively modest sum of $15,000, which is not bad when you consider how much it would cost you to safely transport a small bit of red, white, and blue silk to the moon and back again.

More accessible are NASA collectibles such as autographed photographs of astronauts, mission artifacts such as medals, patches, and pins, scale models of vehicle models, commemorative coins, postage stamps, and magazines with covers documenting NASA’s numerous achievements, as well as its handful of tragedies.

Patches are especially colorful and easy-to-collect keepsakes. The main NASA patch, known since its introduction in 1959 by employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as the “meatball,” is a circular patch with a white border, white letters, and two red lines that come together at an ascending point (that device is meant to represent flight). An elliptical white circle in the center of the patch is meant to suggest a spacecraft orbiting the Earth, while other white elements against a field of blue are supposed to be stars. The meatball patch was redesigned in 1992 as a blue-bordered “vector” patch, in which the red lines extend beyond the edges of the circle at the lower left and upper right.

Mission patches chronicle flights of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs, whose patches bear the initials STS for Space Transportation System. Although the first manned Mercury flight was Mercury 3 on May 5, 1961, with Alan Shepard, more than a dozen unmanned flights preceded it. One was even “piloted” by a chimpanzee named Ham, whose number “65” brass neck tag recently sold at auction for more than $12,000. As for the patch for Mercury 3, it was produced later (during the actual 15-minute, sub-orbital flight, Shepard wore only a meatball patch on his space suit).

One of the most storied Gemini patches was produced for Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad of Gemini 5, which orbited the Earth 120 times over the course of its eight-day flight. The slogan on the patch, stitched into the side of a Conestoga wagon, was “8 Days or Bust,” but NASA officials were concerned that if the crew did not stay up that long, the mission would be deemed a failure. So, the patches worn by Cooper and Conrad had small bits of white cloth stitched over the slogan.

Of course, not all NASA collectibles are produced for the use of astronauts. Anchor-Hocking made Fire King coffee mugs with the red NASA “worm” logo on them, while the U.S. Postal Service has printed space-related stamps for anyone to use. Still, some of those stamps were produced to benefit astronauts. The most famous of these are the Apollo 11 insurance covers, which were signed by all three astronauts and left with their families in the event that they did not return from their mission (normal insurance companies would not give the men policies). Look for Apollo 11 insurance covers dated July 16, 1969 (the launch date), or July 20, 1969 (the day they landed on the moon).


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum holds some 50,000 artifacts, a significant subset of which can be viewed on this … [read review or visit site]

CollectSPACE

CollectSPACE

If space turns out to be the final collecting frontier, Robert Pearlman's site will be a good roadmap. Browse his c… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1975 Omega Speedmaster Mechanical Moon Nasa 861 Movement Original UnrestoredVintage Rare Cape Canaveral License Plate Topper! Florida Rocket Launch Nasa Apollo Moon Landing Lunar Module Contractors Model Grumman Nasa Desk Top Space Apollo 13 Flown Robbins Medal #256 Jack Swigert Owned Nasa Medallion Vtg 1968 Tin Marx Colonel Hap Hazard Nasa Astronaut Battery Operated Robot ManGemini Titan Ii Rocket Space Contractor Model Martin NasaRevell Lot Of 3 , Nasa B-52 With X-15, Mac C-135b And X-1521104 Lego Cuusoo/ideas Nasa Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover - NewNasa Gemini Iv 4 Flown American Usa Flag James Mcdivitt Personal CollectionVintage 1969 Peanuts Snoopy Astronaut Nasa Doll Toy Made In Hong KongRare Nasa Hubble Space Telescope Hardware Packaging Flown In Orbit + MemorabiliaOriginal Nasa Ksc Apollo 11 Launch InvitationMonogram 5089 1/72 Nasa Space Shuttle W/fuel Tank & Boosters Factory SealedLego Ideas Nasa Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Set #21104 John Young Hand Signed Autographed Red Nasa Photo -gemini Silver Space Suit Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Men From Earth Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton Nasa 1stVintage Nos 1980 Centuri Nasa Space Shuttle Columbia Model Rocket Starter EstesSts 107, Nasa Litho Orig.signed Willie Mccool, SpaceNasa Saturn V Poster Signed 14 Apollo Astronauts 7 Moonwalkers Buzz Aldrin LookHarrison Schmitt - Apollo 17 - Handsigned Nasa 8x10 Wss PortraitNasa Clipper Duet12 Full Reels & The Metal Box 1960-1965 Texas 8mm Film Group Lot-astrodome-nasaRevell Lot Of 2, 1/144, Nasa 747 With Space Shuttle And Airbus Super GuppyBuzz Aldrin Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Signed Nasa Glossy Photo 1:200 Nasa Aero Spacelines Super Guppy Diecast Model By HerpaNaca (precursor Of Nasa) Employee Photo Id Badge - Super RareApollo 11 .999 Silver Medallion Medallic Art Co. Ny Neil Armstrong Nasa Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Signed Men From Earth Apollo 11 Flat Press Easton Nasa 1stSts 103 Hubble Space Telescope 3rd Servicing Mission Patch Nasa Space ShuttleApollo 17 Crew Auth Hand Signed Nasa Pre Flight Summary - Cernan, Schmidt, EvansSts 41d Nasa Litho 20x25cm Orig.signed Crew Incl.resnik, SpaceSts 7 Nasa Litho 20x25cm Orig.signed Crew Incl.ride, SpaceNasa Employee 20 Yr Service Straight Pin 10k Gold Ruby Original Box Vintage51l Shutte Nasa Litho Orig.signed Judy Resnik, SpaceSts 125 Cosmic Origins Spectrogram Payload Patch Nasa Space Shuttle HubbleWhen We Left Earth - The Nasa Missions (blu-ray Disc, 2008, 4-disc Set)Apollo Nasa Block 1 Dsky Decoder Module Extremely Rare Hardware Unique Letter Signed By John W. Young Nasa Austronaut Rare Vintage Original Nasa/hasselblad Apollo 12 Iconic Visor Photo-alan BeanSkylab Space Flown Authentic Recovered Oxygen Tank Fragment, Nasa Apollo RareFrank Borman Apollo 8 Nasa Launch Litho Hand Signed With Mission InscriptionNasa John Glenn Signed Mercury 7 8x10 Photograph Psa/dna U27696Marvin Wernick Nasa Apollo Anstronauts Man On The Moon Bronze Lucite Statue 19Vintage Lot Of Estes Flying Model Rockets Rocket Parts Nasa Alpha Iii Extraordinary Lots Us Nasa Space Achievement History Valued Covers Fdc 1962-1986Signed By Wally Schirra,wildcats To Tomcats, Nasa, Astronaut,mercuryMatchbox Superfast Mb54 Nasa Tracking Vehicle With Grey BaseLost Moon Perilous Voyage Of Apollo 13 Signed Jim Lovell Astronaut Nasa SpaceExtraordinary Lots Us Nasa Space Achievement History Valued Covers Fdc 1967-1990Nasa Space Shuttle And Mission Patches - And More,lot Of 25Silver Senior Astronaut Usaf Wings Vietnam War Era Nasa Badge Pin Np10Vintage Revell Nasa Gemini Space Capsule Model Kit Assembled 1/24 #h-1835:3001964 Nike-cajan 10" Rocket Motor Fin Churchill Research Station Space Nasa Vintage Hewlitt Packard Distortion Analyzer Model 330b Lab Nasa Test EquipSts 66 Astro 2 Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope Payload Patch Nasa Space Shuttle Amt 700-06 1/200 Saturn V Rocket & Apollo Spacecraft Plus 4 More Nasa Rockets Large 1969 Ny Mets & Nasa Scrap Book Mets World Series Articles & PhotosVintage Rare Official Nasa Vector 8 Inch Cloth-back Patch In Excellent ConditionSpace Orion Eft-1 Nasa Full Size Patches Lot Of 2 PatchesSts 45, Nasa Litho Orig.signed Crew, Space