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    

Old Nomura Japan Tin Litho Wind Up Walking Nasa Astronaut Space Man Robot CleanRare Original Vtg Nasa Apollo Saturn V Flight Manual Sa 503, Dave Aldrich IssueForstner 19mm Steel Mesh Band & Velcro Strap For Omega Nasa Speedmaster 321, 861Nasa Ksc Space Shuttle Columbia Ov-102 Orbiter External Reference Test Tile Dragon Wings Nasa Boeing B 747-100 Space Shuttle Orbiter 1:400 Neil Armstrong Nasa 1st Man On Moon Authentic Autograph Signed Bio W/ Orig PhotoVintage Boeing/grumman Rs-1c Space Shuttle Concept Contractor's Model Nasa Buzz Aldrin Nasa Apollo 11 Signed "mission To Mars" Book Psa/dna #z22387Nasa ~ Space Shuttle Tile ~ With / Paperwork Documents! Gene Kranz Sy Liebergot Dual Authentic Hand Signed 8x10 Photo Apollo 13 Nasa Nystamps E Us Stamp Nasa Space First Manned Flight Autograph Cover Paid $1500Sts-89, Flown Space Shuttle Main Engine Gimbal Bolt, Nasa, Documentation, RareVintage 1960's Japanese Tin Battery Operated Toy Nasa Space Capsule AstronautRare Original Apollo 11 Flight PlanAutographed 3x5 Card Of Nasa Astronaut Edward H. White IiSenator John Glenn Autographed 8x10 Photo Nasa Usmc Authentic MarinesApollo 5 Lm-1 Mission PatchRare Snoopy Astronaut Battery Operated Space Astro Dog Yone Japan Nasa 1950s8x10 Laurel Clark Nasa Astronaunt Signed Photo Space Shuttle Columbia Sts-107Apollo Csm Operations HandbookAstronaut James Lovell Signed Apollo 13 Lost Moon Autograph Nasa Space Gemini 12Nasa Ksc Apollo Saturn V Launch Control Room Panel Countdown Clock Segment Rare Blue Band Scripto Vu Lighter Nasa Gemini Spacecraft Mcdonnell Used NiceUs Nasa Ma1 Flight Bomber Jacket Baseball Coat Xs-2xl Thin Coat Jacket NavyLot Of 4 Packets: Space-exposed Tomato Seeds! Student Experiment Nasa Nasa Kennedy Space Center, Florida, Usa Slim Zippo Lighter From 1988Apollo 17 Final Flight PlanVintage Polo Ralph Lauren Black Nasa Jacket Size L Snow Beach Sport Vintage Snoopy Nasa Space Flight Poster 22x17 Shuttle Columbia Award From 1980'sRare Vintage 80s 1988 Space Shuttle Discovery Nasa T-shirt Usa Made Ufo ScienceAutograph Space Shuttle Space-walker Mol- Nasa Astronaut Don Peterson-Lot Of 20 Vintage Nasa Patches Original Issue Rare Mint Condition Collectible2011 Leaf Cut Sig John Glenn Auto Autograph #3/9 (nasa Astronaut/us Senator) Nasa / Ldef Seeds Space Shuttle Program PatchUncommon Nasa Jpl Jet Propulsion Laboratory PatchLego Space Minifigures Astronauts White Suits Nasa Lot15x20 Grumman Nasa Space Station Vintage Painting Astronauts Concept Art Ca 1970Noblespirit No Reserve {3970} Original 23x Unused Nasa Apollo Patches CollectionNasa Apollo Space Shuttle Contractor Rockwell Clean Room Coverall20 Different Nasa Space Shuttle Crew Mission Astronaut Patches Dealers Lot Nasa Autograph Space Shuttle Sts-103 Spacewalker Astronaut Steve Smith-Large 8 X 10 B&w Photo Of Nasa Astronaut Clifton C. Williams Jr. -autopen?N Scale 1:160 Nasa - Fine Custom Detailed Model Power 20' ContainersYouth Vintage Nasa U.s. Space Camp Flight Suit Costume Patches Jumpsuit 36 28x28Patch Lot Of 10 Nasa Patches Space Shuttle Sts Missions Spacelab Skylab FlightNasa Sslv 14 Titan Rocket Launch Team Area Permit Pass8x10 Joan Higginbotham Nasa Astronaunt Signed Photo Vintage Nasa Patch Nasa Rare Mmu Manned Maneuvering Unit Astronaut Propulsion Unit Cloth-back PatchNasa Canadian Astronaut Program Space PatchNasa Rockwell Intl. Space Program Apollo 10 70mm Still Photographic Film, 25 Pcs.Dte 6 Matchbox Convoy Tractor Trailers Canadian Tire Nasa Pioneer Coast GuardNasa Uncommon First Flight Osp Target Launch Vehicle Space PatchHome Of The National Shairman Ray Capp Wa Hi Nasa Lodge 111 National Officer OaNasa Sslv 10 Titan Rocket Official Visitor Area Permit PassPeanuts Gang Snoopy Hallmark Ornament Nasa 50th Yr. 2008 Astronuant Moon FlightUncommon Nasa Challenge 2008 Space Korea Program PatchVintage Nasa Germany Erste Deutsche Spacelab Mission D1 Patch(12) Apollo 7 Slides From 1968 - Nasa Photo - G.p. Slide Co. Houston, Texas