One Small Step, One Invaluable Signature
In an address to America’s National Press Club in 2000, Neil Armstrong offered the following self-portrait: “I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.”
Rewind to July of 1969 as Esquire writer William Honan asked the pivotal question in his magazine article that would then define Armstrong for the rest of his life: “When Neil H. Armstrong, a blond, blue-eyed, thirty-eight-year-old civilian astronaut from Wapakoneta, Ohio, steps out of the lunar landing module this summer and plants his size eleven space bot on the surface of the moon, the event will eclipse in historic importance the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World. therefore, combine to pose the question: when the astronaut takes the first step on the moon, what should he say?”
In the first major auction of Neil Armstrong memorabilia since his death, Nate Sanders Auctions saw a three-fold increase in the astronaut’s signature. Just before his death, signed photos with inscriptions sold for $1,300 and ones without a dedication sold for $5,700. A simple autograph could expect to fetch about $700.
Though he initially signed freely — reportedly spending hours every day signing — up until the mid 1980’s with his autograph selling for (incredibly) around $8 – $12 each, he became something of a recluse. Or rather, as many have noted in his obituaries, he simply was a quiet, composed, fiercely private man.
Nicknamed the “Ice Commander,” his calmness was key during lunar landing as the original landing site was filled with jutting boulders, leaving Armstrong to take control and skim across the lunar surface by hand looking for a place to land. When he found a spot, there were only 25 seconds of fuel left in the tanks.
He then said: “Houston: Tranquility Base here, The Eagle has landed.”
“Roger, Tranquility,” Houston radioed back. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
We’re auctioning a smorgasbord of cool Armstrong items in our October auction — like this letter he wrote immediately after his return from the moon: “…Appreciated all the prayers & good wishes, they must have helped…”
We’re also auctioning his distinctive autograph with a handwritten inscription of “Apollo 11”.
And of course, the iconic newspapers commemorating the event, like this NY Times paper Armstrong boldly signed.
When a museum opened in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong wrote a typed letter signed to stop the museum from devoting its exhibits entirely to him. The letter defines his character — his insistence upon remaining out of the spotlight: “…they intend to modify it to a ‘Neil Armstrong only’ facility…I do not favor the change…”
There’s a unique Apollo 11 crew-signed model up for auction of the Command Module Spacecraft signed by Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
And finally, a classic signed photo of Armstrong in his spacesuit, the same suit he would wear as he surmised on the earth from above: “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”