Neil Armstrong’s legacy not seen on much cardboard


By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor | Commentary

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died, according to an NBC News report, following complications from a recent heart operation. He was 82.

On July 11, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon with Armstrong the first to set foot on the lunar surface. It was an event millions of people watched, a moment in history forever remembered by those who witnessed the event.

But when it comes to mass-produced collectibles featuring Armstrong — and in particular his autographs — there’s not a lot to choose from,  despite there being a healthy interest in NASA memorabilia and astronaut sigs.

He was regular signer in his earlier days until he stopped altogether in the 1990s as demand for his signature increased. (This, in turn, has led to higher values and many, many forgeries and pre-prints/autopens being sold as real. Buyer beware now — or chase only JSA- or PSA-approved items.) He often would not sign autographs for others — even astronauts — or did so quite reluctantly, according to many accounts.

In 2009, a personal check signed by Armstrong not long before the Apollo 11 mission sold for $27,350 through RR Auction of Amherst, N.H. At the time, it was believed to be a record price paid for his autograph.

In 2004, Topps included a single cut Armstrong autograph in its American Treasures Signatures set (sold for $1,710 in June 2004), while it added another in 2009 Topps American Heritage, a product that also included space-flown Relics among its offerings. Armstrong’s missions — or single cards showing the Apollo 11 landing with him in the photos — are found in a few sets here and there but are often not linked directly to him in the non-sport database.

Among more traditional sets, the most memorable came in 1969 as Topps produced a 55-card set chronicling the space program, Man on the Moon, which is relatively easy to find for a few bucks per card.


As someone who visited the Armstrong Space & Air Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, (Armstrong’s hometown) more than a few times as a young child (space was an interest long before sports), it’s always interesting to see how space exploration gets focused on at times and see how peoples’ interests are piqued.

While it was Armstrong’s right to not sign autographs, it’s unfortunate that many a collector can’t complete their collections (or can’t without deep pockets) with perhaps the most important piece possible — the first man to set foot on the moon.

Now, it’s going to be that much tougher with even more demand now that he’s gone.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


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  1. James David 26 August, 2012 at 09:41

    I have an autographed photo I took of Neil Armstrong when he was with the Bob Hope Show on Christmas Day, 1969. The show was performed at Camp Eagle, in Vietnam, just 6 mohths after he walked on the moon. Can you give me an idea what it is worth? The photo is original and in very good condition with his signature clearly displayed in red ink. The photo shows him stooping down on the stage while talking to me. I was a Captain in the Army at the time serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

  2. Alex GRRRRiffen 26 August, 2012 at 11:43

    What’s the point of the space program? shouldn’t we concentrate on the problems on earth? who care if there is water on mars. who cares if we walk on the moon? means nothing

  3. Adam Shoemaker 26 August, 2012 at 21:44

    It is sad to hear of his passing. And that there aren’t many obtainable AU’s of his. That is one AU I’d love to add to my collection. The only thing I currently have related to him is a 16×20 reprint of a photo he took of Buzz Aldrin on the moon. My Mom gave it to me a couple of years ago for my birthday. My second hobby (after sports cards) is astronomy and he was a compelling figure in our history in space. He will be missed.

    Alex, just because space exploration and NASA mean nothing to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. If it wasn’t for NASA, cell phones and GPS (along with many other things we use every day now) would not exist at all.

  4. Robert 28 August, 2012 at 00:39

    space exploration is very necessary – many humans have a desire to explore and learn new things so we need to leave the boundaries of Mother Earth to do so. At the very lease, we need to save the human race from the idiots who are destroying our blue marble – we may eventually need to continue the human race on the moon or mars or use those bodies as launching points for further exploration of our universe. What we’re doing exploring now through robots on Mars and continuing our unmanned moon missions is to help investigate what kind of resources on those bodies can be used to help sustain life should we get to the point of putting bases there.

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