Neil Armstrong auction: Wright brothers flyer, lunar landing items sell for $5.2 million

Credit: Stephen Chernin

Credit: Stephen Chernin

The first auction of former Lebanon-area resident Neil Armstrong's personal memorabilia and artifacts — including fragments of the Wright brothers' 1903 flyer the famous astronaut took to the moon and back — brought in more than $5.2 million.

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Fetching the highest price — $468,500 — was an identification plate from the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle from which Armstrong emerged in July 1969 to become the first man to set foot on the moon.
The thousands of artifacts chronicled the life and career of Armstrong, who was raised in Wapakoneta and lived quietly outside Lebanon after becoming a national hero commanding the mission.

A childhood letter Armstrong wrote to the Easter bunny sold for $4,000; his Boy Scouts field cap went for $12,000; a gold pin of his wife's carried into space brought $17,500; and one of his Gemini flight suits was bought for $109,375.

Approximately 3,000 lots — some consisting of more than one item — are being auctioned in three parts. Before the first three-day sale began Nov. 1, Mark Armstrong said his father’s mementos included ones “that make you think, items that make you laugh and items that make you scratch your head.”

The famous astronaut died in 2012 at age 82.

More than 760 lots sold during the first sale, including two pieces of spruce from the 1903 Wright Flyer’s propeller and four pieces of muslin from its left wing – all carried to the moon just 66 years after the history-making flight at Kitty Hawk. The propeller fragments brought $275,000 each and the fabric pieces ranged in price from $112,500 up to $175,000.

Armstrong’s sons, Mark and Rick, put the items up for auction. The remaining lots will be sold on two dates in 2019, the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 11 mission.

“Thank you to the enthusiasts out there, the supporters of NASA, the lovers of science and the dreamers of impossible dreams,” said Mark Armstrong.

The auction set a record for the most valuable space memorabilia auction in history, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. The company said about 2,450 bidders sought artifacts.

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