An American auction house is putting a bounty of space artifacts and memorabilia up for grabs – ranging from space-flown headsets and flags to a Playboy calendar photo that visited the moon – to high bidders looking to get their hands on a piece of the final frontier.
RR Auction, a company based in Amherst, N.H., is holding its first space-themed auction, featuring approximately 500 unique pieces that span from the early U.S. rocket program through NASA's space shuttle era. Items can be previewed in advance on the company's website, and bidding will officially run from Jan. 13 to Jan. 20.
"Unlike earlier sales by other auction houses, which have relied on astronauts as their primary consignors, RR Auction's first space catalog is based mostly on the consignments by long-time space collectors," said Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com (an online publication and community for space history and artifact enthusiasts).
"As such, the lots provide a good look at what has been and continues to be possible to collect, which may be of particular interest to those new to the hobby," Pearlman told SPACE.com.
The auction features one-of-a-kind objects such as a calendar photo of Playboy's Miss August 1967, DeDe Lind, which was stashed in the Apollo 12 command module during its November 1969 voyage to the moon.
While other photocopies of Playboy bunnies were brought to the lunar surface on other missions, the photo is the only original color likeness to have made the journey. Apollo 12 command module pilot Richard Gordon has signed and certified the item.
Other artifacts for sale include a headset worn by Apollo 11 capsule communicator Charlie Duke, who used it to speak to the first men on the moon during the historic lunar landing on July 20, 1969. The words uttered by astronaut Buzz Aldrin ("Contact light, OK, engine stop") and Duke's reply ("We copy you down, Eagle") rank among the most pivotal and iconic conversations in history. [Apollo 11 in Photos: The First Manned Moon Landing]
RR Auction is also selling off a Roosevelt dime that Apollo 1 astronaut Gus Grissom carried as a good luck charm during his 1965 Gemini 3 mission. Grissom etched "GT 3" on the coin's face, and the token was later given to Guenter Wendt, the original pad leader for NASA's manned space program.
Space-flown American flags from each Apollo mission will also be up for bids, including the Apollo 11 flag signed by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
Silver medals from each Apollo mission are being offered as a complete series for the first time. These rare mementos were created for the Apollo 7 mission and proved so popular that every mission into space since has carried on the tradition.
The auction will also feature a bevy of signed photographs of various spaceflyers, including all of the Mercury astronauts; the Apollo crews, including Apollo 1 and 11; the tragic Challenger crew; and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 became the very first human to fly in outer space.
The auction will come in advance of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's milestone on April 12, 1961, which marked the inception of human spaceflight.
With several high-profile anniversaries being commemorated in 2011, and with the impending retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet, RR Auction's public sale could attract veteran collectors and new hobbyists alike.
"RR Auction's space sale is the first for the company, but also the first for the year, which will see at least four other auction houses hold space dedicated sales," Pearlman explained. "The upcoming 50th anniversaries of the first human spaceflight and first American spaceflight, as well as the ongoing 40th anniversaries of the Apollo missions, are expected to build interest by the public in space history."
You can follow SPACE.com Staff Writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow.