Christie’s Apollo 11-Themed Auction Flops as Its Multimillion-Dollar Star Lot Fails to Launch

The sale didn't quite take off in the way that Christie's had hoped.

The first Space selfie: Aldrin photographs himself during a spacewalk. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s “One Giant Leap” sale commemorating the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing in 1969 opened with a bang on Thursday morning, but ultimately landed with a thud as the star lot failed to find a bidder. The auction netted a total of $907,000, falling way short of expectations. The Apollo 11 LM Timeline Book, a manual used to help put the men on the moon, was expected to fetch between $7 million and $9 million, but was bought in at $5 million.

There was more enthusiasm for less extravagantly priced items in the nearly four-hour sale organized by the books and manuscripts department, and the first 10 lots all exceeded expectations. One standout, a photograph of Buzz Aldrin perched on a rocky lunar surface titled Tranquility Base, fetched more than three times its high estimate, ultimately selling for $32,500. The photo was taken by Neil Armstrong, and his own figure is reflected in Aldrin’s helmet visor, documenting both men on the historic occasion.

Photograph signed and inscribed (“Tranquillity Base, July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin”). Courtesy of Christie’s.

The most expensive lot in the sale was an annotated page from the Apollo 11 flight plan, containing notes made by all three crew members and inscribed by Buzz Aldrin with the words, “Flown to the Moon.” The artifact just edged past its low estimate to fetch $62,000. A photograph of Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins eating a breakfast of steak and eggs at the Kennedy Space Center just before embarking on their mission sold for four times its high estimate, generating $25,000.

Earlier this week, the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions fared much better, selling items from the Armstrong family’s collection including the astronaut’s personal keepsake from the mission, a gold medal medallion, which fetched more than $2 million alone. On Saturday, Sotheby’s will host its own space-related auction, hoping to find a bidder for the only full recording of the NASA mission in existence, which carries an estimate of $1 million to $2 million. Onward and upward!

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