Building up a Stamp Collection
Collect Space Artifacts
When I first started collecting, I decided to specialise in one area. Like many of my fellow space enthusiasts my financial resources are most definitely limited and a concentration on one aspect helped considerably. I decided to go for artifacts, as I knew they would be difficult to obtain and not the type of item you could buy (at least at that time).
The first I ever obtained was a 12’ x 12’ piece of aluminium sheet which had been used as a test article. It was marked with acidity and heat treatment values and carried the mark “ship”. It was given to me by my mathematics teacher at school and appeared connected with the Apollo command module. Its worth adding that I believe he gave it to me as I showed an interest rather than my math’s ability!
This piece does illustrate the difficulty with collecting artifacts in that they are hard to authenticate in many cases but after a while you can identity NASA contract numbers etc, which helps. Ideally some other form of covering letter or documentation accompanies it, but many times you have to trust its origin; for instance the word of another collector.
Most of the collectors are to be found in the USA and more specifically in California where many of the Apollo parts were manufactured.
Artifacts can range from small launch pad fragments, sometimes mounted on card, rocket parts, life vests, helmet shells, spacesuit samples, space food, or signed flown covers etc. The list is endless.
Of late the availability appears to have increased, in no small part due to the fact that some of the Apollo astronauts have decided to dispose of their own personal collections. In addition the opening of the Russian space interest has led to items such as a recent card with a piece of Soyuz TM 11 capsule attached. One unfortunate aspect of this is that high prices can be asked, which cancels out one of the reasons I got into artifacts in the first place. Most US flown items are the property of the Smithsonian in Washington but all astronauts had their own personal preference kit in which they could carry items. Prices of up to $25,000 have been estimated for items carried to the Moons surface.
Nevertheless as in any interest there is always an item to be obtained without paying a vast sum and I would hope that this will always be the case. The only area to be careful about is obtaining objects that are illegal, which is clearly not on. The most obvious example in recent years was following the Challenger disaster when many a person was held to question for acquiring pieces of debris, which I feel is clearly unacceptable.
My next aim is to contact personnel who were connected with the Black Arrow and Blue Streak programs including those that worked at Woomera and Spadeadum. If anyone feels they could help with this or indeed any member has artifacts that they feel they could part with perhaps they could let me know.
Whichever area you collect in, be it philately, artifacts; or anything else, then one thing is certain, our understanding and knowledge of that subject is increased and that is what collecting is all about. I wish you all good luck in your own particular area.