You Can Now Buy Spaghetti that Went to the Moon
But it will cost you five figures.
A lunar globe signed by eight astronauts who have walked on the moon and three who have orbited the moon. Valued at $14,000-$16,000. Image: Kaleigh Rogers/Motherboard
Want to know a guaranteed way to make a boring, government-issue, red pen increase in value from 30 cents to $50,000? Take it to the moon.
Next week, the international auction house Bonhams will hold its annual space memorabilia auction, which includes items from the personal collection of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean (the fourth person to walk on the moon).
Because there are a finite number of items that have actually been to space—or orbited the moon, or actually been on the moon—and a laundry list of restrictions on when those items can be bought and sold, they're extremely valuable to collectors, according to Cassandra Hatton, the head of history of science and technology for Bonhams.
"One of the things that motivates collectors is getting something that nobody else has," Hatton said. "If you have all the money in the world and you have a Picasso, well there's another Picasso out there. But how many things have actually been on the moon? There's only a handful. How many people actually own them? Most of it is going to be at the Smithsonian."
Limitations on what space memorabilia can be sold are strictly enforced, Hatton explained. Most of the objects and items that have been in space are owned by the government and displayed at museums: the idea being that everyone can enjoy them that way. Recently, the laws were relaxed slightly so that astronauts from the the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo era could sell souvenirs they had kept from their missions.
But other restrictions still dictate what can be sold: some technology can only be sold to American citizens living in the United States, while moon dust cannot be sold outright (though if it's stuck to another item that was on the moon, it's fair game).
Hatton said an increased interest in science and technology in the general public—she pointed to a pop culture resurgence of science-related media like Cosmos as an example—has helped increase the value of these items as well.
"You can have a pen and if it leaves Earth's atmosphere, it's worth X amount," Hatton said of a pen and pencil that were in Bean's pockets when he walked on the moon. They're priced between $30,000 and $50,000. "If it gets into lunar orbit, the price doubles. If it gets onto the lunar surface, it doubles again. If it actually comes out of the lander and is on the astronaut's person when he's walking around then it's super-premium."