Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 jacket smashes auction records
Sotheby’s sold the jacket worn to the Moon by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin yesterday, smashing all sorts of auction records with a final price of US$2,772,500.
The other landmark piece of the "Buzz Aldrin: American Icon" auction was the metallic felt-tip marker that Aldrin used to close a circuit breaker to keep the Apollo 11 mission from ending in disaster. Estimated by Sotheby’s to sell for between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 (the same estimate as the jacket), it would have become the most expensive pen in history if it had sold, but bidding only reached $650,000 and failed to reach the reserve price.
Even though it didn’t sell, with the 25% buyers’ commission included, the $650,000 bid represented an actual bid of $812,500, which must represent some kind of record for a bid on a felt-tip pen.
Most expensive space-flown memorabilia
Aldrin’s jacket is now the most expensive space-flown piece of memorabilia ever sold at auction (or anywhere else for that matter), eclipsing the Robbins Medallion that flew with Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong to the surface of the Moon on the same mission. The medallion sold for $2,055,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2019.
Most expensive clothing
You might think that with a price of $2.77 million, the jacket might top some other list of the most expensive clothing in history, but remarkably, Buzz’s jacket struggles to get into the top 10 most expensive pieces of clothing in history, and if you include headwear, it barely makes the top 20.
Three women's dresses have exceeded this jacket in price fetched at auction, being Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday" dress ($4.8 million), Marilyn's Seven Year Itch Subway Grate Dress ($4.5 million), and the dress that Audrey Hepburn wore as Eliza Doolittle to the Ascot Races in My Fair Lady ($4.4 million).
The Apollo 11 jacket does represent the highest price ever paid for a man’s jacket, topping the iconic red-and-black leather jacket worn by Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video clip that sold for $1.8 million at Julien's Auctions in 2011.
As far as men's clothing though, game-worn jerseys of the sporting greats are deemed far more valuable by the marketplace, with Diego Maradona’s Goal of the Century shirt (from the 1986 World Cup semi-final) selling for $9.3 million (£7,142,500) earlier this year.
On top of that, we’re not sure whether Muhammad Ali’s "Rumble in the Jungle" world boxing title belt qualifies as a piece of clothing, but that item fetched $6.18 million last Sunday.
The game-worn men's clothing title had previously been attributed to a Babe Ruth New York Yankees road jersey circa 1920, which fetched $4,415,658 at SCP Auctions in May 2012, and was subsequently overtaken by another Ruth jersey in 2019 when Hunt Auctions sold a 1928-1930 New York Yankees jersey worn by Ruth for $5.64 million. But in 2015 a helmet worn by the Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sold at a charity auction in Dubai for $US6,545,950 (Dh24.05 million). Shaikh Mohammad had worn the helmet in winning the 2012 FEI World Endurance Championships so it is in the discussion of the most expensive sports-worn items, though we normally leave out any lots that have been sold at a charity auction when compiling our statistics.
Other choice artifacts from the Aldrin Collection included three lunar-surface-flown items: a summary flight plan that fetched $819,000, a Systems Activation Checklist that sold for $567,000 and the Water Dispenser/Fire Extinguisher from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module that sold for $327,600 to become the world’s most expensive fire extinguisher.
Sotheby’s "Buzz Aldrin: American Icon" auction also broke records in that it fetched $8,184,578, becoming the most valuable space exploration sale ever held, beating Sotheby’s own record set at an auction commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 on 20 July 2019.