Boston-based auction house RR Auction recently sold an extremely rare lunar meteorite for $612,500 to the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex, located in Ha Nam Province, Vietnam. According to the auction house, the 12-pound space rock was discovered in the deserts of Mauritania, a country in Northwest Africa, last year.
Nicknamed the ‘The Moon Puzzle,’ the meteorite is comprised of six fragments and a fusion crust — a dark, glassy coating that occurs when a meteorite burns through the atmosphere — on one side.
RR Auction public relations director Bobby Livingston said the auction house consigned the space rock with a meteorite hunting company — yes, people who make a living searching for pieces of space to sell.
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RR Auction works with consignors ranging from historians, collectors, and everyday people with historical items to sell. “Our business model is to over-achieve for our consignors so we can get more consignors,” Livingston said.
The auction house was founded in 1976 out of a basement in Newton. Today, the company works with about 250 different consignors and sells around 1,500 items each month.
With the global market for antiques and collectibles making $2 billion in revenue each year, RR Auction’s market, unlike it’s wares, is not dusty.
In the past 40 years, RR Auction, which stands for rare and remarkable, has hosted a slew of unique items ranging from a fully functioning Apple-1 computer for $375,000 to an autographed photo of Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out for $125,000.
Livingston said the Einstein photo, on which the famous physicist had scribbled an inflammatory note, is one of his favorite auction items to date.
“This job requires me and everyone here to learn something new every day,” Livington said.
The long-time employee said the authentication process for the photo involved learning about the McCarthy era during which the photo was taken.
“This gesture you will like, Because it is aimed at all of humanity. A civilian can afford to do what no diplomat would dare,” Einstein wrote.
The auction house takes about a 22 percent commission from each sale. Currently, the house employs 23 full-time employees including three handwriting experts. Livingston said the company sources to a network of around 30 third-party experts and authenticators for items they can’t verify in-house.
“A huge part of our process is verifying authenticity,” Livingston said.
RR Auction also hosts its own history podcast that is available on iTunes. Livingston, who has always had a love for history, said the show gives him more space to delve into nostalgic stories. The show has featured guests ranging from Prince’s former personal assistant to the daughter of astronaut Alan Bean.
The Space Exploration Auction began on October 11th and concluded on October 18th. Previous auctions have included sports, military, pop culture, aviation and WWII artifacts.
Here are other notable items sold at the space auction:
- Astronaut David Scott’s lunar landmark maps book, which he carried to the moon during the Apollo 15 mission, sold for $74,182.
- A ruminative letter penned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin before the launch of Apollo 11 sold for $30,318.
- A lunar meteorite slice found in Northwest Africa sold for $45,987.
- A digital computer memory module from the Saturn Launch Vehicle sold for $26,271.
- A crew-signed photograph of astronauts standing in front of the Lunar Module from the Apollo 11 mission sold for $8,892.
“There’s an intense interest in NASA and the space program,” Livingston noted. “These are images that inspired an entire generation.”
He also said that the company acquired many space artifacts directly from former NASA officials.
The company expects the value of space-related historical artifacts to continue to rise in the next 20 years, as the generations that grew up watching the ‘Space Race’ comes into disposable income.
Livingston, a long-time employee of the auction house said vintage Hollywood items from the 1930’s are going down in value as the generation that grew up watching stars like Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow passes on.
“There is no vibrant market for Shirley Temple anymore,” Livingston said.