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The Flown Apollo 11 Covers

by Howard C. Weinberger

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From the beginning days of collecting Space memorabilia when the first offerings made their way to auction in the 1990s, the Flown Apollo 11 covers immediately became one of the most desirable and important artifacts that a collector could obtain from the most famous adventure in the history of mankind.

The three man crew of Apollo 11, commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins, were the first to land man on a another planetary body. The crew was fully aware of the historic significance of their mission and brought along a few commemorative mementos for family, friends and themselves. Among the most desirable of those mementos were 214 crew signed envelopes that commemorated the mission.

There were three differently designed covers among the 214 that were flown; The large Apollo 11 mission emblem cover, the Project Apollo DowUnicover, and the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Stamp Club cover, which was adorned with a colorful cache of men working on the Moon and the Apollo 11 mission logo.

Although exact numbers of how many of each design were flown is not certain, auction records show that the majority of the covers were of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Stamp Club variety.

While in pre-flight quarantine in crew quarters some weeks before the mission, in-between further training, the crew would autograph these envelopes, further completing their creations.

Apollo 11 flown cover from Mike Collins

One of Michael Collins' Apollo 11 flown covers

In addition to the flown covers, during the same time, the crew would also sign a number of similar covers that would be left at home with their families, to be used in the event that the crew did not return from the mission. These became known as the insurance covers. As command module pilot Michael Collins would tell, "These covers were currency to our families in the event that we did not return."

Type 1 Apollo 11 insurance cover

Apollo 11 Type 1 Insurance Cover

When I asked Michael Collins how many insurance covers existed, he said that he could not confirm the exact number but that his recollection was about 1000, which were divided equally for each family.

He also shared an interesting nuance about differences between the flown and insurance covers. The insurance covers were signed to take up all the available space in the open field on the cover while the flown covers were deliberately signed across a straight line in the middle of the cover, in order to leave space for them to put the name of a family member or friend who they would present one too.

Paper bag which contained the Apollo 11 flown covers

Aldrin notated paper bag that kept the
Apollo 11 flown covers together

The 214 flown covers were shared among the crew in the following breakdown: Armstrong : 47 ; Collins : 63 ; Aldrin : 104.

Each of the astronauts devised their own serial numbering key for their covers. Aldrin noted each cover in the top left corner with his initials and a number (e.g. EEA-1 and some A-?), Collins noted his covers within the image of the earth on the front with his last name initial and a number (e.g. C-59).

[Webmaster's note: the following 3 paragraphs have been revised subsequent to the sale of an Armstrong Apollo 11 cover in 2018]

Looking at the covers that have surfaced for sale over the last 20 years, it appears that after marking at least 52 covers EEA-? Aldrin switched to A-?, as evidenced by covers A-58, A-63, A-70, and A-73.

With 104 covers to initial in total, Aldrin was likely tiring of numbering and writing on all of these covers and could have elected to simplify in order to get the task done faster. Or perhaps he managed the task in two batches of around 52 covers and elected to use a simpler style when starting the second batch.

Prior to 2018 no covers from Armstrong had ever been offer to market and it had been confirmed that he was still in possession of all 47, with none having been distributed or destroyed. The first cover to be offered showed that they were marked "CARRIED TO THE MOON ON APOLLO 11" along with his initials and a number (e.g. NA-1).

The flown covers are affixed with either a Scott 1371 six-cent postage stamp, which depicts the Apollo 8 Earthrise and the words "In the beginning God..." or a Scott 1338 six-cent postage stamp, which depicts the US flag over White House. All the covers have the Webster, TX August 11, 1969 post office cancellation and the Lunar Receiving Laboratory quarantine stamp. Aldrin and Collins hand wrote above the cachet on each of their covers "Carried to the Moon aboard Apollo 11", while it is not known if and how Armstrong notated his.

The significance of the August 11 postmark is that it was the time items began to be released from quarantine.

In terms of market analysis and the potential future values of these covers, one can expect that they will remain among the most desirable and costly. Can you imagine the value of an artifact from Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1492 that was accompanied by a signed certification letter by him attesting to what it is? Well, these covers flew aboard an expedition as great or greater than the Columbus voyage and are certified by the crew themselves, so I expect that they will continue to become more popular as more people learn that they exist.

All flown Apollo 11 items are valuable and in demand, however, many items are generic, which are more difficult to certify. The items that commemorate the mission, like Robbins Medals, flown covers, beta cloths and mission patches will stay atop the desirability list because they depict the mission emblem and require little explanation. Of these, the flown covers really do exemplify the ideal rarity because they incorporate all of the desired elements; the commemorative aspect, the flown status, the quarantine time, the crew signatures and the scarcity of only 214 having existed.

The flown covers have surfaced from time to time at auction since the 1990s and have fetched prices in a wide range from approximately $20,000 to $46,000. We do not know how many of these covers were given away by the crew, so it is possible that covers might, at some point, be offered by third party consignors who may have been the recipient or from their heirs. In these cases, it is likely that the cover would be offered without any crew certification. And although these would be undeniably genuine, if a cover were to be offered with an additional separate signed letter from one of the crewmembers confirming serial number, flown status and from their collection, I expect that it would command a further premium.

The last 20 years has certainly seen a great evolution in the understanding of rarities; whether its how to identify and preserve them, or in truly understanding what makes one great and rare. The idea of certifications was virtually non-existent just a few years ago and now pedigree and provenance can make the difference in the desirability of something. The Internet has also played a key role in leveling the playing field like never before possible, as novice and expert become equal at the touch of a key. The evolution has made collectors smarter as they now have access to honest information, whereas previously, dealers controlled much of what collectors could know, which allowed manipulation. This knowledge has helped to broaden the general collector base and made markets more liquid, which has also brought investors into many of the rarities markets.

Houston, the Eagle has landed!

Apollo 11 flown and insurance cover cachets

Shown above are the three different cachets known to have been flown on Apollo 11 and/or used as insurance covers.
From left to right: MSC Stamp Club (Type 1) ; Dow-Unicover (Type 2) ; Mission Emblem (Type 3)

Annex A: Flown Apollo 11 covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

NumberCachetSold viaLot no.Sale DatePriceReference / Notes
NA-5Stamp ClubHeritage50371May 9 2019$93,750Auction listing 
NA-8Stamp ClubHeritage50073Jul 16 2019$84,375Auction listing 
NA-18Stamp ClubHeritage52289Nov 1 2018$87,500Auction listing 
NA-28Mission EmblemHeritage52290Nov 1 2018$156,250Auction listing 
EEA-1Stamp ClubSothebys115Jul 20 2019$40,000Auction listing 
EEA-2Stamp ClubSuperiorunknownMay 2000no sale
Heritage25372Sep 20 2007$26,290Auction listing 
EEA-3Stamp ClubRegency/Superior134Oct 5 2012TBD
EEA-4Stamp ClubChristies119Sep 18 1999$46,000Auction listing 
EEA-5Stamp ClubSuperior747AMay 16 1998no sale
Superior935Oct 31 1998no sale
EEA-13Stamp ClubSwannunknownApr 12 2003no sale
Goldberg121Oct 20 2007$36,800Auction listing 
EEA-16Stamp ClubSuperior325Feb 25 1995unsold
Superior304Oct 26 1996$23,575
EEA-17Stamp ClubSuperiorunknownJan 11 1993unknown
Superior397Jun 25 1994$20,125
EEA-18Stamp ClubSuperiorunknownNov 1991$13,750
Superior590Oct 23 1999$23,000
EEA-19Stamp ClubSuperior395Jun 25 1994$31,050Lot of 3 flown covers
EEA-23Mission EmblemSothebys116Jul 20 2019$68,750Auction listing 
EEA-25Mission EmblemSuperior411Oct 25 1997$41,400
EEA-26Mission EmblemSuperiorunknownNov 1991$13,750
Vaccari1038Apr 14 2012$27,59821,000 Euros
EEA-27Mission EmblemSuperior395Jun 25 1994$31,050Lot of 3 flown covers
Superior555Oct 28 2000$23,000
Robert A. Siegel336May 19 2001$33,000Auction listing 
EEA-28Mission EmblemSuperiorunknownMar 1980unknown
EEA-29Mission EmblemChristies127May 9 2001$23,500Auction listing 
EEA-31Dow UnicoverSothebys114Jul 20 2019$75,000Auction listing 
EEA-33Dow UnicoverRegency/Superior96Feb 3 2012$23,400Auction listing 
RRAuction9268Oct 23 2015$36,112Auction listing 
EEA-35Dow UnicoverSuperiorunknownJan 11 1993unknown
EEA-36Dow UnicoverSuperiorunknownNov 1991$13,750
EEA-37Dow UnicoverSuperior395Jun 25 1994$31,050Lot of 3 flown covers
EEA-39Dow UnicoverSuperior729Nov 15 1993$15,400
Superior396Jun 25 1994$10,925
EEA-41Stamp ClubSuperior728Nov 15 1993$14,850
EEA-45Stamp ClubSuperior392May 18 1996$18,975
Regency/Superior2302May 2 2008
EEA-47Stamp ClubAurora125Apr 27 2002UNSOLDAuction listing 
Aurora358May 31 2003$22,500Auction listing 
EEA-48Stamp ClubSuperior589Oct 23 1999$31,625
EEA-49Stamp ClubHeritage40019Apr 18 2013$50,788Auction listing 
EEA-51Stamp ClubRRAuction353Nov 29 2012$31,890Auction listing 
EEA-52Stamp ClubVaccari710Mar 12 2005$13,25010,000 Euros
A-58Stamp ClubSwannunknownMar 27 2004$20,700Aldrin provenance
RRAuction2223Jul 16 2020$30,819Auction listing 
A-63Stamp ClubIl Ponte1511Nov 18 2016$29,40127,500 Euros ; Auction listing  
A-70Stamp ClubVaccari145Dec 14 2013$38,50028,000 Euros 
A-73Stamp ClubSuperior398Jun 25 1994$9,775
A-82Stamp ClubSothebys46Jul 20 2021$20,160Auction listing 
C-1Stamp ClubSuperior571Oct 28 1995unknownSold with original paper bag
Regenecy/Superior155Jan 16 2010$26,910Auction listing 
C-2Stamp ClubHeritage50064Nov 11 2016$40,000Auction listing 
Heritage50081May 19 2017$32,500Auction listing 
C-53Stamp ClubHeritage40116May 14 2014$40,625Auction listing 
C-54Stamp ClubHeritage40160Nov 1 2013$46,875Auction listing 
C-56Stamp ClubHeritage40110Nov 2 2012UNSOLDAuction listing 
RRAuction6364Apr 21 2016$59,215Auction listing 
C-57Stamp ClubPrivate sale
C-58Stamp ClubPrivate sale
C-59Stamp ClubPrivate sale
Heritage52088Nov 12 2014$37,500Auction listing 
C-60Stamp ClubHeritage41069Nov 17 2010$26,290Auction listing 
C-61Stamp ClubGifted to familyn/an/an/a
C-62Stamp ClubGifted to familyn/an/an/a
C-63Stamp ClubAurora242BOct 26 2002unknownWas listed as C-3
C-?Stamp ClubAurora407Oct 15 2005$23,500Auction listing 
C-6?Stamp ClubRegency/Superior363Oct 11 2007unknown

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