In the summer of 1969, NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission famously resulted in "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Now, more than 50 years later, an iconic photograph from the groundbreaking mission has experienced a giant leap of its own.
On Sept. 24, during Heritage Auctions
' Images of Apollo: The J.L. Pickering Collection Signature Auction, the legendary image known simply as "Visor" landed a winning bid of $125,000 a record-breaking price for a vintage print of the history-making photograph and possibly a record for any 8x10 NASA photo. "The bidding for this photo was unforeseen," says Brad Palmer, consignment director/cataloger for Heritage's Space Exploration department. "We can't find anything close to it. These prints are becoming more and more coveted among collectors."
Part of space historian J.L. Pickering's personal collection, the original chromogenic print features Buzz Aldrin standing full length on the moon with photographer Neil Armstrong's reflection visible in his visor. The color image bears a "red number" AS11-40-5903 signifying that it's from the photo's original printing back in 1969.
As iconic as it is, it was this print's pristine condition, however, that drove what Palmer calls "frenzied" bidding at the September sale. "It's one of the sharpest ones we've ever seen," he says. "All these photos came out directly after the mission, so they're 50 years old, and they get faded over time. This one is still super, super sharp. If they're exposed to any light for a long period of time, they're going to yellow. This didn't look like it had seen much light at all."
Considered one of the foremost historians of space travel and exploration, Pickering has been collecting historic NASA images for more than 40 years. And, along with "Visor," the other 300-plus featured lots from his treasure trove realized $714,871 which means some other space-loving collectors can now enjoy the fruits of Pickering's personal decades-long mission.