The Holy Grail of a Neil Armstrong Autograph: One Man's Quest

Categories: NASA

neilonmoo0m081911.jpg
No, he won't sign it.
Which living person has the world's most sought-after autograph? Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. A Houstonian has written a book about it.

Anthony Pizzitola is a vice-president of the Universal Autograph Collector's Club and he's written Neil Armstrong: The Quest For His Autograph. He says Armstrong's signature has the highest value of anyone alive, and no one's even close in second place.

The notoriously private Armstrong used to sign regularly at charity golf events, where giving autographs is pretty much considered part of the gig.

But in 2003, he suddenly decided to not sign anything again -- not requests from people who chance into him in public, not at any events, not requests that come through the mail.

"People say it's because he was irritated that the autographs were being sold on eBay, but I think that's only part of it," Pizzitola says. "I think what happened was that in the early '90s he lost both parents within six months of each other, he had a heart attack, his wife divorced him and he remarried. With all these earthshaking, if you will, events, he just decided to shut it down.

Armstrong has rejected requests from Nancy Pelosi and the widow of Apollo 1 fire victim Ed White, he says.

Pizzitola admits it's Armstrong's right to do so, but he's peeved. "If you have a ten-year-old or an Eagle Scout and his hero is Neil Armstrong and you want an autograph, he won't do it," he says. "[NASA's] Gene Kranz has said signing autographs is part of an obligation they have. These guys are American heroes."

Today a Neil Armstrong autograph is worth anywhere from $2,500 to $5,500 depending on its condition.

Many astronauts are selling their autographs online these days. Armstrong's Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin sells his for $500. (If you have an item already signed by Armstrong and third crew member Michael Collins, Aldrin's price goes up to $1,000. It's worth it, because the item would be worth $8,000, Pizzitola says.)

Pizzitola has gotten ten autographs from Armstrong in person before the astronaut began refusing requests; he has another 60 in his collection.

Armstrong's ban means the market has become flooded with forgeries or autopen signatures, which are basically worthless.

Experts detected one of the best forgeries only because the signature, on a photo of Armstrong on the moon, partly covered his American flag patch, and Armstrong had long said he would never sign in a way that could do that.

One of the most expensive Armstrong signatures came on a $10.61 check he wrote that was dated July 16, 1969, the day Apollo 11 lifted off. It was sold at auction for $27, 525.

You'd think, by the way, that any waiter or clerk who ever had to have Armstrong sign a credit card would find a way to keep that sucker, but Pizzitola says such things only rarely show up in the market.


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7 comments
submachine
submachine

I have his peronalized autograph from the 70's when he visited Stouffers.  I would sell it if the price was right.  I would rather see it go to someone to hang on the wall.  I have always been afraid to disply.  It is on a sheet of 8x10 paper and in perfect shape.

buffmite
buffmite

I met Dr Armstrong when he came out to do a segment for his program "First Flights". I was the crew chief of a B52H and he came out to do a show on board my airplane. He signed the cover sheet for the aircraft maintenance log (which I still have) and also my son's kiddie book of astronauts (also which I still have). While on board during preflight checklists, I was able to hear the conversations between him and the crew over my head set. One of the pilots made a comment that this was probably old hat for him to fly on a B52. His answer was kind of funny because this was the first time he ever flew inside the airplane, he always flew underneath the wing strapped to his X15. Unfortunately, the small camera malfunctioned and the show was never filmed. However, he still got his first ride inside the plane instead of the wing!

Philip Morales
Philip Morales

I met Dr. Armstrong when he came out to do a segment for his program "First Flights'. I was a B52 crew chief and he was to fly on my aircraft while filming. He was kind enough to sign the cover page to the flight log (which I kept and still have) and a kids astronaut book that my son had (still have that one too). While listening on head sets when he was talking to the crew before take off, one of the pilots commented that this was probably old hat for him. He replied that this was actually the first time he has flown inside of a B52 and that he always flew underneath the wing strapped to his X15. Unfortunately, the cameras didn't want to operate and the segment was cancelled. However, he still got his flight time in. 

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson

I have Armstrong's autograph.  I ran into him in when I was working as a lifeguard in a hotel pool in Michigan in 1981.  Had a nice chat.  Later when I saw him in the hallway we said hello and I asked him for his autograph.  Althought a lifelong NASA nut, I was in high school and unaware of his policy against that.  But he did not even hesitate.  A true class act, that man.  And no, it's not for sale.  ;)

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Anthony Pizzatola has 70 Armstrong autographs.  Maybe Armstrong made his decision because of people like Mr Pizzatola who are only in it to make a buck ...

Mel Sharkskin
Mel Sharkskin

In the late '80s, Armstrong gave me a nearly half-hour interview while at the enormous annual airshow in Oshkosh, WI. He was fiercely private back then (no book to promote), and he gave me so much time because I didn't ask about the moon at all, but rather the X-15 rocket plane.

It was in this storied craft in which he flew to the edge of space and won his Astronaut Wings, and I'm certain that he loved that program more than the moon mission. The X-15 was a true airplane (if you don't count the huge rocket engine), and the pilot was in full control at every second, unlike a spacecraft.

Sadly, it didn't cross my mind to ask for an autograph.

GoneToPlaid
GoneToPlaid

Of course you wouldn't sell it. Unlike Pizzitola, you obviously grasp the enormous cultural significance of the fact that Neil was the first human being -- for all mankind -- to set foot on another world. That human being was the result of over 4 billion years of evolution on this planet.

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