The Quest for Neil Armstrong’s Autograph

Apollo 11 crew photo signed by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin

Originally published in the July 2009 print edition of Autograph magazine.

My quest started in 1979. While browsing in a bookstore, I picked-up a copy of The Book of Autographs by Charles Hamilton. The large and impressive Neil Armstrong autograph on page 95 blew me away. I was hooked.

Although I grew up in Houston near NASA, I was not a space enthusiast, much less an autograph collector. But there was something worth investigating in that signature and in autograph collecting. Soon thereafter, Linn’s Stamp News published an article on the First Man on the Moon numbered prints by artist Paul Calle, the lithograph that was the model for the First Man on the Moon stamps. I purchased one print for a nominal $50. In the same year, I joined the UACC and haven’t stopped collecting since.

Initial inquiries revealed that Armstrong had left Houston and was no longer a member of the space program. When I asked how to obtain his autograph, people stared as if I was from the moon. Stories surfaced that he was very private but would honor through the mail requests. In the early 80s I sent a large matte board that was returned unsigned. But the following day, I received a White Space Suit photo (WSS) inscribed and autographed by Armstrong in now fading blue ink. Shortly thereafter I sent the First Man on the Moon print and it was returned signed in pencil. I was ecstatic and my obsession to surround myself with items from the first man on the Moon slipped into high gear.

A White Space Suit photo, the author’s first Armstrong autograph, was signed in the early 1980s.

In 1983, on a trip to the Air and Space Museum, I visited the gift shop and was stunned  to see a Paul Calle lithograph of Armstrong, signed by Armstrong. It was mine for $125. Interestingly, these signed prints could never quite sold and the balance of the inventory was eventually purchased by a friend of mine for only $35 each.

Paul Calle lithograph of Armstrong’s first step on the Moon, sold with Armstrong’s autograph. Collins and Aldrin signed it later.

The Elevator Encounter

In the mid-80s, I ventured to NASA and was given numerous unsigned photos. I became friends with Mary Lee Meider, the secretary to the astronauts. In one case, I asked for the ‘Snoopy’ picture, a photo of a smiling Armstrong inside the Eagle. NASA was out of the print but gave me a copy of the negative from which I printed a 16×20. At a 1989 signing for his book Men from Earth, Buzz Aldrin was shocked to see the large print of the famous photo. He carefully examined it and then signed it along with a copy of his book.

That same year NASA held the 20th anniversary of the Moon Landing. It was one of Armstrong’s rare appearances. I arrived, bundle of materials to be signed in hand, most importantly the ‘Snoopy’ picture. Scouting the hotel premises for nearly an hour, I spotted him waiting for an elevator. I joined several collectors on the elevator with Armstrong and impatiently asked for his autograph. He was as shocked as Aldrin at the size of the photo and hesitated. Then he asked my name and provided my first in-person autograph with Armstrong.

The Twelve Moon Walkers

There were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, Hercules had twelve labors and twelve men walked on the moon. In the mid-80s I embarked on a plan to obtain autographs from the twelve Moon walkers on an 11×14 matte upon which my wife, Lydia, drew a picture of the moon. Alan Shepard and Gene Cernan were easily obtained at Houston area golf tournaments. For the balance of the Moon walkers, I used address lists published in the UACC Pen & Quill. Where company information was available, I contacted their secretaries in advance.

Within a short time, I had the majority of their signatures on one dynamic page. Now it was time for Armstrong. A friend at NASA provided his office number and I hesitated for several weeks before calling. Finally, I dialed and waited for a secretary to answer. “Armstrong,” announced the voice on the line and I almost dropped the phone. I politely described the item I wished signed and requested his autograph. He asked that I send it with a note reminding him that we had talked to his Lebanon post office box. It was returned signed.

11×14 matte of all 12 Moon Walkers, signed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Charles “Pete” Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, Jim Irwin, John Young, Charlie Duke, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt

The Two-for-One Plan

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In 1992 and 1993 Armstrong participated in the Doug Sanders Charity Golf Tournaments in Houston. As the Regional Representative for the UACC, I notified my membership of his presence there. One Houston mega-collector left a four-letter message on my phone recorder stating that it should have been kept a secret. At the tournaments Armstrong signed “one per customer” with a smile.

This satisfied many collectors, but those who had pursued Armstrong for years (such as myself) were not content to call it a day. My two-for-one plan was conceived and, although physically exhausting, the end result was beyond belief. With a satchel filled with photos, I approached a couple at each hole and asked if they wanted the autograph of the first man on the Moon. Who could refuse? I provided two photos if they promised to return one to me as soon as Armstrong left the area. Many of the signatures were rushed but the critical strokes were in place. I also attended the galas in the evenings where I had the opportunity to engage Armstrong in casual conversation and discuss some of the unique items in my collection.

Signed photo of Armstrong in training

Apollo 11 emblem signed by Armstrong and Aldrin

The author with Armstrong in 1992

No More After 94

It was announced in 1994 that Armstrong would no longer sign through the mail. I remembered his words after that first telephone conversation—“remind me that we had talked.”  And I thought of our discussions at the galas, so I sent him several items in the late ’90s and they were returned signed. I am certain that under unique circumstances where the autograph is not the perceived objective but the sharing of the historical item is, Armstrong will probably sign.

Armstrong has always been uncomfortable with his celebrity status yet realizes that most have never met a modern day Columbus. On August 5, 2009 the first man on the Moon will be 79 years old. He believes that everyone was born with a pre-determined number of heart beats. His papers will soon be delivered to his alma mater, Purdue University. In 2000, Armstrong came to Houston to receive the Rotary Club’s highest award. After the ceremony and dinner he remained for more than an hour shaking hands and posing for pictures. With a whisper, he politely refused all autograph requests.

Splashdown!

In January of this year, I journeyed to the Northeast braving a snow and ice storm to purchase a remaining collection of the First Man on the Moon prints including No. 1 of 1,000 signed by Armstrong. Thirty years after my first print purchase, I was in possession of a dream come true. And 30 years after my introduction to the UACC, the UACC will publish a Neil Armstrong signature study, authored by me, but the brainchild of UACC President Michael Hecht.

Where my quest will lead me tomorrow or next year, I don’t know. But I can say that the journey has been one of the greatest in my life and I look forward to many more years and more opportunities to cross paths and pens with Neil Armstrong.

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Order the UACC signature study, Neil Armstrong: The Quest for His Autograph, edited by Anthony Pizzitola, at Amazon

Comments

  1. John mckenna says:

    hey there, i have a signed autograph of Neil Armstrong how much is that if i were to sell it ? thanks

  2. i have a autograph of neil armstrong signed by him and his wife and all the burough provests when he was made freeman of langholm i was at the ceremony
    also menu of dinner plus photo of him shaking hands with word war two master pilot irving who by the way taught usa pilots before war

  3. Garry Pioch says:

    I have a dollar bill that was signed by Neil Armstrong, Bob Hope, and Les Browne in ChuLai, South VietNam in December, 1969 when they were on tour with the USO.

    Any idea as to its value?

  4. Mike Hartman says:

    When the moon landing occurred I snapped a picture off the tv (real time) showing two astronauts and the capsule on the moonwalk. I sent an 8 x 10 photo to the astronauts c/o NASA Houston. LO and BEHOLD all three astronauts signed (Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin) the picture and NASA returned it to me.

    I feel like I have a peace history on my hands in this photo (not unlike having a signed picture of Christopher Columbus).
    Can you offer any advice or give me a feel as what to do with this piece of history.

    Thanks, MIke

  5. Hi Mr. Pizzitola, Do you have a phone number to answer a few questions about a Neil Armstrong signature on a one off A/P print entitled “Foot Prints On The Moon”. It is the only one with Artist proof designation and signed by Mr. Armstrong and the artist Anne Klingenburg. Thank you in advance. Can be reached at lennyhummel@earthlink.net. Best regards, Lenny Hummel

  6. Hendri Nagel says:

    I have a Neil Amstrong autograph for sale, signed on a NASA origional photo with Nasa number on , taken from the space shuttle over Argentina, any offers?

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  9. J P Olds says:

    Mr. Pizzitola,

    In 1993 when I was 11, Neil Armstrong flew his twin engine plane to the Madison Indiana airport to have it painted by a friend of my Dad’s who owned a reputable aircraft paint business. I had school to go to, but my Dad had a small notepad sheet he tore from a pocket spiral and went into the FBO with an ink pen. Neil was standing inside in the lobby area (the airport was very small and very private in those days), and asked him to sign an autograph for his son (me). He did so somewhat reluctantly. I still have that autograph and the story/provenance to go with it. Question is, who would grade or authenticate this? Should I trust mailing it into a place like that? I would be interested in selling it after having it 20 years. ANy advice or help appreciated.

    Josh Olds
    Madison Indiana

  10. Ryan Maxwell says:

    I have bid on several Moonwalker items, but never won anything. I would love to amass a collection of all 12 on baseballs. If anyone can help with this or point me in the right directions, I would be very grateful. I have been doing the same thing with Presidential baseballs.

  11. hi
    i have a large framed montage of all 12 men autographs who walked on the moon some on postcards and badges etc and would like to sell, anybody interested please email blacklock21@btinternet.com or would i be better to keep for a while longer,anybody got advise please

  12. When I was nine, wrote to Nasa and asked for autographs of the Mercury 7 astronauts.
    A brown envelope was sent to me with seven individually 8×10 signed autographs from the seven original 7. Was this a common practice by NASA? I latter sent a letter for the pilots for Gemini program and received 5×7 black and white signed photos for that program. Are they of any value? Thanks

  13. Jaclyn Hiebert says:

    Great story. Anyway, I came across these moon landing-related signed postcards: http://postcardology.posterous.com/to-the-moon-and-back. Have you seen them? I heard they are worth a fortune.

  14. hi
    on the 15th dec 12 i asked about my montage ,got reply to sent photos which i did but not received a reply

    steven

  15. I Mr Pizzitola,
    I own the same picture of the crew member Apollo 11 as yours. Do you have an idea of the value of this dedicated picture I receive now 43 years ago when I was in France…Thanks for your answer.

  16. Hi Anthony,

    I emailed you some photos of Neil Armstrong’s autograph along with Bob Hope’s and Connie Steven’s given to my dad in Vietnam in December 1969 during Hopes Christmas USO tour. Did you receive them?

    Best,
    Ben

  17. Marty Peters says:

    I would be very interested in knowing if “Marty” still has his Armstrong for sale as I am a “Marty” too, and am starting to collect Armstrong signatures. If anyone has one for sale you may contact me at mvpeters@hotmail.com

  18. Diana Ader says:

    Dear Mr Pizzitola, I much enjoyed the story of your “Quest”. I had the great pleasure of meeting Neil Armstrong in 1970 at the 12th World Gliding Championships in Marfa, Texas. I was a member of the British team and Neil Armstrong was with the USA team. As you know he was a keen glider pilot. He gave me an autograph on a postcard a copy of which I will send you by email. I would be interested to know if this is of any value and how I might go about selling it.
    Yours sincerely, Diana A.

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Ms. Ader, thanks for asking. Per an your earlier communication with a copy of the postcard I feel the item is genuine and worth $450-650 at auction coningent on quality, Good Luck!

  19. Patrick McDonald says:

    Anthony,
    Like you, I am an avid Moon-Landing fan. In 1969 I was a newspaper delivery boy in the suburbs of Chicago. I managed to secure the Moonlanding copy of the Chicagao Tribune, July 21, 1969.
    I later attended Purdue University (1977 Forestry) and was then employed as the Landscape Supervisor of Purdue (1977-2000).
    In 1994 I attended the Fund Raising Campaign “Vision 21” Celebration at the University Armory building. My wife and my new born son (8/28/94) were also in attendance.
    Neil Armstong and Gene Cernan (first and last men on the moon) served as Co- chairs to this fund-raising effort for Purdue. They were in attendance and were the main speaker at this celebration event.
    I had brought with me the July, 1969 Chicago Tribune in the event I got the opportunity to meet him. It was the University’s President’s wife that provided the introduction to Neil Armstong to me, my wife and our new born son,
    Bryon.
    With the opportunity presented, I asked him if he would mind signing my Tribune, and he did so very graciously and his wife held my son while he signed the front headline page of the July 21, 1969 issue.
    I am not really interested in selling it, because it means alot to me and my children. I was blessed just to get to meet him and to shake his hand and the fact he held my son and allowed his wife to hold him while he signed my 25 year old paper.
    His passing was a surprise, as I did hope for him to reach the 50th Anniversary in 2019.
    I have noticed that he quit signing autographs after 1994 and I feel fortunate to have obtained this bit of memorablia. I wonder if you have any idea what this autographed Chicago tribune would be worth? I have the entire newspaper, and has been stored away these many years. I would like to know what it might be worth today and perhaps at the 50 year anniversary.
    I have considered donating it to Purdue University, my alumn at some point.

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Mr. McDonald, thanks for that great heart-warming story! Essentially, an autographed item’s value depends on who it is and the condition of item it is written on. Although your Armstrong signature has significant value and the newspaper well preserved, purchasers typically want to dispaly their prized possession. Even though arcivally framed, newspapers over time will yellow and ‘breakdown’. Your idea of donating to Purdue is excellent since Armstrong donated his papers there. I suggest contacting Steve Zarelli (online) and he can provide a written opinion of value for tax purposes.
      Again, thanks for the heart-warming stoy!
      Anthony

  20. Damian Dobbyn says:

    Hi Anthony,
    During my early school years , back in the late seventies, I was doing a school project on Space travel. I wrote a letter to NASA asking them for any literature and help they could offer. Many few weeks later I received a large brown envelope which contained numerous photographs of astronauts (some signed, some not) and quite a bit of info on the , then , forthcoming Space shuttle program. With plent of artists impressions of what the space shuttle would look like.
    I have kept all this in the original envelope and also included in this was a photograph of Neil in his white flight suit. It had been autographed but slighty brushed before the ink dried. Is this of value and what impact of the hand rub on the autograph has. The autograpgh is as clear and legible as others I have seen.
    Thanks
    Damian

    • Damian Dobbyn says:

      Also just looked at it again and noticed it’s in black as opposed to blue ink.

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Damian, sounds like great items. Yes, smudges or brushes will affect the price of an autograph just as bends or damaged corners of the item will affect the price. Please feel free to scan the photo and send to me for further evaluation, AFPizzitola@aol.com

      Thanks!

  21. hi
    i have a framed montage by all 12 men who walked on the moon,where would i sell and what would be the value

    thanks

  22. Kelly Van Camp says:

    I have a model of the lunar module signed by Neil Armstrong and a Hallmark commemorative Christmas ornament of Mr. Armstrong in his white suit signed on the ornament and on the box. Any guess as to their worth?

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Ms. Van Camp: That’s interesting because there was actually litigation initiated by Neil Armstrong against Hallmark over his image being used without his permission. I woud love to see the items! Please email me scans/photos at AFPizzitola@aol.com. Thanks

  23. tkthesailor says:

    Hi, my uncle, now deceased was the protocol assistant for the office of public affairs at NASA. He travelled with the three Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives on the Good Will Around the World Tour (Project Giantstep” or the “Giant Leap” Tour. He left me the exact photos on this blog (the first two listed here; Prime Crew of Fifth Manned Apollo Mission and Neil A. Armstrong (in white flight suit).

    He also left a beta cloth patch like the one show above, however, that is not autographed. The photos only have their signatures, not inscriptions.

    Any idea of their value?

    Thanks,

    Tk

  24. Dear Mr. Anthony Pizzitola:
    My ucle Ivo which was for many years Italian Consul in Panama, gave me an envelope that says University of Cincinnati Dept of Aerospace Engineering Loc.#70
    address to my uncle. Post marked Jan 4, 79.
    Enclosed is an authentic autographed photo inscribed
    to my uncle that says:To Ivo- With Thanks & Good
    Wishes- Neil Armstrong signature. By the way is a
    beautiful color photo. I have this for so many years.
    What could be the exact value Mr. Pizzitola?
    Really would appreciate your honest answer.

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Gina. thanks for asking. If it is the Official NASA White Space Suite photo and in good condition, it is typically valued at $3500-$4000 since it is inscribed. Signed Armstrong photos that are not inscribed are valued at $5000 +. Feel free to scan the item and send to my attention at AFPizzitola@aol.com.
      Anthony

  25. alos i have a signed red hot chili peper drumhead that is signed by 4 band members that i understand is desirable and was dificult to secure (one member has passed) also if someone is i nterested let me know. sincerely lisa c

  26. i have a agned apollo 11 crew picture that my husband secured along with 6 of the 7 mercury 7 signatures and i am quite motivated to sell them. the armstrong signature was secured in our mutual home town. if someone is interested in contacting me please do 513-850-5100. sincerely lisa c

  27. Leon Cooper says:

    Anthony – what a great article! I too always loved his commanding signature!

  28. Mr. Pizzitola,
    I obtained a collection of single photographs of the astronauts who flew on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo…one of which is Neil Armstrong. There is a letter from the owner on how it was aquired, a letter from a handwriting forensic document expert who claims all signatures to be handwritten and not autopen, and a letter of authenticity. My problem is, I emailed my copies of the paperwork with a few pictures…and some companies say they are real and others say they are autopen. I don’t know who to turn to for help on this. If they were authenticated to be handwritten, wouldn’t that be exactly what they are? I want to sell the collection, but am stuck as what to do next. Can you help? Can you email me your email address and I can send you what I have?
    Thanks so much,
    Janet

  29. Anthony Pizzitola says:

    For those who do not know, it was Steve Cyrkin who designed the front cover of Neil Armstrong: The Quest for His Autograph. Steve’s fantastic eye for detail and great editorial skills made the book what it is today – a testiment to Neil Armstrong!

  30. Anthony –

    I enjoyed reading about your quest! I had the privilege to have dinner with Mr. Armstrong at Beale AFB in 1994/5. He was there to film a segment on flight, I do not recall if it was on the U2 or SR-71. I asked him if he might sign a copy of Life Magazine’s “To the Moon and Back” with the famous Buzz Aldrin photo he took on the cover. In awe, I struggled to come up with a question as he was signing and ended up asking what he was thinking when taking the picture. He paused, turned towards me with a grin and in dry midwestern fashion said, “f6 or f8.”

    • Mark Ashford says:

      Nice post great memory. My dad and I met B. Aldrin in 73 at the St. Regis hotel in New York At the bar. I was young and all I could think of was to ask him if he was scared. I just remember him smiling.He signed a note without me even asking.Nice guy.

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Mr. French, thanks for sharing. I had heard that Mr. Armstrong had a dry sense of humor and you just proved it. Thanks, again!

  31. Patrick Nicolucci says:

    I have a Neil Armstrong autograph on a copy of the NY times july 21,1969
    what is Neil’s autograph worth now that he has passed?

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      As in all autographs, three things determine value: who it is, what is it on and content. If the autograph is on newspapewrs that have been kept in great condition the value could be $700-800. Thanks

      • Mark Ashford says:

        Dear Mr. Pizzitola: I have been an active collector since the days of Charles Hamilton auctions from New York in the 70’s. I purchased an in person signature in 1992 From Chis Stickel of N. Armstong. It is a photo of the prime crew only signed by Asmstrong in a light blue felt tip. I have seen some geuine examples on this web site because of the flood of recent forgeries on e- bay.I sold a similar Armstrong on RR in July of2012 for $1069 on the cover of an album celebrating the event that I personnally acquired in93.I paid $225 for my Stickel piece in 92.Is it rare to see aprime crew photo signed just by him without the others. If right what range could it be worth. Thanks. I will send A pic or pay for an estimate.MA. I am a judge in Omaha Ne.

        • Anthony Pizzitola says:

          Judge Ashford, thank you for the inquiry. It is not rare to see individual Apollo 11 crew member autographs on the crew photo, completion photos are rare typically signed at different times and with different instruments. At this time you could get Aldrin and Collins to complete the photo for apprximately $2000. Aldrin has a website and Collins signs through Novaspace. First, please feel free to e-mail me the photo, AFPizzitola@aol.com for a gratis evaluation of authenticity. Happy to help!

          Anthony

  32. Many years ago in Houston I was into skydiving. Six of the first 7 astronauts would occasionally come out to the DZ. I got all six to sign my logbook. Unfortunately that logbook and my gear were lost in Atlanta, GA when my car was stolen. I used to run into Scott Carpenter in a Houston banjo bar. Armstrong came with him once and I got to meet him. I didn’t have a long conversation. Scott just introduced us and we had a few words before I had to leave. Unfortunately I was not into autographs at the time and the only astronaut ones I ever got were the ones who signed my logbook. About ten or fifteen years ago I started accumulating autographs to re-sell – mostly German Knights Cross, US Medal of Honor and UK Victoria Cross, but I did end up with 50-75 astronauts and cosmonauts…none of the earlier ones, though. My wife was the head Girl Scout in East Texas and she was good friends with Sally Ride(sp). She has a signed photo Sally gave her. Thanks again for a great read.

  33. Anthony Pizzitola says:

    Thanks, Mr. Stapleton!

  34. Linda Hester says:

    I have a letter written to my sixth grade class and signed by Neil Armstrong. He wrote the letter when he was at a college . How much do you think it is worth? How can I take care of it?

    • Anthony Pizzitola says:

      Ms Hester, thanks for the questions. Without seeing the letter I cannot determine a value. The best way to maintain the integrity of the letter is to keep it in a 100% cotton large envelop or sandwiched between two pieces of 100% cotton paper. Please do permit it to be folded. Please also feel free to scan and forward to my attantion.

      Thanks
      Anthony

      • I have a signature from when he visited Stouffers in Solon, OH in the 70’s.

        It is on regular notebook paper and says
        To Marty
        Keep them flying
        Neil Armstrong

        I have been thinking about selling

        • Anthony Pizzitola says:

          Marty, nice item., please sacn and forward to me AFPizzitola@aol.com. Thanks

        • I guess I didn’t ask a question. How would I go about selling?

          thanks
          Marty

        • Anthony Pizzitola says:

          Marty, please e-mail me a scan to AFPizzitola@aol.com, I’ll reply with the best avenue for selling it. Thanks!

          • Howard L. Moore says:

            Back in 1969, I personally talked to Armstrong when he was a professor at the Univ. of Cinncinnaiti and told him I too was a pilot and had watched his moon landing on TV. I also asked if he would autograph a front page of the July 21,1969, Atlanta Constitution I had saved of that event. He sure. So I now have his signature, “Best wishes Howard Moore”. framed and hanging on my wall. Probably a one and only. Would you suggest a reasonable asking price for this item? Howard L. Moore

  35. Outstanding. I wish I had your dedication.