Beethoven's Hair and Astronauts Insurance

My friends give me a hard time for being one of those old-timers that still likes to read the newspaper. I’m not sure what it is, but I just like to hold it in my hands. Sure, the black ink on your fingers sucks. I just don’t want to sit at a computer and read my news (even though, I...uh...appreciate you guys sitting here reading the stuff I’m writing on the computer). I thought Autograph Magazine was so much more fun in the magazine form, looking at all those glossy photos and reading stories I might not normally read about some baseball player from 1948 I would have skipped if it popped up online, but since I’m holding the magazine, I go ahead and read it.

My stepdad was bizarre. He’d go sit on the toilet (sorry, was that TMI?) and read a newspaper or one of his spy novels. It made no sense to me. I go in, do my business, and am out of there in 2 minutes. But eating breakfast and reading the newspaper -- there’s not a better joy in the world. I’ll also take the newspaper, and have at least two magazines, in my car. So if I get somewhere early, I have something to read.

Having the actual newspaper in your hand also gets you to read stories you might not normally read. Online, I’d just look at the sports page, and the front page. Yet when I look at the Home & Gardening page, which is of no interest to me (my thumb is green because of the M&Ms I’ve been eating, not because of what I do in the garden)...yet I’ll be surprised that a story pops up that’s interesting, and that I would’ve missed online.

A perfect example of all that was in the Sunday paper this morning. There was a quick story about a lock of Ludwig von Beethoven’s hair that sold at auction earlier this month for around $45,000. Sotheby’s had the framed hair, that was given to pianist Anton Halm, a friend of Beethoven. Halm asked for the gift for his wife, and a servant instead clipped some hair from a goat and gave that to Halm. Somehow, Beethoven found out about that and was furious. He told him he had been tricked and then cut some of his hair from the back of his head, wrapped it in paper, and gave that to Halm (a much nicer piece to cut off and present to someone, than a portion of your ear, Mr. Van Gogh).

Of course, Sotheby’s did their due diligence. They may not have confirmed that the hair was that of Ludwig, but they did say it was human, and not that of a goat. Just imagine how much more interesting it would look framed, with the goat hair underneath the photo of a goat, and Beethoven’s underneath a photo of him.

The other story was all about the 50 year anniversary of the landing on the moon. There were all these fun facts, like that 800 pounds of moon rock made it back to Earth. That the Apollo 11 cruised around the moon at around 24,000 miles per hour.

Most might not know that because of the Apollo program, we now have Velcro, water filters, shoe insoles, and scratch-resistant coatings on glasses. Well, I did, after reading that story.

But the fun fact I thought you folks would enjoy, is this little nugget I had never heard before. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins couldn’t afford life insurance plans. They were smart enough to know that going to the moon posed a high risk of fatality. So they came up with a plan. Each of them signed hundreds of autographs, and left them behind for their families in case they died. They figured the autographed envelopes would bring in some cash for the families. And of course, that leads me to ask -- what happened to those signatures? They might not be worth as much as if they had passed away, but collectors would still pay a lot for them. Especially knowing WHY they were signed to begin with.

One small signature from these men, one giant price for autograph collectors!  (it was between ending with that, or: To infinity...and beyond!)

Views: 222

Tags: Apollo 11, Beethoven, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong

Comment by Steve Zarelli on June 24, 2019 at 8:33am

The signed postal covers that were set aside and saved for the astronaut's families should the worst happen are known as "insurance covers." They are extremely desirable and sell for a significant premium. 

The insurance covers were retained by the families and many have been released and sold over the years. The first insurance covers released by the Armstrong family were sold recently by Heritage for eye popping sums.

Here is a detailed history on Space Flown Artifacts.

Comment by Jason Strecker on June 24, 2019 at 2:48pm

That is really interesting about the space autographs.

I also enjoyed the old style autograph magazine but really like getting to see things evolve on this website on a daily basis with various collector's knowledge on signing habits and personal stories like yours Josh.


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