In 1976, NASA intern Gary George bought a bunch of tapes at a regular auction for $217.77. By the end of this month, July 2019, a few of those tapes are going to make him a millionaire.
Here’s the whole story. When NASA put a man on the moon back in 1969, they recorded it on tape as an important document for history. Copies were made and somehow the originals went on auction and were bought by Mr George. He didn’t realise the value of the tapes and bought them primarily to resell them to TV stations so that they could record over them. Luck was on his side though because when he was disposing of them, three tapes labelled “APOLLO 11 EVA | July 20, 1969 REEL 1 [-3]” caught his eye and his father wisely told him to hang on to those as they could be valuable later. EVA means an ExtraVehicular Activity which on these tapes, was man’s first walk on the moon!
Nearly 30 years later, George heard that NASA was trying to track down the original footage of the lunar expedition on the 50th-anniversary of the historic event. It was then that he took the tapes to an archivist. Both were stunned by what they saw – two-and-a-half hours of footage of everything from Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon’s surface to an interplanetary communication with President Richard Nixon and the planting of the US flag on the surface of the moon.
The tapes were auctioned yesterday, July 20, 2019, the date of the original landing fifty years ago. Guess how much they fetched? $1.8 million, 8000 times more than what Gary George paid for them!
While this auction attracted the world’s attention, others have been caught in many controversies. Auctions that have sold French guillotines that were used to behead citizens, those that sold Nazi memorabilia from a Nazi sash to German daggers to Swastik-embossed table cutlery, have all said to have been ‘in bad taste.’ Recently, five watercolours, supposedly painted by Adolf Hitler, went unsold at an auction in Nuremberg in Germany. While these are of a more serious nature, a recent prank by artist Bansky, whose picture of ‘Girl with Balloon’, shredded as soon as it was sold, [read more about it here] was one of the most sensational events during an auction ever!
Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.