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If you’ve ever thought you might like to own a genuine piece of American history and have a nearly a million bucks lying around, you might want to contact the Sotheby’s auction house and place a bid on something that’s almost certain to increase in value: Original videos of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
“Back in June of 1976, NASA sold a bunch of videotapes at a government surplus auction at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, Texas. Gary George, then a NASA intern at the Johnson Space Center nearby, bought 1,150 reels of magnetic video tapes for just $217.77—over $1,200 adjusted for inflation, but still a damn good deal.
“Among the 1,150 reels were 65 boxes of high-quality Ampex video reels, 2-inch tapes that went for roughly $260 each at the time. George figured he could sell them to be recorded over and reused by a local TV station, and he did just that with most of the tapes. But thankfully, he held on to the historic ones.”
In 2008, NASA began looking for the original recordings of the Moon landing. All they could find were copies. What had happened to the originals? That’s when Gary George reached out to the space agency.
But there was still an obstacle to overcome: George was unable to reach an agreement with NASA, which probably means he wanted more than they were willing to pay. Sotheby’s explains how they came to be in possession of the videos, which will be auctioned off July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of man landing on the Moon:
“Left to his own devices, Mr. George was able to contact video archivist David Crosthwait of DC Video in Burbank, California. The DC Video studio had equipment capable of playing the now-vintage videotapes. In October 2008, Gary George’s videotapes were played at DC Video, very possibly for the first time since they had been recorded.
Miraculously, the tapes were in faultless condition, displaying a picture quality superior to any other existing contemporaneous videotapes. In December 2008, Mr. George’s tapes were played for the second time since he bought them in 1976, and were digitized directly to 10-bit uncompressed files, retaining their original 525 SD4/3 specifications and downloaded onto a one terabyte hard drive (which is included as a part of the sale of these three reels of videotape). This was the last time these reel-to-reel videotapes were played until Sotheby’s specialists for this auction viewed them in order to confirm their quality.”
Interested in placing a bid on the Moon landing tapes? Sotheby’s estimates they’ll sell for at least $700,000, possibly more. Granted, that’s a lot of money, but how often does a person get a chance to actually own a genuine piece of history?
Let the bidding begin!
Here’s the restored Moonwalk video that NASA does still possess:
Featured Image Via JPL/NASA