The actor best known as Captain Kirk on Star Trek finally went to space at age 90 in 2021.
In the 1960s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started a tradition in which its astronauts took specially minted medallions with them on their missions to space. Known as “flown medals,” these medallions have come to be highly sought after by collectors of space memorabilia.
On October 13, 2021, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and his team adopted the tradition for their space program, presenting commemorative medals to the four astronauts who participated in the 10-minute spaceflight on the New Shepard rocket that day.
Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) is honored to have certified one of the “flown medals” from the historic October 13 Blue Origin space flight, which was presented to William Shatner, the actor best known for his role as Captain Kirk on Star Trek. NGC graded the medal NGC MS-67.
A Brief History of Flown Medals
The commemorative medals that were carried by NASA’s astronauts on the Apollo and Shuttle missions are called Robbins Medals in reference to the company that was commissioned to produce them. They were not presented to the astronauts; rather, the astronauts were given the option to purchase the medals and include them among the flight souvenirs that they were permitted to carry with them during their flight. After the flight, the flown medals could be presented as a special gift to family or friends.
The medals were minted in gold and sterling silver, with certain versions of the medals known as “Wives’ Pins” decorated with inset diamonds to create a special gift for the astronaut’s wives. While all of the medals are considered highly collectible, certain characteristics, such as the rank of the astronaut who carried it and the distance that it traveled make some more valuable than others. A gold Robbins Medal from the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon that was certified by NGC and its affiliate CAG sold for over $2 million in 2019.
“Heads, We Go. Tails, We Don’t.”
Blue Origin crew trainer Sarah Knights, who filled the role of “Crewmember Seven” for the October 13 launch of New Shepard, presented the medals to the astronauts one hour before liftoff. She called them “challenge coins,” which she explained were traditionally presented “to show that you belong and that you’ve achieved something of particular interest.”
The medals’ design includes the Blue Origin motto “Gradatim Ferociter,” which translates to “Step by Step, Ferociously,” as well as the Blue Origin feather, which Bezos has said is a symbol of “the perfection of flight.” It also includes writing that congratulates the astronauts for “taking a pioneering first step towards millions of people living and working in space to benefit Earth.”
Upon receiving the medal, William Shatner jokingly suggested that the astronauts flip them, saying, “Heads, we go. Tails, we don’t.” Shatner, who is 90-years-old, became the oldest person ever to fly in space during the New Shepard flight. The three others who joined him were Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s Vice President of Missions and Flight Operations, Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Earth observation company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at Dassault Systemes.
NGC’s certification of William Shatner’s New Shepard medal is just one example of its contributions toward authenticating and preserving flown medals. In 2007, NGC had the privilege of certifying a gold medal that was carried by Charlie Duke during his flight on Apollo 16. NGC has also certified two gold medals from Apollo 12 and one gold medal from Apollo 15.
Press release courtesy of the Numismatic Guaranty Company.