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Published: Friday, 7/17/2009

Check this out: Autograph of Armstrong nets $27,350

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES

AMHERST, N.H. - A check signed by Neil Armstrong hours before he took off for the moon has been sold for $27,350, 40 years to the day after it was written.

An engineer in California bought it in an online auction run by RR Auction of Amherst, N.H.

The $10.50 check was for money Mr. Armstrong had borrowed from Harold Collins, a NASA manager.

According to the auction house, Mr. Armstrong wrote it in case anything happened to him on the moon mission, but told Mr. Collins not to cash it because he would return.

The check was sold yesterday morning, ending the 17-day auction.

Anthony Pizzitola of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club says the price is a record for a single Armstrong autograph.

Jack Staub, from Newport Beach, Calif., bought the check.

Mr. Armstrong's autograph has become the most valuable from any living human being, collectors say.

"He's the most sought-after human being for an autograph," Mr. Pizzitola said. "That's based on the fact that he just stopped signing in 1994. It's just like a stock; that's basically what it is."

The confluence of rare qualities - an Armstrong signature, the timing of launch day, and the approaching anniversary - turned out to be sweet music to RR Auction, which handled the auction.

RR Auction owner Bob Eaton, whose modest storefront masks a star-studded office where Marilyn Monroe competes with Teddy Roosevelt for wall space, said the check shows something of Mr. Armstrong's character.

During that pressure-packed morning 40 years ago, the astronaut took time to repay a friend.

"Before he left for the moon, he wanted to show that this gentleman would be paid back," Mr. Eaton said.

The check was offered for consignment by Noah Bradley of Charlottesville, Va., a collector of space memorabilia who bought the item from Mr. Collins' son in 2002.

With the anniversary of Mr. Armstrong's moon walk, Mr. Bradley decided to resell.

Mr. Armstrong's autograph is difficult to acquire.

The former test pilot and Korean War aviator, who became concerned about the profiteering and forgeries associated with his signature, stopped signing autographs for the public in 1994.

He once threatened to sue his barber, who had sold a bit of Mr. Armstrong's hair for $3,000.

What makes this autograph extra special, Mr. Eaton said, is that Armstrong included his middle initial. It was one of only three times he signed his full name, Neil A. Armstrong, during the Apollo mission. The other two times were on a customs declaration after reentry and on a plaque left on the moon, RR Auction staff said.



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