When exactly Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the moon, received his class ring isn't clear.
"But it was after his Apollo 11 mission," said Michael Riley, director of space exploration for Heritage Auctions, a Dallas-based house in the midst of the second of three auctions featuring the personal effects of Purdue University's most famous graduate.
"It was a presentation ring, because the wooden display box it came in has on the top an engraved plaque that mentions the famous quote, 'One small step for a man .' and so forth," Riley said. "Beautiful ring. To be able to wear that ring and say, 'Yeah, this was Neil Armstrong's,' how cool is that?"
The first round of what is being touted as a three-part auction from Armstrong's collection, held with much fanfare in October, fetched $5.27 million for hundreds of items from what was called the Armstrong Family Collection. (The auction, featuring astronaut- and space-related pieces, brought in $7.48 million overall, Riley said.)
As with the first auction, bidding in round two includes a handful of Purdue-related things that Armstong saved and catalogued from his days as a student and as a celebrated alumni of aeronautical engineering, class of 1955. (A third auction with even more from Armstrong's life and career will be in July, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, moon landing.)
At Purdue, Sammie Morris, director of the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, said her staff has been through the catalog in this auction, which ends with live bidding on May 9. As with the past auction in October, Morris said Purdue doesn't plan to bid on anything.
"The Armstrong papers we already have are so strong that other than a few Purdue-related items, we didn't see anything of particular interest," Morris said.
The Karnes Research Center has Neil A. Armstrong Papers, a collection of memorabilia, photos, papers and correspondence the astronaut kept through his career and arranged to Purdue upon his death in 2012. Purdue says the collection, inventoried in a 364-page index after two years of sorting at the university, is valued at $3.4 million takes 221.3 cubic feet of shelf space on the fourth floor of Purdue's HSSE Library. In the collection: Apollo 11 lunar maps and check lists; photos from his days at Purdue; and Gemini 8 mission food, toothbrush and motion sickness medicine.
In October's auction, among a dozen or so Purdue-related pieces, a centennial banner purported to have gone to the moon with Armstrong went for $42,000; Armstrong's hand-written notebook from his general engineering classes fetched $6,000; and a blazer patch from Phi Delta Theta, Armstrong's fraternity, brought $2,000.
Is there anything Purdue's archives covets?
"There is a schedule from Neil's first semester at Purdue that we'd love to accept, if a supporter wanted to purchase and donate it to us," Morris said.
That said, here are some of the finds with some alma mater flavor in the Armstrong auction.
— 1955 Purdue class ring: The ring, size 8¼, is 10-karat gold with a diamond, with Armstrong's name engraved on the inside. The ring comes in a wooden display box with a heavy copper plaque that reads: "Neil Armstrong/Purdue University 1955, A.E./One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind./Tranquility Base - July 1969." (Heritage notes: "Some discoloration to the engraved plate, ring is pristine.") According to Heritage's description: "We assume that Armstrong either never received his class ring in the 1955 period, or possibly it had been lost. In any case, the university was proud to honor such a distinguished and important graduate with this special ring."
Opening bid: $12,500 (with 25 percent buyer's premium, $15,625).
— Armstrong's class schedule from fall 1947:That would have been Armstrong's first semester of a Purdue career that was sandwiched around his time in the U.S. Navy as part of the Naval Aviation College Program. The schedule was filled out and signed by Armstrong, whose student number was 02487 and who listed his address at 611 New York St. He took eight classes, totaling 19 credit hours: general chemistry, composition, engineering lectures, engineering drawing, shop lab, algebra and trigonometry, physical activity and band. Heritage's pitch: "A very important and unique piece of Neil Armstrong and Purdue history. Don't miss this one, Purdue fans!"
Bid, as of April 29: $1,700 ($2,125 with buyer's premium).
— Purdue Grand Prix starter award: In 1975, Armstrong was on campus and served as honorary starter for the Purdue Grand Prix, an annual go-kart race for students. The bronze plaque features an image of mascot Purdue Pete crammed into a kart.
Opening bid: $400.
— Purdue Alumnus magazines: Armstrong saved a copy of the alumni magazine from July-August 1989, featuring him on the cover for the 20th anniversary of the moon landing. He also kept one from November 1969, featuring Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps on the cover. That one includes an intact mailing address to his home in Seabrook, Texas.
Bids, as of April 29: $350 for July-August 1989; $6 for November 1969.
— "First Man on the Moon" stamp, Sept. 9, 1969:The first day release of the stamp is on a post card featuring Armstrong in a space suit next to the Phi Delta Theta crest: "Neil A. Armstrong, Purdue '55; Phi Delta Theta, Bond Number 851." Heritage's pitch on this one: "A perfect item for a fraternity chapter or member to display."
Bid, as of April 29: $22.
— WHAT YOU CAN DO: To see the complete list of items up for bid in the Armstrong collection, through May 9, go to Heritage Auctions at historical.ha.com.
— ARMSTRONG EXHIBIT ON CAMPUS: Purdue Purdue's Archives and Special Collections are marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with an exhibit, "Apollo in the Archives: Selections from the Neil A. Armstrong Papers," through Aug. 16. Purdue Archives and Special Collections is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, in Stewart Center's Humanities, Social Sciences and Education library. The archives and the exhibit are on the fourth floor of the library.