The Flown Apollo 15 Sieger Covers
Assembled by Howard C. Weinberger
Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the first to use the Lunar Rover, which allowed the astronauts the ability to journey over extended distances from their lunar module.
The crew consisted of commander David R. Scott, lunar module pilot James B. Irwin, and command module pilot Alfred M. Worden.
One of the 300 Sieger Crew-Owned Covers
Realizing there may be a market for space flown philatelic items, Herman E. Sieger of Lorch, Germany, a major European stamp dealer, set out in 1970 to recruit an Apollo crew to carry a small number of postmarked envelopes - called "covers" by collectors - to the moon.
In pursuit of his idea, Sieger approached H. Walter Eiermann, a naturalized American citizen, who had been privately employed for many years in the Cape Kennedy area and was well acquainted with many in the astronaut corps. Sieger became acquainted with H. Walter Eiermann while on a visit to Cape Kennedy in 1970.
Eiermann, working on Sieger's behalf, was able to interest the crew of Apollo 15.
In the spring of 1971, during the Apollo 15 crew-training period at Cape Kennedy, Eiermann proposed to Scott, and later to Worden and Irwin, that the astronauts carry 100 special covers to the lunar surface for him. It is the contention of the astronauts that there was to be no commercialization or advertising of these covers and that nothing would be done with them until after completion of the Apollo program. In return, Eiermann offered a monetary consideration, approximately $7,000 apiece, in the form of savings accounts in a German bank. The astronauts agreed and also decided to carry 300 similar covers for themselves, 100 for each, but two were destroyed before the flight, making a total of 398 that were flown.
Due to weight constraints, NASA required that all the items carried aboard the Apollo spacecraft be manifested. Although the Apollo 15 crew was later to claim an innocent oversight, the covers, which were carried in Scott's spacesuit pocket, were not recorded pre-flight.
It is important to note that the Personal Preference Kits (PPKs) for the Apollo 15 crewmembers were packed and stored aboard the spacecraft days before their launch to the moon, so these covers could not have been packed if they were to have a launch day post office cancellation. The 400 covers were hand delivered to the post office (HQS Bldg.) at Kennedy Space Center just after midnight the morning of the launch. The mission launched at 1:34 pm that afternoon. There was a postal employee working late there and had the covers machine cancelled, as requested from the astronaut support office, even though the liftoff of Apollo 15 was planned for 9+ hours away. Once the special cachet envelopes were processed in less than 15 minutes or so, the batch of covers were brought to a nearby facility, the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (also known as the Operations and Checkout Facility), where the batch of covers were vacuum packed so that the bundle was not thicker than 5 cm. Next, they were sealed in fireproof Teflon-coated fiberglass, and delivered to Launch Complex 39A's White Room after Scott and his crewmates had arrived at the pad for their final launch preparations and spacecraft entry. While there, Scott received the special package and put the small bundle into one of his leg-pockets of the spacesuit he had on.
After splashdown, aboard the USS Okinawa, the Apollo 15 recovery ship, the astronauts purchased twin eight-cent stamps and affixed them to these covers. The covers were then canceled and date-stamped August 7, 1971, their landing date, in the shipboard post office. The astronauts later autographed these covers while flying from Hawaii to Houston on Aug. 31, 1971.
100 of these covers carried the handwritten notation, "Landed at Hadley moon July 30, 1971. Dave Scott, Jim Irwin", and the additional legend - "This is to certify that this cover was onboard the Falcon at the Hadley Apennine, Moon, July 30-August 2, 1971" typed on their backs and signed by a notary public. It was these covers that later came on to the commercial philately market in Europe.
On September 2, 1971, Scott mailed the 100 specially certified covers to Eiermann, who at that time was in Stuttgart, Germany. Eiermann delivered these covers to Sieger. Sieger paid Eiermann an unspecified sum for the covers and then advertised them for sale. By November 1971, ninety-nine of them had been sold at an average price of $1,500 each.
When the news of the sale reached the United States, Scott telephoned Eiermann to request that sales be stopped and the covers returned but he was unsuccessful. In February 1972, in an effort to save their careers and reputations, the astronauts decided not to accept the money and Scott took steps to assure that the funds were returned to Eiermann. Eiermann suggested, as an alternative to the savings accounts, that each astronaut receive a commemorative stamp album for their families. This suggestion, initially accepted by the astronauts, was rejected in April 1972 after further consideration and the astronauts returned the $7000 they had each received. However a Congressional investigation wanted to make an example of the Astronauts and so NASA had no choice but to suspend them from active flight status. NASA also confiscated the 298 covers. It is unfortunate because there might never have been a problem if Sieger had honored the agreement not to offer the covers for sale until the Apollo program was completed.
To prevent similar incidents from occurring again, NASA drafted rules as to what astronauts would be allowed to take with them into space. Future crewmembers would be bound not to publicize the contents of their "Personal Preference Kit" (PPKs) until they retired from the corps. The astronauts were also required to sign an agreement restricting transfer of their flown memorabilia to gifts and donations - sale of memorabilia was strictly prohibited.
In 1983, eleven years later, the U.S. Postal Service announced plans to fly 260,000 covers aboard the space shuttle. Al Worden, seeing the similarities between his confiscated covers and those set to fly on STS-8, sued the government for the return of his crew's 298 covers. In an out-of-court settlement, the covers were returned to the crew. Upon their receipt, the entire crew drafted, signed and had notarized a letter of provenance for each cover, which today has become an integral part of their lore.
The 398 unauthorized covers (initially 400 but two destroyed) are lightweight onion skin envelopes carrying as a cachet, a replica of the official Apollo 15 patch overprinted with an Air Force wing and propeller emblem. They were part of a large order of covers paid for by a privately employed public relations man with a wide circle of friends among the NASA astronauts.
The 398 covers were properly packaged for flight and carried on board Apollo 15 by Scott in a pocket of his space suit; each having been canceled at the Kennedy Space Center Post Office early on July 26, 1971, the morning of the flight.
There are differences in appearance between Sieger's 100 covers and the 298 Sieger/Crew Owned covers, including different combinations of stamps that were affixed.
The 100 Sieger covers have a handwritten inscription on their front upper left corner stating:
LANDED AT HADLEY MOON
On the reverse is a typed and notarized inscription that reads:
This is to certify that this cover was onboard the Falcon at the Hadley-Apennine, Moon, July 30-August 2, 1971
Notary stamped and signed Mrs. C. B. Carsey. Her notary raised seal is also applied to the cover.
Also on the reverse, in the lower left reverse corner, Sieger's name "H.W. Sieger" is stamped then signed by him below a handwritten serial number.
In comparison, the 298 Sieger/Crew Owned covers have the following inscription printed on their front upper left corner:
THIS ENVELOPE WAS
Although images of all 298 Sieger/Crew Owned have not been reviewed, it seems that the handwritten correction in the upper left corner, changing 300 to 400, stopped somewhere between 69 and 100. We will have to monitor this as other covers come to market.
All the covers are also autographed by the crew on the front lower left corner.
Some of the Sieger/Crew Owned covers have a small (unflown) card inserted inside the cover, some signed by a crewmember, that reads:
This cover is #____ of 300 postmarked just prior to the launch of Apollo 15 on July 26, 1971 at Kennedy Space Center; stowed aboard the spacecraft in a sealed fireproof packet; carried to the lunar surface in LM "FALCON"; returned to earth in CM "ENDEAVOUR"; and postmarked immediately after splashdown on August 7, 1971 by the U. S. Navy Postal Station aboard the recovery ship USS OKINAWA.
Finally, in the upper right corner of the reverse of the Sieger/Crew Owned covers, not the Sieger 100 covers, is the small handwritten initials of S. Neil Hosenball (SNH), NASA's general counsel, and a serial number, which NASA assigned at the time of their confiscation. The Sieger/Crew Owned covers are numbered 1-298 and the 60 impounded Phases of the Moon covers taken from Worden are numbered 299-358.
Shown above are three different stamp combinations for the flown Apollo 15 Sieger / Crew-Owned covers
Collector Commentary and Observations
In the final analysis of what makes a rarity desirable and in high demand and valuable, it is some combination of the story, the circumstances and the "sizzle" It is not always about numbers or scarcity. In creating the hierarchy of flown covers, the 214 Flown Apollo 11 Covers have always been the most sought after because of the fact that they accompanied the first men to land on the Moon. And, due no less in part to man's fascination with scandal and controversy, these Flown Apollo 15 Sieger Covers have to come in second as the story line reads like a movie script. One also has to consider that the effort put forth by the crew to make these covers what they were was unprecedented, with the post office cancellations, the affixing of the stamps, the certifications; both on the covers and the later notarized letters. Considering that most astronauts today will comment that the only thing on their minds during training was to get home alive and that they paid very little attention to the unimportant stuff, like how many of this or that was on board the spacecraft, it seems notable how much effort was expended.
What a story!
Other covers flown on Apollo 15
For the record, in addition to the 398 Apollo 15 Sieger and Sieger/Crew Owned Flown covers, the following covers, which were properly authorized and manifested, were carried aboard the command module and flew in lunar orbit:
Annex A: Flown Apollo 15 Sieger covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
Annex B: Flown Apollo 15 Sieger Crew-Owned covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
The first column below gives the serial number assigned by the crew as noted on the front of the cover.
Annex C: Flown Apollo 15 "Phases of the Moon" covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
The first column gives the NASA serial number noted on the back of the cover, where known.
Annex D: Flown Apollo 15 "Shamrock" covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
Annex E: Orville Wright signed cover flown on Apollo 15 sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
|Footnotes : |
The information about the Apollo 15 Flown Sieger Covers contained within this report was compiled from the most trusted sources currently recognized on the subject within the space-collecting genre, especially Ken Havekotte and Bob McLeod.
All information is believed accurate but there is no guarantee that there are no errors and/or omissions, and the authors and contributors take no responsibility for any losses that can occur by anyone attempting to purchase any of these covers based on the information provided here. Furthermore, the authors and contributors make no recommendations to buy, sell trade or otherwise deal in these covers. The information is provided strictly for informational purposes.
|References : |
"Mail from the Moon"The British Postal Museum & Archive
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