Silver Snoopy Awards
UPDATE: The original notes below were based on the assumption that Silver Snoopy award pins were traditionally flown before being awarded but this has recently been cast into doubt as regards the Apollo era. Hopefully this important issue will be clarified in the future by more research but in the meantime I have attempted to re-write some of the material to take into account the possibility that Apollo-era pins were not routinely flown.
The Silver Snoopy Award was created in 1968 as part of the Manned Flight Awareness (now Space Flight Awareness) program. The idea was to allow the astronauts to recognize the exceptional contributions of individual workers (management are generally excluded) within the vast Apollo program workforce at NASA and its contractors, and the tradition has carried on to this day.
The Silver Snoopy Award consists of a small Sterling silver Snoopy astronaut lapel pin, an official commendation letter, and (usually) an award certficate. The award is usually presented by a member of the astronaut corps.
The rules specify that an individual can only receive one Snoopy Award during their lifetime, although in reality some individuals did receive more than one Silver Snoopy award. It is also specified that not more than one percent of the eligible workforce should receive the award in a particular year. Given the size of the eligible workforce this does not amount to much of a restriction but in fact the number of awards presented each year is small.
The first Silver Snoopy Awards were presented in June 1968 to the four crew members of the LTA-8 project, which tested the Lunar Module in a thermal vacuum chamber. These first pins were clearly not flown in space, and at least one other pin was awarded prior to the flight of Apollo 7 so could also not have been flown.
Until recently it had been assumed that all awarded Silver Snoopy pins after that point were carried on manned missions prior to being awarded, as is certainly the case today. However the issue of whether the Apollo-era pins were flown or not is now open to question.
NASA maintains an online database of Snoopy Award recipients, containing over 12,000 names dating from 1968 to the present, but it's important to note that this database is incomplete, particularly for the pre-Shuttle era. Older data is apparently still being added since in early 2007 the database contained only twelve entries for the entire Apollo era, whereas by late 2009 it contained closer to 500.
Number of Silver Snoopy pins awarded per mission
The calculations below were originally based on the idea that all Silver Snoopy pins were flown before being awarded. With this idea now in doubt the figures can only really be applied to how many pins were awarded per mission.
Using the SFA database to count the number of awards presented during the period between the end of one mission and the next may give us some indication as to how many Silver Snoopy pins may have been carried on each Apollo mission. However, the data is certainly incomplete and in addition some of the award dates in the database appear to be approximations, with many entries on 01/01/69 and 01/01/70 which likely represent cases where the exact date is unknown. These entries distort the data.
In addition, pins carried on earlier missions may have been presented after subsequent missions had flown - a pin awarded in say June 1969 could have been carried on Apollo 7, 8, 9 or 10 - so the result is not going to be definitve. The only 'clean' data is that for Apollo 7. If the subsequently-awarded Silver Snoopy pins were flown then we know that a minimum of 47 Silver Snoopy pins must have been carried on that mission since at least this number were awarded prior to the splashdown of Apollo 8.
There appear to be many gaps in the SFA data, and the aforementioned approximate dates tend to produce artificial peaks between certain missions, but if we take the total number of recorded awards during the pre-Skylab date range we get an average of 36 pins awarded per mission. Over the period of the three Skylab missions (and prior to ASTP) a total of 207 awards are noted in the database, an average of 69 per flight. If Silver Snoopy pins in the Apollo era were flown then it's probably safe to assume the number of pins carried per Apollo mission was somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 at most.
Following the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 practically no Silver Snoopys were awarded until the completion of the five Shuttle Approach and Landing Test free flights of 1977. Between the last ALT flight and the STS-1 maiden space flight of the Shuttle the SFA database shows 538 awards being presented which might indicate a little over 100 Silver Snoopys being carried on each ALT flight. These Silver Snoopys would thus not actually have been flown in space.
In the Shuttle era we start to see award letters and/or certificates explicitly stating that the Silver Snoopy pin was flown in space and usually specifying the mission. At present the earliest solid evidence pointing to pins being flown on a particular mission comes from STS-2.
We do have the complete picture for Silver Snoopys carried on more recent Shuttle flights as NASA has published the full contents of the Official Flight Kits since the 2001 mission of STS-105. This reveals that between 65 and 250 Silver Snoopys are currently carried per Shuttle flight, with an average of around 140 per mission.
Collecting Silver Snoopy Awards
Whatever the actual numbers, Silver Snoopy pins are popular with space collectors as they are scarce, flown (at least in the Shuttle era), and have a prestigious history. The fact that the design itself is undeniably cute only adds to their appeal. These pins are also sought-after by Snoopy memorabilia collectors, of which there are legions.
Apollo-era Silver Snoopy Award
A truly complete Silver Snoopy Award would include the lapel pin in its original plastic presentation box, along with the original award letter and certificate (where applicable). Note that in most pre-Shuttle cases the award documentation does not indicate which mission a pin was carried on.
In practice the documentaton often becomes separated from the pin over the years. The award letter is the least important looking item and the most likely to be discarded if left as part of an estate. The certificates too are frequently lost or thrown out.
If you have a pin without documents but you know the name of the recipient it may be possible to find out when it was awarded from the SFA database of Snoopy Awards but as this is incomplete you may not find the awardee there.
If you have a pin without even the name of the recipient you have no way of ever knowing exactly when it was awarded, although I have identified some characteristics below which may help tie a pin to a particular era. It's worth noting that even an anonymous pin is still valuable to collectors.
In addition to those Silver Snoopys given out as awards a small number of Apollo-era pins were carried by the astronauts themselves as souvenirs. Most of the examples sold to date in the major space auctions come from these sources and they have the advantage that we can be certain that these pins really were flown on an Apollo mission and you also know for sure which mission it was.
Which mission was my Silver Snoopy pin flown on?
One question that collectors often raise is the issue of which mission a particular pin was flown on. This is of particular interest when it comes to the Apollo era as for example a pin carried to the moon on Apollo 11 would likely be considered much more appealing to collectors than one flown to Earth orbit on Apollo 9.
In reality there are very few cases where you can say with certainty which mission a particular pin was flown on, and the fact that there is now some question as to whether Apollo-era pins were actually flown at all casts all this into doubt. The clearest cases are the pins carried by certain Apollo astronauts directly in their PPKs, outside of the SFA award program. A small number of Apollo-era awarded pins were accompanied by letters explicitly stating the mission the pin was carried on, and in the Shuttle period some pins were actually marked on the backs with the flight id, but these are really the exceptions.
Unfortunately, in all other cases there is no way of knowing for sure which flight a particular pin was flown on.
When it comes to awarded pins, there is generally no link between the astronaut presenting an award and the mission it may have been flown on. Awards were simply presented by members of the active astronaut corps who were available at the time of the presentation. This means that there is no reason to believe a pin was flown on Apollo 11 just because it was awarded by Armstrong, Aldrin or Collins.
Also, although it would be nice to think that a pin awarded in the months following Apollo 11 was likely flown on that mission there is absolutely no reason to assume this. If award pins were flown it would have taken time to process them post-flight then to distribute them to various NASA departments and external contractor companies to be awarded. This delay would have varied enormously from case to case but it would likely have exceeded the tiny 8 to 10 week gap between the early Apollo missions in many cases. Thus some pins awarded after Apollo 11 and before the return of Apollo 12 would actually have been carried on Apollo 10 or even Apollo 9 just a few months previously. There is simply no way of knowing for sure. We do have a concrete example of this delay in the context of Apollo 8 as we have seen pins explicitly carried on the flight being awarded in late May 1969, five months after the splashdown.
Another example from the Shuttle era of this mismatch between award date and mission demonstrates just how extreme it can be. A pin presented in May 1994 not long after the flight of STS-59 might have been assumed to have been carried on that flight but in fact this particular pin was accompanied by a NASA letter that explicitly stated that it was one of those carried on the STS-34 mission in October 1989, nearly 5 years and over 30 Shuttle flights previously. This is unlikely to be an isolated example.
I realize that this kind of uncertainty is very frustrating for collectors but I believe that it's necessary to accept that in most cases you will never know which mission a particular Silver Snoopy pin was carried on, or indeed if it was flown at all.
FLOWN availability - Silver Snoopy pins occasionally turn up on auction sites such as eBay and a few have been sold in the major space auctions over the years. Most of the latter come direct from the collections of astronauts, and thus were never actually awarded. Pins sold on eBay without any accompanying documentation tend to sell for anywhere between $200 and $1,300+, with an average of maybe $500. Those with accompaying documentation are a minority, and generally sell at a premium.
Unflown availability - In general all Shuttle-era Silver Snoopy pins are assumed to be flown, although if the original award pin is lost NASA will apparently provide an unflown replacement example to the awardee. It is worth noting that there are many fake military pins and badges out there so we can't to rule out the possibility that fake Silver Snoopys may exist (see Snoopy variant X below). With this in mind I would say that it is definitely worth paying extra for an example with established provenance.
Silver Snoopy Award pin variants
Those Silver Snoopy pins bearing an "r" or "R" Sterling hallmark on the reverse are believed to have been manufactured by the Robbins Company of Attleboro, Mass. The pins are made of Sterling silver, measure approximately 9.5mm x 12mm (3/8" x 1/2"), and weigh roughly 1.5g (0.05oz) without the clasp. Most people are surprised at just how tiny these pins are when they first see one in person.
When I began studying Silver Snoopy pins in detail some years ago no-one had really looked at the possibility that the design had changed significantly over the years. Of course, given that these pins have been produced for over forty years it shouldn't be surprising to find some differences between pins from different eras.
Although the design of the front - based on a drawing produced specially for the purpose by Snoopy creator Charles M. Schulz - has not changed signficantly, distinct variants can be identified by differences on the reverse, specifically the text and location of the Sterling silver hallmark stamp, the style and location of the pin attachment, and the location of the United Feature Syndicate copyright text. These differences are detailed below for the examples I have found to-date.
My intial impression when I began trying to identify distinct styles was that there were perhaps three variants of the Silver Snoopy pin - one Apollo-era, one early Shuttle and one later Shuttle era. However, when I started to compare examples from a few Apollo missions I soon found that there were many more variants than this. My impression now is that, at least in the Apollo era, pins were probably ordered in small batches sufficient to cover maybe one to four flights, and that the pin, hallmark and copyright text on the reverse were positioned differently for each manufacturing run.
It's important to understand that it is quite possible that pins from the end of one manufacturing run would have been carried on a flight alongside new pins from a subsequent production run. This could make it very difficult, maybe even impossible, to tie a given pin to a specific flight based purely on the details on the reverse.
With over 20 distinct variants seen so far we can draw at least one preliminary conclusion regarding the age of those pins bearing a Robbins hallmark. The lowercase "r" Robbins hallmark appears to have been used throughout the Apollo era. The uppercase "R" Robbins hallmark first appears around 1983, with the STS-3 mission possibly having flown pins with both the new hallmark and the old, and continues to be used to this day. This at least allows us to assign most pins to one of two broad age ranges. There is a slight complication to this simple story, with some pins without any Robbins hallmarks possibly having been produced after the end of the Apollo era (post-ASTP) and prior to STS-1 and maybe having been flown on the ALT missions.
Note that fronts of individual pins can look quite different in photos depending on the lighting type and angle, and on the condition of the pin surface in terms of tarnishing, polishing or wear. In reality the fronts are almost identical in design, with the notable exception of the those lacking the Robbins hallmark.
NB: The variant numbering given below is arbitrary and subject to change as new variants are identified and existing ones are associated with different dates. Had I realized just how many variants there were when I began this classification I might have chosen a different system but for now this will have to do. External references to these variant numbers are probably best avoided as they will likely to lead to confusion.
Silver Snoopy pin variants with lowercase Robbins hallmark
The Silver Snoopy pins in this group all bear a lowercase "r" Robbins hallmark, which appears to date their manufacture to the Apollo through early Shuttle period, with the end point coming somewhere between 1982 and 1985.
This pin was sold on eBay without any identification or paperwork. This pin has a vertical pinback clasp which matches those of known Apollo 9 and 10 examples but has the Sterling hallmark in a different location on the reverse. The logical conclusion is that this pin probably comes from either the Apollo 7 or 8 missions. although it's impossible to confirm this without seeing other examples from those flights.
This pin was sold on eBay without any identification or paperwork. Another pin without paperwork and with a vertical clasp, this does not match the variant above or the Apollo 9/10 variant below. The implication is that it likely comes from Apollo 7 or 8.
Jim McDivitt carried examples of this variant of pin on the Apollo 9 flight in March 1969, and Tom Stafford carried some on Apollo 10 in May 1969. A matching example was also awarded by Frank Borman on March 18, 1969, just a few days after the Apollo 9 splashdown. Examples of this variant could also have been carried on Apollo 8. The fact that this pin has a clutchback rather than a vertical pin-back design adds to the confusion of trying to tie pin designs to dates or missions, as I had previously thought that the vertical pin-back was indicative of pins from Apollo 10 and earlier.
A further update regarding this pin variety is that Dave Scott carried at least one example in a suit pocket during the Apollo 15 mission. It is possible that he acquired the pin at the time of the Apollo 9 mission then carried it with him on Apollo 15.
Tom Stafford apparently carried at least one of these pins on Apollo 10 in May 1969.
This pin has no known award date but the vertical clasp on reverse would seem to indicate an early example. The hallmark differs from the other types seen so far with certical clasps.
This pin was awarded in September 1969. This date, combined with the fact that the reverse features a straight pin rather than the vertical clasp associated with some known Apollo 9/10 versions would seem to indicate that this may have been carried on Apollo 11, but this is far from certain.
The very small Sterling hallmark with short "r", and the low copyright text differentiate this from the variant III pins.
Although very similar in layout to variant V this seems to be a distinct version. The "r" mark seems to have a slightly more distinct serif, the pin is mounted higher, and the UFC copyright text is also slightly higher up the pin.
The details on the back of this variant are similar to variant IV but the text is positioned further down the pin. Although the first example of this variant that I saw was 'orphaned' (without documentation) a second example has now surfaced which was apparently presented in January 1981. This would imply the pin may have been carried on one of the Shuttle Enterprise ALT flights.
An example of this Silver Snoopy pin was awarded on Mar 9 1982, which means that if it was flown it was likely carried on either STS-1 or STS-2. Another example was awarded for work on STS-1.
This pin may actually be a Variant 19 but the "r" seems to be a little lower so provisionally I've given it its own number. The pin came with non-matching documentation so its origin is unknown.
Silver Snoopy pin variants with uppercase Robbins hallmark
The Silver Snoopy pins in this group all bear an uppercase "R" Robbins hallmark, which appears to date their manufacture to the early Shuttle period (from around 1982 to 1985) through to the modern day.
This Silver Snoopy pin, although awarded in July 1983, is believed to have been flown on STS-2.
This Silver Snoopy pin, awarded in September 1985 following the STS-51I mission, shows the re-introduction of a clasp mechanism on the reverse. Previously I had only seen this in examples from early Apollo missions.
Whilst most of the above variants have near identical designs on the front, the pins I've seen from Shuttle flights all have a distinct mass of metal visible between Snoopy's scarf and the hand holding the case. In earlier variants there is a clean divide between the hand and scarf.
At least one of these pins was flown on STS-95 in 1998 (awarded in 2004), although variant 13 pins are also known to have been carried on this flight. The details on the back are similar to the STS-45 version above but the Sterling hallmark is larger with a distinct dot at the end.
One of these pins flown on STS-128 in 2009 was awarded in 2014. The details on the back are similar to variant 22 above but there is no dot after the "STER" and the cutaway under Snoopy's extended left arm is less rounded.
Although the layout and details of the hallmark and copyright marks on the back of this pin are very similar to the STS-45 example above, this pin has a much deeper cut-out under Snoopy's left arm.
Pins of this variant are known to have been flown flown on STS-76 (1996), STS-95 (1998), and STS-105 (2001), with these pins being awarded in 1998, 2008, and 2002 respectively.
The Robbins hallmark at the top left of this pin seems to be an uppercase version but with the top section truncated. Unfortunately the only example of this pin I've seen to-date had no provenance.
The details on the back of this pin are very similar to variant XXX above, the main difference being that the "R" is fully-formed in this version. It also seems like the "STERLING" lettering is slightly larger on this version. As with the variant above, the only example of this pin I've seen to-date had no provenance.
The only example of this variant seen to-date had no accompanying documentation or provenance.
Silver Snoopy pin variants without a Sterling hallmark
The two pins to fall into this group so far are identified below.
I've now seen two examples of this pin type, so my initial theory that the missing hallmark stamp might be a manufacturing error is no longer valid. The design of the pin is consistend with Robbins examples but why it should be lacking a Sterling and Robbins hallmark is unclear.
The first example I saw came from the collection of astronaut Jim McDivitt. It was not identified as flown, and given McDivitt's long career at NASA (1962-1972) and subsequent career at Rockwell (from 1981 to the 90s) the pin could really have come from any period.
The second example is part of the Irwin family collection. In fact Irwin was the only astronaut to be awarded a Silver Snoopy pin - one of the very first examples, awarded as a result of the LTA-8 tests - but we don't know if this pin was the one awarded or one he was given by another astronaut or took with him as a souvenir on Apollo 15.
Again it's not clear why this pin is missing a Sterling or Robbins hallmark. The only example I've seen so far appears to have been flown on STS-36 in 1990.
Silver Snoopy pin variants without a Robbins hallmark but with raised UFC copyright text
The Silver Snoopy pins in this group lack a Robbins "r" or "R" alongside the Sterling hallmark on the reverse, implying that they might have been produced by another manufacturer. However, these pins are otherwise very much like the regular "r" Robbins pins of the Apollo to early Shuttle era - they have raised UFC copyright text, and the Snoopy designs on the front don't have the distinctive cross-eyed appearance common to the other subset of non-Robbins-hallmark pins identified below. This would tend to imply they may well have been produced by Robbins, despite the lack of "r".
Unfortunately, none of the examples seen thus far has been accompanied by award documentation so their origin remains a mystery.
This pin falls into the group of variants lacking the Robbins "r" hallmark but with raised UFC copyright text rather than stamped. The only example seen so far had no documentation.
This pin falls into the group of variants lacking the Robbins "r" hallmark but with raised UFC copyright text rather than stamped. The only example seen so far had no documentation.
Silver Snoopy pin variants without a Robbins hallmark and with stamped UFC copyright text
The Silver Snoopy pins in this group all lack a Robbins "r" or "R" alongside the Sterling hallmark on the reverse, implying they may have been produced by another manufacturer. Interestingly, all these pins also share some distinct differences (apart from the lack of Robbins mark) from the other variants identified thus far.
Comparative detail of Robbins-hallmarked pins (top row)
On the fronts, the Snoopy design itself shows some notable differences from the Robbins versions. The top row in the image on the right shows close-up details of some typical Robbins variants while the lower row shows the same areas of the three variants in this subset seen so far.
The yellow arrows highlight two short 'dashes' in the upper right area of the helmet that are clearyly visible on all three non-Robbins-Hallmarked. On the Robbins hallmarked variants there are actually three longer but fainter lines running slightly higher up the helmet, which are barely visible in most photos.
More obviously, all three non-Robbins-Hallmarked pins show a distinctly cross-eyed Snoopy, with the relative position of the eyes quite different to that seen on all the Robbins-hallmarked variants.
Another common feature of these pins is that the United Feature Syndicate copyright text on the reverse is stamped, as opposed to the raised text common to all other versions.
Although none of the pins of this type seen thus far has been accompanied by award documentation one new example was tied to a specific award date immediately following the final Shuttle ALT flight. This would make it one of the many examples awarded between the completion of those flights and the launch of STS-1 and may suggest that these pins were produced exclusively in this period, being replaced by the upper-case "R" Robbins pins at the time of the first Shuttle missions.
This pin falls into the group of variants lacking the Robbins "r" hallmark. As with the other variants in this group the UFC copyright text on the reverse is stamped rather than raised and the Snoopy design is rather cross-eyed. (Note that in the pictures above the pin is angled slightly which distorts the shape somewhat).
The owner of this pin believes that it was from the Apollo 11 mission but it is difficult to draw any definitve conculsions about this variant without more examples. The discovery of variant XV which has tangible evidence tying it to Apollo 11 would tend to imply this mystery pin has other origins.
Another mystery pin sold without any background information or documentation this variant shares the features of the other pins lacking the Robbins "r" hallmark, including the stamped UFC copyright text on the reverse and the somewhat cross-eyed Snoopy. This particular variant has a weakly- stamped upside-down STERLING hallmark in different lettering to that of variant II or XXI.
Although sold without documentation this pin is believed to have been awarded in 1977, almost
immediately following the last of the Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests. This would tend to imply
that this was one of the pins flown on those missions.
Another pin lacking the Robbins "r" hallmark, featuring stamped UFC copyright text and a rather cross-eyed Snoopy.
Replica / fake Silver Snoopy pins
The value of Silver Snoopy pins makes it likely that fakes have been or will be produced at some stage. These may prove very difficult to identify, which is why a premium should always be placed on pins with solid provenance. To-date the only identified non-NASA Silver Snoopy pin (detailed below) is apparently a Hollywood replica as opposed to an outright fake.
This odd-looking pin was sold via eBay in December 2009. The seller had no accompanying documentation or information on its origins. Based on the crude finish, clear differences in design, and complete lack of hallmark and copyright information on the rear, my suspicion is that this is a fake or replica pin.
Update: Apparently several replica Silver Snoopy pins were made as props for the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon" and this is likely an example of one of these prop pins.
Annex: Apollo-era Silver Snoopy Award pins sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
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