On the shelf between Mr. Spock and my Mars Rover sits a piece of astronomical history–a replica of the Hale Telescope’s 200-inch mirror. Issued by the Corning Glass Works as a 1939 World’s Fair souvenir, the 3-1/2-inch memento is part of my growing collection of astronomy and space memorabilia. A collection, I must admit, that was born more from my love of toys than any thought of amassing an investment portfolio. The serious collector never cracks the plastic on his purchases. My Mars Rover runs rampant.
A year ago I was a babe in the woods, a novice collector who could have walked past Edwin Hubble’s pipe without a backward glance. I knew I liked space-related antiques, but didn’t realize they’re collected as ardently as Elvis fans snatch up souvenir plates. All that changed the day I walked into a Carlsbad, California antique shop, saw a fire engine red Tom Corbett Space Cadet lunch box and asked “how much?” “Three hundred,” the owner replied. Gulp.