The ItemThis medallion flew into space aboard Apollo 12 in 1969. Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. had a total of 82 of them struck from silver ingots recovered from a Spanish ship that sank in 1715 near what is now Cape Canaveral, Fla. Conrad and fellow astronauts Alan Bean and Richard Gordon Jr. took the medallions with them on their lunar mission. The front of each features the mission logo, which depicts a clipper orbiting the moon, and the back notes three Apollo 12 dates: the November 14 launch, the spaceship’s November 19 landing on the moon, and its return to Earth on November 24. Conrad and Bean walked on the moon, but they left the medallions in the capsule.
Lawrence McGlynn, the 54-year-old president of an insurance firm in Greater Boston, has been collecting space memorabilia since 1959, when a Raytheon manager gave him a strip of Mylar foil made for an Echo satellite, the first communications satellite ever launched. The medallion represents two of McGlynn’s primary interests: the exploration of space and of the sea. He has reserved a seat on a future Virgin Galactic suborbital flight, and he is an accomplished scuba diver—though he suffers from seasickness. “I joke that if I don’t get sick, it’s not a good dive,” McGlynn says. “If you want a unique experience, you’ve got to pass over hurdles. Seasickness is mine.”
Conrad learned about the silver ingots through Jim Rathmann, a Chevrolet dealership owner (and former racecar driver and winner of the 1960 Indianapolis 500), who, prior to the astronauts’ mission, arranged for them to lease matching gold-and-black Corvette Stingrays. Rathmann was involved with the salvage company that discovered the Spanish silver, and when Conrad mentioned he was seeking something special to take on the lunar flight, Rathmann told him about the find. Conrad understood the symbolic appeal of making medallions from the recovered metal. “It’s the exploration of the New World,” McGlynn says, “coupled with the exploration of a new world.”
McGlynn purchased the medallion for $3,000 from a dealer earlier this year. His is number 49 in the series, and he hopes to confirm who among the trio carried it in his Personal Preference Kit (PPK), the drawstring bag that held the items the Apollo astronauts brought into space. “If [the astronauts] had their PPK lists, then they would tell the story of who carried them,” he says. “The problem is that most of the guys have lost those lists or will not tell a member of the public what they carried in those bags.” Conrad died in 1999, at age 69, from injuries that he sustained in a motorcycle accident. Bean, 75, now lives near Houston and paints space scenes, and Gordon, 78, resides in Arizona and appears on the lecture circuit.
Since receiving that piece of Mylar (which he still owns), McGlynn has acquired items from all of the Apollo and Skylab flights. His treasures include a moondust-stained name tag from the space suit that Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell wore during his 1971 walk on the lunar surface. McGlynn also has an Apollo 11 logo patch that Buzz Aldrin carried in his PPK bag on the first trip to the moon. McGlynn has purchased many pieces directly from retired astronauts whom he has befriended. “This stuff is rare, but the astronauts still have it. It’s ideal to collect from astronauts [who give] certifications of provenance,” he says. “I used to collect things because they had flown in space. Now I collect things because of their connection to history.”