Most pin traders have heard about the legendary astronaut pin and some of the wild stories that have made this pin one of the most sought-after treasures.
The astronaut pin was one of the first big pin designs that was made standing at a “huge” 2.5 inches, but at the time, most of the pins were only 1.5 inches. Will Bowers, who was the District Administrator of Florida District 2, gave the astronaut its first appearance in 1986 at the Anaheim Congress. It was a white Cloisonné pin with a mesh engraving on the back. This began the race and the history of the astronaut pin.
In 1987, Will Bowers reproduced the white astronaut, but the mold was changed and some lines were missing; however, the biggest sign of the remake white astronaut is a flat, smooth back or no engraving.
In 1988, a gray Cloisonné astronaut was ordered, but the factory mixed up the order and produced a blue astronaut instead. So now the collection became four pins – white, remake white, blue and gray. The orange Cloisonné astronaut was produced in 1989.
In 1990, the factories decided that the Cloisonné process was too expensive for that size of a pin, so the pins were remade as soft enamel, color-filled with epoxy. Will Bowers then decided to remake all the colors in the set, so he produced white, gray, blue, orange and red. He produced the green epoxy astronaut in 1991.
In 1992, they again ordered all the colors with epoxy and added a new color, but the original gray epoxy astronaut had white letters down its legs and the reorder came in with black letters down its legs, so as of 1992, there were the following colors and process:
Cloisonné Astronauts – white, remake white, gray, blue and orange;
Epoxy Astronauts – white, gray with white letters, gray with black letters, blue, orange, red, green and black.
From here, there has been a new color or two of astronaut introduced each year. For a few years, some colors were reproduced and the colors varied, depending on the factory where it was produced, so a red astronaut came back as a rose color or the shade of purple was lighter compared to the original, and so on. The total number of astronauts produced varies depending on who the trader is and how closely they pay attention to the color variations.
The value of the astronaut has diminished over the years due to online resale sites, fake astronauts and remake astronauts with different character heads under the helmet. But make no mistake, the astronaut is one of the most valuable pins in pin trading history and set the bar for all traders and pins to come.
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