Six days after Charles Lindbergh made history with the first nonstop transatlantic flight, May 20 and 21, 1927, he lost his helmet. Nearly 90 years later, the helmet has resurfaced, and it will be sold Nov. 16 at a Paris auction house. Bids will be accepted online, or over the phone, from those able and inclined to pay an estimated $88,000 (the upper limit of the auction estimate) for a simple sheepskin-lined flying helmet that was worn during one of history’s most famous flights.
Lindbergh, whose achievement made him a hero on both sides of the Atlantic, borrowed a French Nieuport fighter on May 27, 1927, and took to the skies over Paris for a mock dogfight and a celebratory aerobatic demonstration. During one of those maneuvers, Lindbergh’s helmet fell off and landed in a vegetable garden, where the garden’s owner discovered it and decided to keep the helmet.
The helmet has only been seen in public once since it departed Lindbergh’s head: In 1969, it was authenticated during a French television documentary. Nicolas Conreur of Drouot Estimations, the auction house that will sell the helmet Nov. 16, told the Daily Mail that this particular lot stands out.
“This is an exceptional piece of great historical importance, having reappeared after almost 90 years,” Conreur told the British newspaper. “I have worked at this auction house for 30 years and recently sold the collection of the great French aviator Louis Blériot—but there was nothing as important or personal as this flight cap.”
Lot number 123 can be viewed online, and Conreur expects the buyer is likely to be an American. Being first to cross the Atlantic earned Lindbergh the $25,000 Orteig prize, so he had no trouble buying new helmets, a few of which have become museum displays. The actual helmet he wore during the famous flight is expected to fetch three times that amount, though adjusting for inflation, the expected sale price would still be a fraction of the Orteig prize: $25,000 would amount to about $334,000 in today’s money. On the other hand, if the helmet fetches $80,000, that would equate to over $1 million in 1927 dollars.