Physicist's Nobel Prize up for auction; $325,000 minimum bid (Update)

May 26, 2015 byKeith Ridler
In this undated image provided by Nate D. Sanders Auctions, shows the obverse of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Dr. Leon Lederman. The award will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on May 28, 2015. The auction marks only the second time a Nobel Prize is being sold by a living Nobel laureate, and is only the tenth Nobel Prize to go under the hammer. (Amanda Hart, Nate D. Sanders Auctions via AP)

A retired experimental physicist has put up his 1988 Nobel Prize for auction, and the minimum bid is $325,000.

"The prize has been sitting on a shelf somewhere for the last 20 years," 92-year-old Leon Lederman said in a phone conversation from his home in eastern Idaho. "I made a decision to sell it. It seems like a logical thing to do."

The online auction being conducted by Nate D. Sanders Auctions closes Thursday evening, but only when the final bid has stood unchallenged for half an hour.

Lederman won the Nobel Prize in physics with two other scientists for discovering a subatomic particle called the muon neutrino. He used the prize money to buy a log cabin near the tiny town of Driggs in eastern Idaho as a vacation retreat.

Lederman retired from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago in June 2012 and moved to Idaho full time.

"No one is more respected in the Fermilab community than Leon Lederman," said Christopher T. Hill, a theoretical physicist, using a shortened version of the lab's name. "He could easily have won three or four Nobel Prizes."

The auction house has sold two other Nobel Prize medals, both earlier this year. In February, it sold for $390,848 the Nobel Prize in Economics won by Simon Kuznets in 1971. In April, it sold for $395,000 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by Heinrich Wieland in 1927. Both those medals were offered for auction by descendants.

Laura Yntema, auction manager for Nate D. Sanders Auctions, said research by the company found Lederman's medal is only the second to be auctioned while the winner is still alive. The company also found that only 10 Nobel Prizes have ever been auctioned, Yntema said.

This undated image provided by Nate D. Sanders Auctions, shows the reverse of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Dr. Leon Lederman. The award will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on May 28, 2015. The auction marks only the second time a Nobel Prize is being sold by a living Nobel laureate, and is only the tenth Nobel Prize to go under the hammer. (Amanda Hart, Nate D. Sanders Auctions via AP)

The people who buy them in some ways have a similar mindset to people who buy sports memorabilia, Yntema said.

"It would just be an honor to own it," she said. "What these people have accomplished, it's mindboggling how they advanced society."

Yntema said it's not clear what a Nobel Prize won by an experimental physicist will sell for, though she said the auction house has received a fair amount of interest.

"It's not exact what the market is," she said. "That's why they go to auction."

Physicist's Nobel Prize up for auction; $325,000 minimum bid
In this Feb. 27, 2002, file photo, Physics Nobel Prize winner Dr. Leon M. Lederman, speaks at the University of Chicago. The 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Dr. Leon Lederman will be auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on May 28, 2015. The auction marks only the second time a Nobel Prize is being sold by a living Nobel laureate, and is only the tenth Nobel Prize to go under the hammer. Bidding for the Nobel Prize begins at $325,000 USD. (AP Photo/Aynsley Floyd, File)

Lederman's wife, Ellen, said they've enjoyed having the medal. "It's really a wonderful thing. But it's not really anything we need in our log cabin in Driggs, Idaho," she said.

For Leon Lederman, at 92, the details of the work that went into discovering a subatomic particle have become hazy over the decades.

"I don't have any real stories to tell about it," he said. "I sit on my deck and look at the mountains."

Explore further: Scientist's Nobel medal fetches $4.75 mn at auction

Related Stories

James Watson's Nobel Prize to be auctioned

November 25, 2014

Missed the chance to bid on Francis Crick's Nobel Prize when it was auctioned off last year for $2.27 million? No worries, you'll have another chance to own a piece of science history on Dec. 4, when James D. Watson's 1962 ...

Nobel prize for discovering DNA up for auction

February 25, 2013

The Nobel prize awarded to Francis Crick in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA has been put up for auction by his family along with one of his lab coats, his books and other memorabilia.

Nobel chemistry prize to be announced in Stockholm

October 10, 2012

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday, capping this year's science awards before the Nobel spotlight moves to literature and peace.

Recommended for you

CMS gets first result using largest-ever LHC data sample

February 15, 2019

Just under three months after the final proton–proton collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)'s second run (Run 2), the CMS collaboration has submitted its first paper based on the full LHC dataset collected in ...

Gravitational waves will settle cosmic conundrum

February 14, 2019

Measurements of gravitational waves from approximately 50 binary neutron stars over the next decade will definitively resolve an intense debate about how quickly our universe is expanding, according to findings from an international ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Returners
2 / 5 (4) May 26, 2015
The wizard of Oz didn't help anyone.

Scarecrow asked for a brain and he only got a diploma.
Lion asked for Courage and he just got a useless medal.
Tin Man asked for a heart and he gets a clock instead.

You can buy the medal, but you can't buy the meaning. Whoever buys this is probably missing the point. It's almost a joke.
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (3) May 27, 2015
@returners

Quite obviously one would not inherent nobel-prize-winner-super-powers by owning this medal, I'm fairly confident most potential buyers will be well aware of this.
Uncle Ira
3 / 5 (4) May 27, 2015
You can buy the medal, but you can't buy the meaning. Whoever buys this is probably missing the point. It's almost a joke.


@ Returnering-Skippy. How you are today Cher? I am good today me, thanks for asking.

Owning would not like winning the prize silly couyon. It would be like owning a piece of history. Some peoples collect the original scribblings of the famous author-Skippys, but they don't pretend that they did the scribbling.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.