How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

Nobel Medals
Nobel Medals
No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

In the 114 years since the Nobel prizes were first handed out, they have been awarded 889 times for pioneering work in the fields of peace, literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and, since 1969, economics.

But over the years, following reversals of fortune and splitting of inheritances, at least a dozen Nobel gold medals and diplomas have ended up on the auction block.

Yes, it's the easy way out, as buyers don't have to have "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind", as stipulated by Swedish scientist and philanthropist Alfred Nobel in his 1895 testament when he created the prizes.

But as any mediator will tell you, peace comes at a price. And surprisingly, it is not always as high as one would think for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The cheapest Nobel ever sold at auction is that of France's Aristide Briand, honoured in 1926 for his role in France and Germany's shortlived post-war reconciliation.

His went for a steal in 2008 at just 12,200 euros ($13,650 at today's rate). That of Britain's William Randal Cremer, who won in 1903, did only slightly better, going under the hammer for $17,000 in 1985.

But that was then.

Auction prices have skyrocketed since, prompting a growing number of laureates or their families to sell their prestigious possessions.

Since early 2014, at least eight Nobel medals have gone up for auction.

"There is a heightened interest in the discoveries and developments of the 20th century and the Nobel prize really symbolises the biggest achievements of the century whether they are in science, economics or whether they're in peace," explains Francis Wahlgren, the head of Christie's international book and manuscripts department.

"We now have to consider them among higher value things that we handle," he adds.

Recently several Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry and economics have sold for between $300,000 and $400,000.

Even more lucrative was the 1909 Peace Prize awarded to Belgium's Auguste Beernaert, which sold for $661,000, and the 1936 Peace Prize to Carlos Saavedra Lamas of Argentina—found in a pawn shop years earlier—which went for a staggering $1.16 million.

'Trump of the scientific world'

But it is the field of medicine that holds the top spot for the highest price ever paid for a Nobel medal.

US scientist James Watson, who won the 1962 award for his co-discovery of the structure of DNA, is one of the rare laureates to have sold his prize while still alive.

He cashed in a record $4.76 million for his medal in December 2014—more than double the amount the heirs of his co-recipient, Francis Crick of Britain, obtained when they sold his medal just 20 months earlier.

"Watson might have a greater name recognition with people, just because of some of the things he said. He is kind of a controversial nature. He is the Donald Trump of the scientific world," says Wahlgren.

Watson made waves in 2007 when he implied in an interview that Africans were of lower intelligence. His medal was returned to him by the Russian billionaire who bought it, Alisher Usmanov, out of gratitude for his groundbreaking research.

And it seems clear that it pays to be alive: 93-year-old Leon Lederman of the US sold his 1988 physics medal for $765,000 in May.

But sometimes sellers are disappointed.

The family of US author William Faulkner, who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1949, withdrew his medal from sale in 2013 after it failed to reach the $500,000 the family was hoping to get.

The peace medals are made of 150 grams (5.3 ounces) of 18 carat gold—up until 1979 it was 23 carats—and feature the profile of Alfred Nobel on one side and three naked men forming a circle on the other.

The gold itself is worth, at today's rates, around $5,500.

"It's a medal whose value you can not put a price on because of its rarity," says Kjell Wessel, the head of the Mint of Norway which makes the medal.

"There are always people willing to pay for rare objects. Some have bought Elvis' jacket or things like that for phenomenal sums."


Explore further

Scientist's Nobel medal fetches $4.75 mn at auction

© 2015 AFP

Citation: How much for that Nobel prize in the window? (2015, October 3) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-10-nobel-prize-window.html
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User comments

Oct 03, 2015
...or just be the first black U.S. President. then you get one just for showing up.

Affirmative Action I guess.

Oct 03, 2015
Look at the state of this site. Important story and we have a TransCanada advert, Taboolad scams, the most loathsome person stealing oxygen from our atmosphere and a commercial spammer that needs to have a red hot poker inserted repeatedly into her arse.

Fuck you benni/Returners. It's just that kind of gang mentality that resulted in the absurdity in the first place. The anti-war movement wasn't an anti-war movement, it was a ganger banger fueled anti-Bush movement, and so says Cindy Shehan. Buy a nobel prize and your "liberal" base won't say a word when you expand the drone wars far and wide and "deal with Gitmo" by killing people outright.

No, they're like you are, only interested in their ego affiliation group, the facts can go screw themselves. His race is about you, not about him. He'd be the first white POTUS if all the others had been black, you white fat pasty arsed son of a prick sucking whore!

Oct 03, 2015
The trolls on here should start a choir. I nominate "returners" for a castrati role! Please, please, please, won't somebody wack that guy's nuts off? We *can* make the world a better place. Sign the petition to get his nuts wacked off. He's been wacking off on you for years, return the favor already.

Oct 03, 2015
With a dull, rusty razor blade.

Oct 03, 2015
He sounds like a Zionist which would be why he's so irritating. Is that returners as in "return to the Holy Land"? You have to be pretty messed up to know about the AGW fiction and still support the Jew World Order that has created and is promoting it.

Silly anti-semitic fool.

I am under no illusions of either Christians or Jews being morally superior.

The Jews have always been a screwed up race of people, as has pretty well everyone else, but I have no ill-will towards them at all. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem."

I am actually part German, however my family was in the U.S. from before World War I, so fortunately I don't have any ancestry associated with the holocaust.

Obama got in office with this "Lie is the same as the truth" type message, "every religion is the same, America is an Islamic nation and an atheist nation and a Christian nation," hypocritical bullshit, WHICH the common, godless, dead-beat people accepted and supported.

Oct 03, 2015
"The wages of SIN is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life."

There is such a thing as WRONG and a true Christian has to take sides on moral issues.

A passage from the letter to the seventh Church...
"I would that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. As many as I love I rebuke a chasten. Be zealous therefore and repent."

Repent?

Why, that's a dirty word in America today. Nobody believes such a thing as "Sin" exists,a nd if God exists, they think, he must accept everyone all the time, etc, and so on. He can't possibly have moral standards, etc. Well screw whatever or whoever you want, worship material things, such as a rock or a tree or the Sun or a popular singer...or if you are a Christian then worship the Pope, or whoever your favorite false apostle happens to be.

I don't believe the constitution was intended to legalize every manner of lifestyle nor anything that calls itself "religion".

Oct 03, 2015
God damn the Supreme Court and Obama, and Hilary Clinton too, for their satanic positions on so many issues.

As for Republicans "Conservatives" who want "In God we Trust" on the money, but don't live by any of hte actual principles of the God they claim to believe in:

"You believe in one God? You do you well. The devils believe also and tremble."

Jeb Bush in response to another mass shooting, "Stuff happens..." *doesn't mean we should do anything about it*...

Can this fool not see that doing the same old nothing about guns hasn't helped? This is the most murderous western democracy, and all of the guns used in recent massacres were purchased legally by people the existing laws can never catch ahead of time?

there needs to be a full ban on civillians having automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and there needs to be a limit to how many guns and how many magazines any one person or household can own, and there needs to be a license requiring annual renewal to own a gun.

Oct 03, 2015
That's the only way to stop that. You can't stop school shootings and theatre shootings with a once-per-purchase background check. most of these lunatics don't have a significant prior criminal record, with the exception of hte most previous church shooter who had some minor drug convictions. And that's another thing, it should nto be legal to buy a gun as a gift for your relatives. You should have to buy guns in your own name and should require a renewed license each year.

We require a freaking license on a BOAT or a Car, and it has to be renewed repeatedly, but people buy a gun one time and own it for years, or trade it around to who knows who.

The NRA is dead wrong, and a bunch of evil hypocrites on this issue.

The right to bear arms was intended for civil defense, not for just anyone who wants to own a gun to be able to buy and keep a weapon of mass murder, which most modern guns in fact qualify as.

Godless.

Oct 03, 2015
The NRA and a significant chunk of the Republican party profits by the sale of murder.

They say they believe in God, but in reality they are godless hypocrites.

"The only way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns." (some republican said that the other day).

Really?

Guns are banned on Schools and in Theatres, so then how the hell is the 2nd amendment helping the "good guys", when the "good guys" are forbidden to carry guns, and you don't have sufficient means within the law to catch the evil ones anyway?

You freaking moron. Maybe it was Jeb Bush again, or maybe it was someone else as dumb as him, I don't know...but you freaking moron...

....and the problem with letting "good guys" carry guns to school or to theatres is that if and when some lunatic strikes, the good people get confused and accidentally start shooting one another instead of whoever the real bad guy is...

So the moron's (Jeb) solution does not work and cannot work...

Oct 03, 2015
...but his other solution is to do....you guessed it...nothing...

Just write off the life of a dozen killed here, two dozen killed there, 50 injured here....in his view write all that off as "unavoidable, 'stuff happens' nothing to do about it."

Somebody yank that godless moron off the ballot right now, and stop wasting everyone's time.

That is the most incompetent person I have ever seen in politics or government.

He probably gets paid a significant contribution from the NRA or some other gun lobby group.

Useless piece of garbage wasting space on the ballot.

yep
Oct 04, 2015
Guns are not a problem it's the pharmaceuticals these kids are on. Just take a look, all these shooters were on prescribed meds. Take away the gun it will be a knife, bat, car, etc. Crazy is as crazy does. The knee jerk reactions to the one percent of d#ickheads that cause issues erodes our freedom. Millions of Americans use guns responsibly every year look at the numbers, there are a lot more people being injured by other weapons every year then by guns. Maybe you had some childhood trauma? With the larger amount of knife assaults and deaths you think you would be up in arms about knife control? Is it Media bias because those rarely make headlines?
God has shite to do with anything. The sky daddy is just a story to make you feel significant. It's all about the Ego like blame displacement as a coping mechanism for life. You know...forks make people fat.

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