medal and ingot
1460 MEHMED THE CONQUEROR
The Byzantine Empire had lost all its splendor, but Constantinople was still powerful. Wonderfully situated to control the trade routes, the city could expect to retain the support of Genoa and Venice.
In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II is 21 years old. His capital is Edirne (Adrianople) in European Turkey. He knows he can win the big city. His daring frightens those around him, but he is a very good strategist. The capture of Constantinople is one of the important dates in history.
Constantinople was sacked and emptied of its inhabitants, and immediately repopulated by the Sultan. It became the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
Admirer of Alexander the Great, Mehmed was impregnated with Western culture. His bronze medal made around 1460 is inspired by Italian medals, whose development was still very new.
Seen in profile and wearing a beautiful turban, the Sultan is young. No other document is showing his image at the time of his greatest glory, and a single specimen of this medal is known.
This piece with exceptional historic interest is estimated £ 300K, for sale by Baldwin's in London on April 25, lot 129 here linked on Sixbid.
1622 THE Wreck of the Atocha
2009 SOLD 115 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
2020 SOLD for $ 96K including premium
Since 1566 the Flota de Indias had the mission of importing the riches of America by convoy to Spain. The most precious goods were shipped in heavily armed galleons. The loss of a convoy was catastrophic for the prosperity of Spain.
The galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha was built in Havana in 1620. In 1622, for her second voyage, the quantity of goods was too ambitious and the boarding was too long. When the fleet of 28 boats leaves Havana, the hurricane season has already started.
The most important boats are at the end of the convoy for providing a rear protection against pirates. The five last boats, including the Atocha and the Santa Margarita, are caught in the storm and thrown into the reefs between Havana and Key West.
Using slaves, the Flota tries to recover the goods. Divers fail to open the Atocha hatches, although the wreckage is still visible at that time. A significant part of the cargo of the Santa Margarita is salvaged a few years later.
Then sunken, the wrecks were forgotten until the 20th century. Mel Fisher found debris from treasures and cannons from 1969, then the hulls of the Santa Margarita in 1980 and of the Atocha in 1985.
The wealth of the 1622 convoy is confirmed. The recovered gold and silver is estimated at $ 400 million. According to the boarding records, the transported goods also included copper, indigo and tobacco.
The discovery also brings some surprises, including bezoars and money chains. Rich Spaniards were fond of bezoars, petrified droppings supposed to bring an antidote against the poisoning with arsenic tried against them by their servants.
The money chain is an assembly of oval gold links, not welded in order to be easily separated. They were smuggling artefacts intended to avoid the payment of the quinto, the royal tax of 20% on the import of gold bullion, not applicable to jewelry. They were conceived for a temporary use and cannot surface now excepted from wrecks.
The longest chain found in this shipwreck comes from the Santa Margarita. It is composed of 407 identical 24 karat gold links. The chain is 3 meters long and weighs 1,790 grams. It was sold for $ 115K including premium by Heritage on May 29, 2009. I discussed it in this column before that sale. It is estimated $ 90K for sale by Heritage in New York on January 13, lot 32297.
A chain of 172 links from the Atocha, measuring 1.70 meters and weighing 645 grams, was sold for $ 60K before fees by Guernsey's on August 6, 2015.
FROM 1783 AUGUSTIN DUPRE FROM EAGLE TO MARIANNE
2014 SOLD 350 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
On April 2 in New York, Bonhams sells as a single lot a large archive made throughout his career by Augustin Dupré, and which had never been published.
Dupré was one of the best medalists of his time, responding to the request to express political and social concepts by strong allegorical figures. He had the chance to attract the attention of Benjamin Franklin, Ambassador of USA in France, always careful to find the best skills for promoting the republican virtues.
Made in 1783 on commission for Franklin, the medallion Libertas Americana was a success for Dupré who realized afterwards many projects for the most famous American patrons including Jefferson. A drawing included in the archive even suggests that Dupré worked for the iconographic definition of the American eagle (which does not mean that he had a prominent role for it).
The French Revolution was a career opportunity for Dupré, master of the symbolism. He was appointed Graveur général des monnaies in 1791, just in time to design the Louis of the Convention. The holder of this important position was responsible for defining the official figures of the coinage and to monitor the implementation of the tools for use in the factories dispersed on the French territory.
When the decimal currency system was introduced in France, it was left to Dupré to design the franc and its divisions in 1795, which he did with such a success that his Hercules and Marianne sustainably influenced the iconography of the French coins.
The archive is estimated $ 300K, lot 1000 of the catalog. It includes manuscripts led by important prescriptive letters by Jefferson, drawings and sketches, uniface trials on metal. This set is for the historians an important addition to the documents kept by the Archives Nationales Françaises.
POST SALE COMMENT
This important lot of archive was sold for $ 350K including premium.
1815 the medal of lake champlain
2017 sold for € 200K before fees
Two years later the failure of the British counter-offensive on Lake Champlain was one of the last skirmishes between two ill-trained and ill-equipped armies. The battle of Plattsburgh was won by the Americans thanks to a more skillful strategy from their officers, fleet captain Thomas Macdonough and brigadier general Alexander Macomb on land. Macomb had used the tactics of abattis to trap a British army much superior in number.
After this great achievement in a decisive battle Macomb was awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal by a resolution from the US Congress dated November 3, 1814, two weeks after the similar reward to Macdonough. This medal is the highest civilian honor in the United States.
The medal in its original presentation holder is estimated € 150K for sale by Künker in Berlin on February 2, lot 214. The lot includes a handwritten letter from the US Secretary of War dated May 26, 1815 informing Macomb of his promotion to the rank of major general and of the imminent execution of his gold medal. Here is the link to the website of the auction house.
The 64.7 mm diameter gold medal executed by the US Mint and signed by M. Furst shows on the obverse the bust in uniform of Macomb facing the right and on the reverse a mixed scene summarizing the land and naval action of the battle of Plattsburgh. The images are shared by Wikimedia :
1832 AN INGOT AND ITS GUIA
2011 SOLD 220 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
2013 SOLD 188 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
On October 25, 2011, Daniel Frank Sedwick, specialist auctioneer of the treasures from shipwrecks, sold $ 220K including premium a Brazilian ingot. This piece is relisted at auction on January 6 in New York, this time by Heritage with an estimate of $ 150K. Here is the link to the new catalog.
Fifteen months ago, I introduced this lot as follows:
Ancient ingots are rare due to their usual fate of being melted. One of them has a still much rarer feature: it is accompanied by the certificate issued at its creation.
This is a Brazilian ingot guaranteed at 1.5 ounces (about 40 grams). The certificate, which bears in Brazil the name of "guia", is in poor condition but it is complete.
It is better to define it as a gold bar instead of ingot. Indeed, Brazil used these pieces as currency between 1778 and 1833. The specimen for sale dates from the end of this period, in 1832, during the minority of the Emperor Pedro II.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Brazilian gold piece was sold this time $ 188K including premium, within the range of estimates defined by Heritage.
1857 Ingot from the Wreck of the SS Central America
2012 SOLD for $ 900K by Stack's Bowers
Fortunately gold, selected since antiquity for its chemical stability, is resistant to sea water. The sinking of the SS Central America in 1857 served as a time capsule of the ingot industry in the years that followed the gold rush of California.
The ship was carrying more than 13 metric tons of gold ingots and coins. This trip was so important that her disaster generated a gold shortage panic in New York. The wreck was located in 1987 off the coast of Virginia. The discovery team got in 1996 the right to operate 92% of the gold.
Back now to the ingots, which have been listed and studied by Q. David Bowers.
The ingots embedded in the Central America had been collected from five "assayers", the word used at the time for these manufacturers in charge of both the production and the guarantee of fineness.
Contrary to what one might imagine today, the ingot weight was not standardized. There are therefore pieces of any size. As early as 2001, a huge ingot was sold for $ 8M in private sale. Weighing just over 36 Kg, its marked value is $ 17,433.57.
An ingot was sold for $ 900K by Stack's Bowers on August 9, 2012. This large piece, 17.6 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm weighing 174.04 ounces (4.933 Kg) has a face value of $ 3389.06. Its fineness, graded .942 at the time, is exceptional. It is the only piece in the wreck which is attributed to the office of Marysville CA of Harris, Marchand & Co., their other office in Sacramento being largely represented.
1857 The Treasure of the SS Central America
2017 SOLD for $ 560K including premium
The gold is carried by boat to New York via Panama. In September 1857 the sinking of the SS Central America caught in a hurricane off the coast of Carolina with a load of 9.1 tons generates a catastrophic gold shortage.
The assayers were working in discretion and their companies were often short-lived. The exploration of the wreck after 1986 brought unprecedented information about their achievements.
Three assayers dominate the treasure of the SS Central America. The top two are Kellogg & Humbert and Harris, Marchand. Also known for his creations of coins, Augustus Humbert had previously been involved in the creation of the official administration, the US Assay Office of San Francisco. A brick valued at $ 17,433.57 by Kellogg and Humbert was sold for $ 8M in private sale in 2001.
In addition to weight, purity is an essential feature that demonstrates the expertise of the assayer. An ingot valued at $ 3,389.06 by Harris, Marchand from a weight of 174.04 ounces and a sensational purity of .942 was sold for $ 900K including premium by Stack's Bowers on August 9, 2012.
The operation of the third assayer, Justh and Hunter, was very brief, from 1855 to 1858. With a very limited prior experience in metallurgy, they had succeeded in obtaining industrially one of the best purities by importing a Parisian process with hot gas.
On January 5 in Fort Lauderdale, Heritage sells five ingots recovered from the SS Central America. The most important are an ingot of 327.97 ounces and fineness .909 valued at $ 6162.78 by Justh and Hunter, lot 6146, and an ingot of 152.96 ounces and fineness .886 valued at $ 2801.49 by Kellogg and Humbert, lot 6148.
Also by Justh and Hunter, an ingot of 179.50 ounces .886 fine of unusual proportions 124 x 51 x 47 mm offered as lot 6145 retains significant iron incrustations from the rusted hull of the wreck.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Lot 6146 (Justh and Hunter, tweeted below) : $ 560K
Lot 6148 (Kellogg and Humbert, tweeted below) : $294K
Lot 6145 (Justh and Hunter) : $ 376K
1857 GOLD RESCUED FROM WATER
2010 SOLD 172 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
In the mid-nineteenth century, gold plays an outstanding role in the history of the United States. The key year for the gold rush in California is 1849. Once the chips out of the bags of miners, it is melted into ingots.
The ingot was not designed to be retained. Fortunately for collectors, disasters have preserved some specimens.
On February 5 in Long Beach, California, Heritage sells a copy which sank
in 1857 with the SS Central America en route to New York. It measures 42 x 112 x 20 mm, which is an important size for this type of object, and it is estimated $ 150K.
The four characteristics of an ingot are marked on its upper surface: weight
(55.05 oz), purity (graded 875), financial value ($ 995.73)
and the name of the office of " assayers ", in the terminology of the time, which guaranteed all of that: Harris Marchand from Sacramento. It also includes, of course, a serial number.
It is believed that 13 to 15 tons of gold had been lost with the SS Central America. The amount recovered in 1987 was estimated at between 100 M$ and 150 M$. An ingot of 80 pounds of that provenance was sold $ 8 million in a private sale in 2001. It had been produced by a main competitor to Harris Marchand: the assayer Kellogg & Humbert from San Francisco.
Release shared by the auction house (this lot not illustrated but linked).
SS Central America article in Wikipedia.
POST SALE COMMENT
Same for ingots as for coins, the price estimates of Heritage Auction Galleries are reliable. This lot was the top among four gold bars highlighted in this sale. It has been sold 172 K $ including premium.
1858 the bengal horse artillery
2017 sold for £ 290k including premium
The Indian Mutiny is triggered on May 10, 1857. It is a civil war complicated by the impossibility of differentiating friends and enemies who wear the same uniform. Major Henry 'Harry' Tombs, in charge of a troop of the Bengal horse artillery, is immediately involved in the field.
Tombs is one of those exemplary soldiers whose old armies so badly needed. Impeccable in his handsome bearing, he will display an unstoppable bravery and a cold lucidity of decision in action throughout his career that he will finish in the rank of Major General.
The Victoria Cross rewards his heroism in a defensive action on July 9, 1857 during the siege of Delhi. The rebels attack the camp, so sneakily that they cheat the infantry picket. The Second Lieutenant Hills of the horse artillery remains alone in resisting the enemy. He is ridden down and has no chance to survive the hand-to-hand combat. In heavy rain Tombs hurries out of the mess tent, takes a revolver and a sword and twice saves his subordinate.
The camp had resisted. In his report Tombs misses to tell his own exploits. In admiration, the lieutenant-colonel re-establishes in all its details the heroic truth and obtains the Victoria Cross for Tombs and Hills.
“for besides being an "Adonis," he was clever, fascinating, and recklessly brave” Major General Sir Henry Tombs, Victoria Cross. Read his story at https://t.co/BVEjF9OxHC Lot 1 of the 6-7 December Medal auction #warmedals #warstories #warhero #artillery #bengalhorseartillery pic.twitter.com/yj7XtouKSM— Dix Noonan Webb (@DixNoonanWebb) November 30, 2017
1911 Maurice Maeterlinck in Literature
2023 UNSOLD by Sotheby's
Maeterlick's symbolism had a major influence on Oscar Wilde and on Kandinsky and possibly also on Munch. He had a sympathy with socialist ideas. In 1914 the Catholic Church placed all his works in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
In his earliest plays the characters have no foresight, and only a limited understanding of themselves or the world around them. Their action is static. For being more clearly considered as a symbolist, he wrote some plays specifically for puppet theaters (théâtres de marionettes).
His masterpiece L'Oiseau Bleu about the quest of happiness by two girls was premiered in Moscow in 1908 and staged in 1910 in Berlin and Broadway.
He was awarded the 1911 Nobel prize in literature with a detailed citation as follows : ""in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers' own feelings and stimulate their imaginations".
Not fond of prizes, he did not attend the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.
Maeterlinck's Nobel gold medal accompanied by the hand painted diploma in a Blue bird inspired morocco binding is estimated € 90K for sale by Sotheby's on March 1, 2023, lot 107.
1922 Nobel Medal in physics awarded to F.W. Aston
1925 X-Ray Spectroscopy
On July 9, 2018, Sotheby's passed a lot constituted by the medals and diplomas of both physicists. I introduced their work as follows before the sale. Kai Siegbahn's medal and diploma are not included in the next RR sale.
The suite of scientific works rewarded by the Nobel Prizes provides an excellent historical vision of the most promising openings brought by the discoveries. The Nobel Prize in Physics highlights the cathodic rays twice, in 1901 and 1905, followed by X-ray spectroscopy in 1914 and 1917 and X-ray crystallography in 1915.
Henry Moseley, killed on the field of honor in 1915 at the age of 27, did not get the Nobel Prize. He would have deserved it by the importance and variety of his contributions including the empirical law connecting the X-spectrum of an element to its atomic number.
From 1914 Manne Siegbahn studied X-ray spectroscopy with Rydberg at Lund University. A brilliant engineer, he greatly improved the resolution of the measurements, resulting in a classification and mapping of the Moseley spectra. In 1922 he became a professor at the University of Uppsala. He published his results in 1923 under the title Spektroskopie der Röntgenstrahlen.
In 1924 the Nobel Committee failed to appoint a laureate in physics. In 1925 this prize is awarded retroactively to Siegbahn.
Kai Siegbahn followed in the steps of his father. Using the photoelectric emission, he obtained high precision measurements of the energy levels in the atoms. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981 with two specialists in laser spectroscopy.
1927 Arthur Compton in Physics
2022 SOLD for $ 280K by Sotheby's
A decisive experiment confirming such a relation is made in 1922 when the US physicist Arthur Compton measured that the collision of an X Ray with an electron generates an increase of the wavelength of the ray, meaning a loss of energy according to Bohr's theory.
In the next year Compton publishes a mathematical model of the new wavelength depending on the scattering angle. The model is known as the Compton effect.
Compton is awarded in 1927 the Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with a British physicist who worked on making visible the paths of electrically charged particles. His Nobel medal accompanied with the diploma is estimated $ 200K for sale by Sotheby's on December 13, 2022, lot 2.
Beside Ernest O. Lawrence, Compton had a major role during the Second World War in bringing together the top physicists of the time in the Manhattan project of developing nuclear power production for military use.
1935 Nobel Prize of James Chadwick
2014 SOLD for $ 330K including premium by Sotheby's
By studying with Rutherford the transmutation of radioactive elements, Frederick Soddy set out the theory of isotopes in 1913. In the previous year J.J. Thomson seconded by Aston had separated two beams of neon atoms by deflection in an electro-magnetic field.
After the war, Aston can finally continue his work. He correctly assumes that the two populations of neon atoms are isotopes. More accurate measurements are needed to go further. Aston improves the mass spectrograph in 1919 by focusing the electromagnetic beam. He starts a systematic study of the chemical elements and discovers more than 200 non-radioactive isotopes.
Considering that a Nobel jury appreciates the experimentation, the award to Aston after only 3 years of personal work is highly deserved. His measurements with an unprecedented accuracy in that field led to assess the relative mass of the atoms on a scale centered on the value 16 for oxygen and to know the proportion of natural isotopes for all elements.
The results of Aston are irrefutable and conclusive. In 1920, he demonstrates the whole number rule. The arithmetic falls every time to an integer, solving one of the mysteries of chemistry: the atomic weight of an element is not an integer because it results from a mixing of isotopes, each of them matching a whole number.
Aston still manages to improve the accuracy of his measurements and discovers small variations around 1% from the integers. With a remarkable insight, he assumes the existence of forces ensuring the stability of the nucleus and the duality between energy and matter. This achievement opens the way for the nuclear physics.
In 1932 James Chadwick discovers the neutron, an electrically neutral particle slightly heavier than the proton, fully explaining the deviations observed by Aston.
A large lot of memories around Aston's scientific work including his Nobel medal and diploma passed at Bonhams on June 15, 2016, lot 112.
A lot including the Nobel medal and diploma awarded to Chadwick in physics in 1935 was sold for $ 330K including premium by Sotheby's on June 3, 2014, lot 81.
1936 nobel prize in a balloon
A young Austrian scientist named Victor Franz Hess rightly considers that these experiments are not sufficient. In 1912 he uses a free balloon to carry out measurements at higher altitudes. At 5300 meters, the signal had become twice as intense as on the ground.
Hess knows that his intuition was correct : the radioactivity at high altitudes comes from outer space, and when coming down it is attenuated by the dense layers of the lower atmosphere. This irrefutable experiment is improved by Hess himself who demonstrates that his result remains unchanged at night and during an eclipse.
Around Millikan the physicists are now convinced that new particles of various mass and charge are still to be discovered. Millikan himself coins the wording Cosmic rays for this new family of physical objects. The teams perfect their experiments in the labs : in 1932 Carl David Anderson working for Millikan identifies the positron, a particle of same mass as the electron but of opposite charge.
Millikan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1923 for his measurement of the charge of the electron which is one of the most fundamental bases of modern physics and for his work on the photoelectric effect. Hess and Anderson shared the same award in 1936.
The Nobel medal and diploma of VF Hess, offered as usual in one lot, are estimated $ 300K for sale by Bonhams on June 7 in New York, lot 182. Let us remind that the Nobel medal and diploma attributed to James Chadwick in 1935 for the discovery of the neutron were sold for $ 330K including premium by Sotheby's on June 3, 2014.
1944 Three Days in Normandy
2017 SOLD for CAD $ 660K including premium
For this battle of tanks Currie has with him 75 soldiers of his reconnaissance squadron of the Canadian army and 55 Canadian infantry men. After three days of intense fighting the village is taken and the Germans surrender.
Through his intelligence of action and his personal involvement Currie was the Leonidas of this important battle. His timidity was transformed into an unfailing heroism during these three days without any rest. He will report that he only had one fear : "the possibility that I might not measure up to that which is asked of me". He received the Victoria Cross from the hands of the King on November 30, 1944.
The group of 9 medals of Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Currie including his Victoria Cross will be sold on September 27 by DNW (Dix Noonan Webb). The VC requires an export permit to leave Canada and the sale will be made in London UK in Canadian dollars. The group is estimated $ CAD 500K, lot 495. Here is the link to the press release.
On July 28, 2011, the group of medals of an Australian soldier also including a Victoria Cross was sold for A $ 1.16M including premium by Noble Numismatics. Also from the second world war the group of medals including the George Cross posthumously awarded to Violette Szabo was sold for £ 310K including premium by DNW on July 22, 2015.
1944 radioactive tracers
In the following year de Hevesy met Niels Bohr in Manchester. Bohr's new conceptions about the atomic model led to the separation in 1923 by Coster and de Hevesy of hafnium from zirconium. Hafnium was the last non-radioactive element to be discovered, filling a miss in Mendeleev's periodic law.
Also around 1923 de Hevesy began to use radioactive tracers for the study of chemical reactions. His analysis of the proportions of stable elements in beans paves the way for medical radio-chemistry. The Nobel Prize in chemistry was reserved for him in 1943 for this work before being formally awarded in the following year.
On November 23 in London, Morton and Eden sell as lot 77 four medals received by de Hevesy, including the Nobel Medal dated 1944 and two other rare and prestigious awards : his 1949 Copley Medal attributed by the Royal Society and his 1958 Atoms for Peace medal. This set is estimated £ 120K. Here are the links to the website of the auction house and to the release shared by Artdaily.
De Hevesy spent most of his career at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. In 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark and it was then forbidden to own gold in that country. De Hevesy dissolves in aqua regia the Nobel medals of von Laue and Franck that were stored in the Institute. Once peace is restored, he regenerates the gold and sends it to the Nobel Committee which re-strikes the two medals and returns them in 1952 to their original laureates.
1947 Gide the Immoralist
2016 SOLD for € 360K including premium, probably unpaid
2020 SOLD for € 150K including premium
André Gide was looking for a truth that transcends traditional morals, to support culture against barbary. He uses literature for that purpose and is not tempted by political activism despite a brief enthusiasm for Stalinism in 1936. The title of one of his first books, L'Immoraliste, is a neologism coined by Nietzsche which describes perfectly Gide's tireless quest. Sartre may be considered as his spiritual heir.
Gide does not want society to impose taboos on him. He accepts and practices homosexuality and pedophilia. He is not afraid of controversy and of hatred. He said, "It’s good to follow your slope as long as it’s going up." His reputation as an incentive to depravity of the youth will accompany him beyond the grave : his work was blacklisted in its entirety by the Vatican in 1952.
His animation of French literary life is just as important. By keenly contributing to the Nouvelle Revue Française, he offers French-speaking writers of all tendencies an opportunity to make their voices heard. He also looks for models in foreign literatures, Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, Dostoevski, to demonstrate that a small elite can be right against the greatest number.
In 1947 the Royal Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to André Gide. The debates had been passionate. The jury retained his "fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight".
The 78-year-old laureate is sick and cannot attend the ceremony. He sends to the jury and publishes a heartfelt letter in which he claims "the spirit of free examination, independence and even insubordination" while warning against the cultural perfidy of dictatorships.
André Gide's Nobel medal and diploma were listed by Christie's in Paris on April 22, 2016, lot 177, with a lower estimate of € 200K. The result announced at that time, € 360K including premium, is no longer available on the auction house's website. It returns in the same auction room on May 27, lot 128, probably after a default : the catalog indicates that this lot belongs "in whole or in part" to Christie's.
1948 Arne Tiselius on Chemistry
2023 SOLD for $ 180K by Goldin
2023 for sale on December 15 by Heritage
Arne Tiselius was Svedberg's assistant in Uppsala. He developed the electrophoresis, a process of migrating the molecules through an electric field, and applied it to isolate the major proteins of blood.
Tiselius was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1948. He had been appointed in 1947 a vice-president of the Nobel Foundation, the private institution responsible to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes, becoming its chairman in 1960.
The Nobel medal of Arne Tiselius accompanied with its presentation box but not with the original diploma was sold for $ 180K by Goldin on June 15, 2023, lot 45. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. It will be sold by Heritage on December 15, 2023, lot 47010.
1950 THE SOUTHERN ACCENT
In 1949, the Nobel committee had not been able to decide: can they award the prize for literature to William Faulkner? The author is odd and alcoholic. But their role is to devote to the glory of the greatest. On the following year, the vacant price of 1949 is attributed to Faulkner.
On June 11 in New York, Sotheby's sells a group of archives retrieved by Faulkner's family. The Nobel medal and diploma are presented as a single lot along with the draft of his acceptance speech.
The catalog is convincing on the importance of this draft, and includes several stories about the unconventional attitude of the recipient. This lot unique of its kind is offered with a very open estimate: $ 500K to 1M. Here is the link to the catalog.
The writer of the Mississippi was especially passionate about his own quest to express the deepest feelings of the people of the South. His work reached a clear and authentic approach on the human condition, especially welcomed in the post-war years of doubt, and he absolutely deserved the Nobel honors.
He immediately accepted the price but tried to waive the ceremony. He finally agreed for pleasing his daughter Jill, who accompanied him and helped him to rent a suit at their stop in New York. His speech was long reworked. He gradually removed social criticism and negative thoughts for expressing an optimistic humanism.
When the great day came, he mumbled his speech in an inaudible voice with a terrible Southern accent. It was not until the next day when, reading the written version, the participants appreciated the importance of this text.
Disoriented by this representation, Faulkner accumulated the blunders. The day before the ceremony, the draft of the speech was found in a waste basket, and at the time of his departure from Stockholm an agent in charge to help him retrieved after a difficult search the Nobel medal hidden in a palm pot.
1952 Archer Martin in Chemistry
2023 SOLD for £ 150K before fees by Noonans
In 1941 Archer Martin and Richard Synge working at the Wool Industries Research Association in Leeds invented the new technique of partition chromatography to determine the composition and structure of proteins including wool keratin.
Their technique of separating a compound distributed between two immiscible liquid phases under equilibrium conditions was uneasy to apply. They simplified the process by absorbing water onto silica gel as the stationary phase and using a solvent such as chloroform as the mobile phase.
They shared the 1952 Nobel Prize for chemistry for that breakthrough in analytical biochemistry which had major impacts in pharmacology, food industry and detection of pollutants.
On February 2, 2023, Noonans sells at lot 815 estimated £ 100K the set of medals awarded to Martin from 1951 to 1985 including the 1952 Nobel Prize medal and diploma.
1953 Microscopy of the Transparent
Its inventor Frits Zernike was studying since 1930 at the University of Groningen the modifications of spectral lines by diffraction gratings. He observed that the image errors in the concave networks are due to a phase shift of the diffracted rays.
Zernike had the idea of visually revealing that loss of coherence by producing an interference with a reference beam. He published in 1933 in a congress its application to microscopy. Nobody was convinced.
During the war Nazi scientists endeavored to exploit all inventions that could bring them some technological advance. They finally understood the practical interest of the concept proposed by the Dutch physicist. Commissioned by the German power, the Zeiss company manufactured from 1941 this phase contrast microscope which will become after the war an indispensable instrument for the microbiologists all over the world.
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to Zernike in 1953. His medal is estimated $ 100K for sale by Bonhams in New York on December 6, lot 98.
1954 The Decisive Fight against Polio
2017 SOLD for $ 200K including premium
This set is now listed in the same auction room on December 12, lot 35 estimated $ 200K. I narrated it last year as follows :
The epidemics of poliomyelitis increased at the end of the 19th century to become a highly worrying public health problem at the beginning of the 20th century. The attack by the virus damages the spinal cord.
This infectious disease is incurable. It was defeated by the vaccines. Its total eradication is on the WHO agenda.
In 1949 J. F. Enders, T. H. Weller and F. C. Robbins working together in a laboratory at the Boston Children's Hospital published the results of their research in the journal Science under the title 'Cultivation of the Lansing Strain of Poliomyelitis Virus in Cultures of Various Human Embryonic Tissues'.
Before them the virus was mostly grown in vivo on monkeys. Weller and Robbins directed by Enders reached a decisive achievement by doing this culture in a test tube without using nerve cells. Thereafter the strain growth became easy and cheap. Several vaccines developed by other teams went into mass production in the next eight years.
The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to these three virologists in 1954.
1956 THE SYNTHESIS OF WATER
2017 SOLD FOR $ 128K INCLUDING PREMIUM
In 1934 the Soviet physicist Nikolay Semenov manages to quantify the chain reaction. This kinetics is studied independently by the English chemist C.N. Hinshelwood from the University of Oxford who applies it to the synthesis of water.
The principles of kinetic chemistry go further than the study of explosions. Hinshelwood himself applied them to bacterial cell biology from 1946. He was knighted in 1948.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Semenov and Hinshelwood in 1956. Hinshelwood died unmarried in 1967 and his Nobel medal surfaced shortly afterward on the market. It is estimated $ 200K for sale by Julien's in Los Angeles on November 17, lot 162.
1959 The Nobel Prize of Salvatore Quasimodo
2015 SOLD for € 100K before fees
His passion for lyric poetry occupies all his life. He is a poet, translator, compiler of anthologies, literary critic, lecturer. His mastery of ancient languages opens his creation of a hermetic language accompanied by fiery outbursts. Openly anti-Fascist, he does not neglect the life of his time.
The Nobel prize for literature is awarded to Quasimodo in 1959. He is the fourth Italian and second Sicilian to receive this recognition. The jury appreciated that beyond the classic influence the poet expressed the torment of modern life, without neglecting the mysteries of death and religion.
The Nobel medal and diploma of Salvatore Quasimodo are sold in a single lot by Aste Bolaffi in Turin on December 2, lot 401 here linked in the Invaluable bidding platform. Here is the link to the auction house's website.
The lower estimate at a very reasonable € 100K enables to predict that it will be the first successful sale of a Nobel medal in literature. On June 11, 2013, the medal of William Faulkner went unsold at Sotheby's with a lower estimate of $ 500K.
1970 Paul Samuelson in Economic Science
2022 unsold by Heritage
He was a man of all things economics from the improvement of mathematical theories to the most effective popularization. Stating that mathematics are essential to an understanding of practical economics, he was considering his predecessors like “highly trained athletes who never run a race”.
Defining himself as “a modern economist in the right wing of the Democratic New Deal economists”, he was an advisor to US Democratic presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He assessed that nations can successfully control either depression or inflation by fiscal and monetary policies. He said "I fear inflation. And I fear the fear of inflation".
His textbook, simply titled Economics, is the absolute best seller in that topics. First published in 1948, it had its 19th edition in 2009 and was translated in more than 40 languages. He was the author of hundreds of articles in journals and magazines.
In 1970 for the second year of the Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel, Samuelson was the first US recipient and the first sole recipient of the prize, with a rationale "for the scientific work through which he has developed static and dynamic economic theory and actively contributed to raising the level of analysis in economic science".
His Nobel medal, diploma and presentation box will be sold by Heritage on December 1, 2022, lot 47055.
1975 Nuclear Models
2019 sold for $ 108k including premium
Niels Bohr's basic publications, in the follow of Rutherford, describe the atom as a nucleus around which electrons gravitate with the variations of energy that generate the photons. This theory paving the way for quantum mechanics is one of the most fruitful in the history of physics. He received the Nobel Prize in 1922.
In the next decades, physicists look for the intimate properties of the nucleus. The first models are essential to refine the theories but remain incomplete. Gamow's model of the liquid drop had the merit of explaining the nuclear fission.
Physicists are then looking for exceptions in the symmetries. The 1963 Nobel Prize goes to Wigner, Goeppert Mayer and Jensen. In 1975 it rewards the work done between 1950 and 1953 by Aage Bohr, Ben Mottelson and James Rainwater on the movement of nucleons, culminating in the ellipsoidal deformation of the nucleus by centrifugal force.
Aage Bohr's medal was the first ever Nobel medal to appear in recent auction history. Accompanied by several documents related to the celebrations of his prize, it was sold for kr 280K by Bruun Rasmussen on November 13, 2012. This set will be sold by Heritage in Chicago (Schaumburg) on April 26, lot 31879. Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
Ben Mottelson's medal was sold by Bruun Rasmussen on May 2, 2013 and listed again at auction by Pantbanken Sverige on March 25, 2015.
1978 Slices of DNA
2017 SOLD for $ 370K including premium
As early as the following year Daniel Nathans, Smith's colleague at the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, uses these enzymes to cut DNA molecules into short fragments and establish for the first time the complete map of a virus.
This experiment conducted with his graduate student Kathleen Danna is one of the most promising inventions in the history of microbiology : by dividing the highly extended molecule into slices, it greatly facilitates further analyzes and opens the way to the use of DNA fragments as medical drugs.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Arber, Nathans and Smith in 1978. On December 5 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 199 estimated $ 400K a set consisting of the Nobel medal of Daniel Nathans in its box, his Nobel diploma and three publications including his Nobel lecture.
This group is sold by Nathans's family to help financing the Hamilton Smith Award for Innovative Research of the Johns Hopkins Medical School.
1979 Promising Liaisons
2016 SOLD for $ 274K including premium
On October 19 in Dallas, Heritage sells together as lot 49227 five medals awarded to Wittig : his Nobel medal and four other medals from 1953 to 1973. Among them the Otto Hahn Prize is the highest award in Germany for physics and chemistry. Wittig received it in 1967.
Alkenes are molecules organized around a carbon double bond. When the four peripheral atoms are hydrogen, this simplest alkene is ethylene. Such carbon based molecules are highly useful in pharmacology.
The production of alkenes is difficult by subtraction. Wittig's merit is to have obtained them in an organic synthesis. The combined presence of an aldehyde and a triphenylphosphine oxide creates the desired double bond of carbon by breaking the carbon-oxygen double bond of the aldehyde. Wikimedia provides the formula:
1980 George Snell Nobel in Physiology or Medicine
2021 SOLD for $ 275K by Nate D. Sanders
George D. Snell had been a postdoctoral fellow of Hermann Joseph Muller, the laureate of the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the discovery of the production of mutations by means of X-ray irradiation", who had been a keen advisor against the long term dangers of nuclear weapons in tests and wars.
Working on the genetic effects of X-Rays on the mouse, Snell then developed the concept of antigenes and applied it to human physiology. His research was instrumental for the success of transplantations of tissues and organs. He made his career in Mount Desert Island, Maine.
The Nobel medal of George D. Snell will be sold by Nate D. Sanders on October 28, 2021, lot 3.
1982 Alfonso Garcia Robles Peace Prize
2017 SOLD for $ 490K by Christie's
The work is fast and efficient. Drafted on 14 February 1967 in Mexico City, the Treaty of Tlatelolco is signed in the same year by all countries of Latin America except Cuba, and by Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It is being progressively ratified by 33 countries now including Cuba, including all the major nuclear powers, permanently providing an area of 21 million km2 free from nuclear weapons.
Politically more important than the denuclearization of Antarctica which entered into force in 1961, the Treaty of Tlatelolco inspired the nuclear disarmament of other regions in the world, including the whole of Africa by the Treaty of Pelindaba which came into force in 2009.
In 1982, Garcia Robles received the Nobel Peace Prize for his stubborn work in preparing and promoting the Treaty of Tlatelolco. He shared this award with the Swedish pacifist Alva Myrdal who had been an active delegate during more than 10 years at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
The Nobel medal of Alfonso Garcia Robles with its blue morocco case was sold for $ 490K by Christie's on April 28, 2017, lot 28.
1990 Nobel Prize Medal of E. Donnall Thomas
2021 SOLD for $ 310K by Nate D Sanders
In 1990 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared between Joseph E. Murray and E. Donnall Thomas "for their discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease". Murray is the pioneer who made the first successful kidney transplantation.
The Nobel medal awarded to Thomas will be sold online on December 9, 2021 by Nate D. Sanders, lot 3. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the research center in Seattle where he moved in 1963 and achieved his research.
1998 Walter Kohn in Chemistry
2022 SOLD for $ 460K by Nate D. Sanders
2005 The Game of Conflict
2018 Sold for $ 187k including premium
Mathematicians have proposed models for situations involving several cooperative or non-cooperative players. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded in 1994 to Harsanyi, Nash and Selten for work performed in the 1950s and 1960s.
Thomas Schelling was not a mathematician but an American expert in political behavior. In his seminal book The Strategy of Conflicts published in 1960, he reorients the game theory into practical considerations, studying the impact of promises, threats, surprise attacks and mutual mistrust.
As advisor to several US presidents, he is particularly interested in the fact that nuclear deterrence actually leads to a balance of cooperation between antagonistic parties without increasing the risk of open conflict. The influence of his theories on the strategies of contemporary foreign policy is considerable, even if the press that reports events for the general public cannot appreciate it.
The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded in 2005 to Aumann and Schelling. Schelling's Nobel medal and certificate are sold by Nate D. Sanders in an online auction ending on May 31, lot 1.
2007 the divided civilisation
2017 sold for £ 187k including premium
Relying on her own experience with her feminine sensitivity, Doris Lessing studies dogmas and mysticisms from the inside before rejecting them one by one with the calculated risk of disconcerting her readers. She brings to our sick civilisation her own healing potion : the book. Managing for the poorest an access to reading will improve their life.
Her eclectic and prophetic passion is above compromises. Rejecting the British Empire that had paved the way to the apartheid, she refused the OBE in 1977 and the Damehood in 1992. It would be of no use to her to be Lady Doris for continuing to identify the obsolescences and abuses of the society and shout out her rebellions.
She was not fooled by the artificial nature of fame. In 1983 and 1984 she sent two new novels to her usual publisher while hiding herself under a pseudonym. Both were rejected and she exploited her hoax to denounce the lack of attention of the literary world towards the new writers.
In 2007 at the age of 88 she accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature without reluctance but also without enthusiasm, regretting to spend more time in interviews than in support of her great causes.
On December 13 in London, Christie's sells the Nobel Prize medal and diploma of Doris Lessing, lot 51 estimated £ 150K.
2010 The Test Tube Baby
Edwards' post-doctoral studies had led him to consider in vitro fertilization on rodents. With his new team, he is developing the application for humans. The risks of creating new types of anomalies are significant and particularly offend the Catholic ethics.
Edwards, Steptoe and Purdy develop the various stages : removal of oocyte and sperm, fertilization in a Petri dish, observation of the start of the embryo development. The key to success is to insert the embryo into the uterus at the most favorable time in the hormonal cycle.
A couple volunteers for the experience. Mrs Brown has an obstruction in her fallopian tubes, which is one of the most common causes of female infertility. Louise was born on July 25, 1978. This very first attempt to obtain a birth after an in vitro fertilization is a total success. The baby weighs 2.6 kg and is in perfect health, with no anomalies.
Four years later the Browns give Louise a sister through the same process of fertilization. The validation that the Cambridge team did not create monsters is confirmed when the two sisters, in 1999 and 2004, have children by natural fertilization.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 2010 to Edwards, the only survivor from the team. His medal accompanied by the diploma is estimated £ 500K, to be sold by Christie's in an online sale which will end on July 16, lot 58.
He died three years later. Louise Brown said : "(Their) work has brought happiness and joy to millions of people all over the world by enabling them to have children."