September 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Selling at Auction: Nobel Prizes

heritage nobel.jpgFrom time to time, Nobel Prizes appear on the market. While exciting for collectors, there is a peculiar vibe to such sales, considering that someone can buy--for a hefty six-figure sum--a sacred object meant for none other than the person who earned it. This is particularly the case when the recipient is still alive. Still, these objects, like books, have lives of their own.

The trade in Nobels is strong this season. In July, the 1953 award earned by the German-born British biochemist Hans Krebs sold at Sotheby's London for £275,000 ($425,500). Krebs secured his medal for the discovery of the citric acid cycle. Later this month, Bonhams will auction the 1934 Nobel Prize presented to American physician George Minot for his pioneering work on pernicious anemia. The estimate is $200,000-300,000. (You can read more about it in our free autumn auction guide.) Then, in November, Heritage Auctions will offer the gold medal merited by Francis Peyton Rous for an estimated $300,000-500,000. Rous, an American virologist who studied the relationship between viruses and cancer, won his award in 1966.

All three winners have long since passed, and in the case of Krebs at least, the auction winnings will continue the work of the prize winner by funding biomedical research through the Sir Hans Krebs Trust.

Image: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.