Auctions | March 4, 2019

Sotheby's to Offer Items from the Personal Collection of Austrian Economist Friedrich von Hayek

London — This month, Sotheby’s will bring to the market items from the personal collection of Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992). A towering economist, political philosopher and beloved of right-wing policy makers, Hayek is often regarded as one of the greatest intellectual figures of the twentieth century. From his Nobel Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom, to his typewriter, writing desk, and personal annotated version of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, the dedicated online sale from 8-19 March, which is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary this month of the publication of Hayek’s seminal publication, The Road to Serfdom, will offer an unprecedented look at the life of this extraordinary genius. 

Hayek’s explanation of the relationship between market forces and personal freedom, among his other theories, had a profound impact on the shaping of the modern world. From the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Hayek’s theories influenced some of the major political moments in Western history. In more recent years, his conflicting views with rival economist John Maynard Keynes about how to conquer the Great Depression were brought into sharp focus following the economic crash of 2008.

Gabriel Heaton, Director, Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts said: “Sotheby's is privileged to bring the Hayek collection to auction. Friedrich Von Hayek's work asks searching questions about markets, freedom, and the importance of understanding the limits of our knowledge; these question lie at the heart of his profound influence on our society, and continue to be highly relevant today. The Nobel Memorial prize, the greatest accolade granted to Hayek, is rightly at the heart of the sale but this wonderful collection also includes a number of other treasured items that give us insights into both Hayek as a the public intellectual and as a private individual.”

Born in Vienna in 1899, Hayek’s family was part of the city’s intellectual elite: his father was a doctor with a keen scholarly interest in botany; both of his grandfathers were scholars and his mother the first cousin of prominent Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. The civilisation of Hayek’s childhood disintegrated with World War One and his youth was inevitably marked by service in the artillery in the brutal Mountain War on the Italian Front. In later years Hayek preferred to recall these years by telling of his hapless attempt to deliver a transport of live eels to the front, but he also acknowledged how the war profoundly shaped his outlook and his resulting theories. 

Hayek first made his name on economic issues, only expanding his intellectual horizon to expound on the wider political and philosophical implications of his free market economics in the 1940s, a turn most publicly marked by the publication of The Road to Serfdom (1944). 

He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1974 for his “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.”While his contribution to the field of economics itself was exceptional, what setHayek apart was his use of the insights he gained from the study of markets to underpin a wider political philosophy that had an influence which is perhaps still unmatched by any other Economics laureate. Hayek’s Nobel Prize will be offered as the top lot of the sale with an estimate of £400,000-600,000.

Offered alongside the Nobel Prize will be further public accolades, including the Companion of Honour awarded by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1984 (£3,000-5,000); the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President George H.W. Bush in 1991(£10,000-15,000), as well as a set of presentation presidential cufflinks from Ronald Reagan, with the Seal of the President on the front and a signature engraved on the reverse, alongside a signed photograph(£600-800).

The sale will also present a selection of personal objects belonging to the late economist, which reveal more about his life and influences. Offered will be Hayek’s writing desk (£4,000-6,000) as well as his portable typewriter. Still in working condition, the early Smith Corona Model ‘S’ typewriter (£1,000-1,500), is dated to c. 1933/34 and was most likely bought during his tenure at the London School of Economics — a pivotal period in Hayek’s life which saw the beginnings of his well-known dispute with British economist, John Maynard Keynes, and the publication of The Road to Serfdom. 

Further highlights include Hayek’s personal underlined and annotated copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (£3,000-5,000), as well as volumes of his works from his library (£1,500-2,000), old passports and personal photo albums (£3,000-5,000). The collection also includes Margaret Thatcher’s signed speech on Hayek, delivered in October 2003, on the receipt of the International Prize of the Friedrich August von Hayek Foundation. 

Hayek’s theories still resonate today with his book, Denationalisation of Money (1976), often credited with laying down the theoretical foundations for cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, that we see today. The sale will also include four Gold Standard Corporation Medallions featuring a profile of Hayek with "Denationalization of Money" on one side and "For Integrity there is no substitute" on the other, produced in 1979. 

Dates for the diary: New York exhibition (highlights only): 8 -10 March

London exhibition: 15 -18 March 

Event: The Legacy of F.A. Hayek, on the 75th anniversary of The Road to Serfdom: 17 March, 2pmSotheby’s Lower Grosvenor Gallery, Aeolian Hall, Bloomfield Place.Speakers to include:Philip Booth (Institute of Economic Affairs), Eamonn Butler (Adam Smith Institute) and Kwasi Kwarteng (MP for Spelthorne). To register interest, email: