Early Nobel Prize pulled from Jan. 7-8 auction

Editors’ Note: As of 10 a.m. Central time Thursday, Dec. 14, Heritage Auctions announced it has pulled the featured Nobel Prize medal from its Jan. 7-8 auction. Below is the statement from Heritage’s Director of Public Relations, Eric Bradley:

“Although this piece is indeed a real Nobel Prize gold medal, Heritage Auctions has determined the award is not the one bestowed to Theodor Mommsen.

Unlike most auction houses, Heritage Auctions routinely posts each lot in our online previews sections at www.HA.com<http://www.ha.com/><http://www.HA.com<http://www.ha.com/>> prior to finalizing our auction catalogs, usually as soon as the objects are photographed and cataloged. This policy allows the collecting and dealer community extra time to review and even help us vet upcoming items for auction. In this case, thanks to the vigilance of our clientele and others, we were able to remove the medal in question from our auction before the auction catalog was even published.

We vet hundreds of thousands of items a year and it is common that some are not exactly what they are purported to be. Once we find something to be misrepresented we act immediately to correct it and Heritage Auctions immediately removed the lot from the upcoming auction. We continue to look into this medal and it will be returned to the current owner.”

NEW YORK — The world’s oldest Nobel Prize to appear at auction is coming before bidders Jan. 7-8.  Heritage Auctions is presenting it in New York. The 1902 award is that of the revered German scholar Theodor Mommsen for Advancements in Literature.

No-Reserve on Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize 1902

Obverse and reverse views of the 1902 Nobel Prize medal awarded to German scholar Theodor Mommsen. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

The Nobel Prize will cross the block at no reserve during Heritage’s annual World Coin Auction. This event is in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention. The auction takes place at New York’s Hyatt at Grand Central Station. The early rare gold medal celebrated Mommsen’s contributions and research on ancient Roman civilizations. Mommsen was awarded it a year before his death, said Marc Emory, Director of Heritage Auctions’ European Operations.

“Since the first Nobel Prize gold medals were awarded in 1901, this is one of the earliest, if not THE earliest Nobel Prize medals ever offered at public auction,” Emory said. “Not only is it rare for Nobel Prize gold medals to appear at auction, it is particularly important when one is bestowed on one of humanity’s greatest minds.”

Celebrating Historic Contributions

In addition, Mommsen spent his life fascinated with history – especially that of ancient Rome. His research remains the foundation of today’s knowledge of the ancient civilization. Mommsen’s title includes “the greatest living master of the art of historical writing.” His greatest literature achievement being the Römische Geschichte (History of Rome). The three-volume work came before the public between 1854 and 1856. It covers the history of the Roman Republic through Caesar’s dictatorship.

Furthermore, he published more than 1,500 works. He fathered 16 children and serves as inspiration for many. In fact, Mark Twain is said to have been star struck when the two met in 1892.

“Mommsen also laid a critical groundwork in the sphere of Roman numismatics,” Emory said, “establishing the Zeitschrift für Numismatik—a journal devoted to Roman coinage whose publications have been cited extensively by The Roman Imperial Coinage, the chief reference in the field. He also published publishing the fundamental Über das Römischen Münzwesens (History of the Roman Coinage), which helped form the foundations of the modern study of numismatics.”

Nobel Awards Fetch Six-Figures 

Furthermore, Heritage Auctions has sold several Nobel Prize gold medals in recent years, achieving more than $2.2 million for Francis H. C. Crick’s Nobel Prize Medal and Nobel Diploma awarded for discoveries in human DNA. Additional medals have realized six-figures auction values, including Francis Peyton Rous’s 1966 Nobel Medal for Medicine, which sold for $461,000, Georg Wittig’s 1979 Nobel Prize Medal in Chemistry, which sold for $274,000 and Walther Bothe’s Nobel Prize for Advancements in Physics, which sold for $129,500.

Additional Feature Lots

In addition to this historic Nobel Prize medal, more than 2,600 other lots are up for bid in Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 7-8 auction. Among the highlights: 

• Victoria Proof “Gothic” Crown 1847, Royal Mint, featuring a portrait of the Queen ($20,000-$30,000).

• First English gold penny of 20 pence, features image of a bearded and crowned king holding a scepter, dating to 1257 ($250,000-$500,000).

• Scarce Scotland James VI gold “Hat Piece” of 80 shillings, 1593, Edinburgh mint ($20,000-$30,000).

• “Greenland Dollar,” a Christian VII trade piastre, Danish Asiatic Co., 1771, Kongsberg mint ($70,000-$100,000).

Finally, for more information, visit www.ha.com.



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