March 2014 Baltimore Lot #2029

Baltimore Convention Center
3/27/2014 12:00:00 PM3/27/2014 5:00:00 PM

Price Realized: $1,116,250.00


Edge inscribed PRIX NOBEL DE LA PAIX 1936 CARLOS SAAVEDRA LAMAS. Without reservation, the Nobel Peace Prize is the most famous medal in the world. It is more universal than the Pulitzer Prize, more well known than an Olympic gold medal, revered a thousandfold more than numismatic classics like the Libertas Americana medal. While excellence in five academic disciplines are recognized with annual presentation of essentially identical medals, the medal awarded for peace is distinctive and unique. Designed by Gustav Vigeland and struck from dies by Erik Lindberg, this and other Nobel Peace Prize medals were struck at the Mint of Norway. The obverse depicts Nobel facing left, with an inscription including the years of his birth and death around the periphery. According to the Nobel Foundation, the reverse "represents a group of three men forming a fraternal bond," while the inscription translates to "For the peace and brotherhood of men."

This medal displays well, with choice bright yellow gold surfaces. Its heft is impressive in hand, and the devices show scuptural relief. A light file mark is noted on the rim at 4 o'clock on the reverse, a relic of this medal's unceremonious appearance with a bullion buyer in South America, to whom it had been consigned for melt. A thin surface scratch is noted under Nobel's ear, and the high rims show a few minor abrasions. The eye appeal is impressive, particularly so due to the high fineness of the gold.

The Nobel Peace Prize medal has been awarded 94 times since 1901. Nobel Peace Prizes have been stolen (Yasser Arafat) and recovered (Desmond Tutu). They've been placed on permanent display in Presidential Libraries (Jimmy Carter), house museums (Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the Library of Congress (Woodrow Wilson). But they have very, very rarely been sold. While other Nobel awards have been sold at public auction, including the prizes awarded to both Niels Bohr (awarded 1922, sold in March 1940 to benefit the Fund for Finnish Relief) and his son Aage Bohr (awarded 1975, sold 2012) and, more recently, the Francis Crick medal that realized $2.27 million in 2013, we find only one instance of a Nobel Peace Prize selling at auction. In November 1985, Sotheby's London sold the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded in 1903 to Sir William Cremer for 11,550 Pound Sterling, roughly $16,750 at then prevailing exchange rates. It is unknown if it remains in private hands today. 

This is only the second opportunity on record to purchase a Nobel Peace Prize medal at auction, and the first in almost 30 years.

While that medal was the first presented to an Englishman (they have won no fewer than six more), this medal is the first Nobel Peace Prize ever presented to anyone from Latin America. Previously, all recipients had been from western Europe and the United States. There have been four more Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to Latin Americans since, and one other awarded to an Argentine, but this was the first.

Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1878-1959) was the Foreign Minister of Argentina. He was awarded this medal for his central role in negotiating the end of the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, and he fought for control over a region called the Chaco Boreal. Lamas was also recognized for his work towards an anti-war pact that was signed by 15 nations, beginning in 1933. In presenting this award to him, Christian Lous Lange of the Nobel Committee commended "his recent achievements in the politics of peace ... his unusual energy and singleness of purpose." His medal's appearance at auction is an opportunity to recognize his work once more.

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