$4.76 million hammer price for DNA researcher’s Nobel Prize medal

Price exceeded highest expectations by more than $1 million
By , Coin World
Published : 12/04/14
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The Nobel Prize medal awarded to DNA researcher Dr. James D. Watson in 1962 sold for $4,757,000 Thursday in a Christie’s auction in New York.

The winning bid came from an anonymous telephone bidder, according to NBC News

The medal was expected to sell for between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. 

Watson was one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He was given the award for co-discovering the structure of DNA.

The 86-year-old said he plans to donate half of the auction proceeds, after taxes, to institutions like the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on New York's Long Island, the University of Chicago and Clare College Cambridge.

Watson is chancellor emeritus and a research scientist at the New York laboratory, working on a cure for incurable cancers.

U.S. Coins Senior Editor Paul Gilkes described Watson’s medal in a Nov. 25 preview of the sale

Designed by Swedish artist Erik Lindberg, Watson's 66-millimeter medal weighs 198.6 grams.

The medal is struck in 23-karat gold.

The obverse features a side portrait of Alfred Nobel with the dates of his birth and death in Roman numerals.

The reverse “represents the Genius of Medicine holding an open book in her lap, collecting the water pouring out from a rock in order to quench a sick girl’s thirst,” according to the auction lot description. An inscription appears above the figures, reading: INVENTAS VITAM JUVAT EXCOLUISSE PER ARTES. Taken from the sixth song, verse 663, of Virgil’s  Aeneid, it is translated as “Inventions Enhance Life Which Is Beautified Through Art.” The lower outside section of the reverse bears a second inscription, REG. UNIVERSITAS MED. CHIR. CAROL (“The Karolinska Institutet”). 

Watson's initials and surname are engraved on the reverse of his Nobel Prize medal, along with the year of the prize, 1962, presented in Roman numerals: J.D. WATSON/MCMLXII.

According to the Christie's lot description, the piece has a "rim marked 'GULD 1950' (Kungliga Mynt och Justeringsverket [Swedish Royal Mint])." The pieces were struck at the Swedish Royal Mint.

Dr. Francis Crick, Watson’s colleague and co-recipient in 1962, put up for sale his own medal and Nobel Prize diploma in 2013. The items brought $2,270,500 in a Heritage auction. 

Dr. Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins was the third colleague/co-recipient. 

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