$390,848 for gold Nobel Prize medal as first example of Economics prize sells at Feb. 26 Nate D. Sanders auction

Included a copy of a Nobel Prize speech annotated by Kuznets
By , Coin World
Published : 03/13/15
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A gold Nobel Prize medal for Economic Sciences awarded to economist Simon Smith Kuznets in 1971 brought $390,848 at a Feb. 26 auction by Los Angeles auctioneer Nate D. Sanders

The bidding began at $150,000, with two bidders competing beyond the $250,000 level, until it sold for a bid of $320,000 (with an additional commission of 21.5 percent that raised the final total to $390,848). 

The medal was awarded in a ceremony on Dec. 11, 1971, with the Nobel Prize committee recognizing Kuznets’ “empirically founded interpretation of economic growth which has led to new and deepened insight into the economic and social structure and process of development.” At the time of the award he was affiliated with Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. 

Kuznets died in 1985, leading an economic journal to write that he made a decisive contribution to the transformation of economics into empirical science and to the formation of quantitative economic history. 

Among his findings was the Kuznets curve, an inverted U-shaped graph of the relation between income inequality and economic growth. While in poor countries, economic growth increased the income disparity between the poor and the affluent, in wealthier countries economic growth narrowed the difference between rich and poor. 

The Nobel Foundation noted his “extensive research on the economic growth of nations, developed methods for calculating the size of, and changes in, national income.”

The economist’s name is engraved on the edge of the medal. The obverse depicts Alfred Nobel and the reverse has the North Star emblem of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 

Consigned by his son

According to the auction firm, the medal was consigned by his son, Paul Wolf Kuznets. A letter of authenticity from his son accompanied the lot, as did the original red leather presentation case with Simon Kuznets’ name stamped in gold. 

The auction firm noted the medal’s weight as 7.25 ounces and its diameter at 2.5 inches were “consistent with the original Nobel Prizes awarded in 1971.” 

The lot also included a copy of a Nobel Prize speech annotated by Kuznets. The firm added that the medal was one of only a handful ever sold at auction, and the first in the category of Economic Sciences. 

A Feb. 27 article by Tara Siegel Bernard in The New York Times stated that 889 Nobel Prize medals have been awarded since 1901 and that the 23-karat gold medal had a gold metal value of approximately $8,700. 

The winning bidder was anonymous, and Bernard reported that the consignor was pleased with the sales price, with him adding, “Hopefully, somebody or some institution will enjoy having it.”

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