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2011 Nobel medal winner questioned at Fargo airport

Brian P. Schmidt, one of three physicists who shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics, had to explain in September to Transportation Safety Administration officials in Fargo, N.D., that the gold medal he was toting in a laptop bag after leaving his grandmother’s home was a Nobel prize medal.

TSA personnel questioning Schmidt as he went through security at the Hector International Airport in Fargo were none too amused when Schmidt responded to the question as to how he obtained the medal and from whom and he replied, “King Karl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.”

Schmidt, a lecturer at the Australian National University, recounted his airport experience as he joined other scientists gathering in New York City to celebrate the construction of one of the largest observatories in the world, the Giant Magellan Telescope, set to open in Chile in 2020.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden.

Some news accounts suggest that Schmidt’s medal is 24-karat gold, and based on its weight, place its value at just under $10,000 in U.S. dollars.

According to the Nobel Foundation, the medals presented for physics from 1901 up until 1980 each weigh approximately 200 grams, are made of 23-karat gold and measure 66 millimeters in diameter. Since then, the medals, including the one presented to Schmidt, are made of 18-karat green gold plated with 24-karat gold.

What the medal might be worth in the future, should it be placed into the general collector market, is anybody’s guess.

The 23-karat gold medal that Dr. Francis H.C. Crick received in 1962 as one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was sold at auction along with his Nobel diploma April 11, 2013, by Heritage Auctions for $2,270,500.

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