World Coins

Sotheby's offering Nash Nobel Prize medal in October

The Nobel Prize medal for Economic Sciences awarded in 1994 to mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. will be offered in a single-lot auction Oct. 17 in New York by Sotheby’s.

Nash’s life pursuing game theory, differential geometry and the study of partial differential equations is chronicled in director Ron Howard’s 2001 Academy-Award-winning film, A Beautiful Mind.

The medal, along with its original red morocco case, calligraphic diploma with original watercolor drawing by Bengt Landin, original box and attaché case for the diploma, and official letters from the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, carries an estimate of $2.5 million to $4 million.

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Nash, who struggled with mental illness, died May 23, 2015, at age 86.


Heavier medal

According to the Nobel Prize website, from the inception of the Nobel prize in 1900 to 1980, the “Swedish” medals, each weighing approximately 200 grams and with a diameter of 66 millimeters, were composed of 23-karat gold. After 1980 they have been made of 18-karat green gold plated with 24-karat gold. The weight is set at 175 grams for all medals, except for the medal for the prize in Economic Sciences (of which the Nash medal is one), which is set at 185 grams.

The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was established in 1968 in connection with the 300th anniversary of the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish National Bank).

The Nash medal, designed and engraved by Swedish artist and sculptor Gunvor Svensson-Lundqvist, was struck at Myntverket (the Swedish Mint) in Eskilstuna, Sweden. Nash’s name is engraved on the edge of the medal.

The obverse of the Nash medal features a portrait facing left of Alfred Nobel, with the bank’s crossed horns of plenty below. This design distinguishes the Nobel Prize in Economic Science from the medals of the five prizes awarded under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s 1895 will creating the award.

Inscribed around is SVERIGES RIKSBANK TILL ALFRED NOBELS MINNE 1968 (translating to “The Sveriges Riksbank, in memory of Alfred Nobel, 1968”).

The reverse features the North Star emblem of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, dating from 1815, with the words KUNGLIGA VETENSKAPS AKADEMIEN (translating to “The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences”) around the border.

The medal was presented along with a cash prize of 7 million Swedish krona, the equivalent today of $817,464 in U.S. funds.


Education and work

Nash earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees from Carnegie Institute of Technology and his doctorate from Princeton University. He also served on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1951 to 1959.

According to the auction narrative: “For John F. Nash, the accolade of the Nobel Prize was a transformative event, particularly in the context of his struggles with mental illness. During an interview at a 2004 meeting of Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences, Nash acknowledged that the Nobel Prize ‘had a tremendous impact on my life, more than on the life of most Prize winners because I was in an unusual situation. I was unemployed at the time … And so I was in a position to be very much influenced by the recognition of my earlier work … I had become widely known, but in a sense it wasn’t officially recognized. I was quoted very frequently in the literature of economics and mathematics, but it’s quite different to get official recognition.’ ”

Said Sotheby’s senior vice president for books and manuscripts, Selby Kiffer, “It has been very gratifying to work with the Estate of John F. Nash Jr. to bring this extraordinary man’s Nobel Prize to auction. Nash’s insights into game theory have become so pervasive that they affect our daily lives in many ways, whether or not we are fully cognizant of the operation of the ‘Nash equilibrium.’ ”

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