A Russian journalist named Dmitri A. Muratov placed the Nobel Peace Prize up for sale in order to raise money for Ukrainian refugees. On Monday night, the auction ended with an unknown bidder paying $103.5 million for the prize, shattering the previous record for a Nobel award.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the earnings from the auction will be donated to UNICEF in order to assist children and families who have been uprooted as a result of the conflict.
Mr. Muratov is the editor in chief of the independent daily Novaya Gazeta, which ceased publishing in March as a direct reaction to the increasingly restrictive press legislation instituted by the Kremlin. During an interview with The New York Times that took place one month ago, he stated that the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who sold his medal to help with civilian relief in Finland after the Soviet invasion of that country in 1939, was the person who inspired him to auction off the award that he had won the previous year.
Before the auctioning began, Mr. Muratov gave a speech from the stage where he expressed his hope that “this will serve as an example for other people like a flash mob, for other people to auction their valuable possessions, their heirlooms, to help refugees, Ukrainian refugees around the world.” Mr. Muratov made these remarks before the bidding began.
The previous record for the sale of a Nobel medal at auction was set in 2014, when the award that belonged to James Watson, who collaborated in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, sold for $4.1 million (or $4.76 million adding the fee that goes to the auction house).
The auction of Mr. Muratov’s medal was handled by Heritage Auctions, which has already sold five previous Nobel Prizes, including the one that was given to Francis Crick, who was also a co-discoverer with Watson. In 2013, the sale of this medal brought in a total of $2.27 million.
Josh Benesh, chief strategic officer for Heritage Auctions, which will not take a commission on the transaction, expressed his astonishment at the final price, saying that it exceeded all of his expectations. Before the unexpected jump from $16.6 million to $103.5 million, the price had been steadily climbing in increments of $100,000 or $200,000 during much of the bidding process. The number was conveyed by a Heritage Auctions staffer who was holding the phone, and the room was filled with gasps.
In reference to the 23-karat gold Nobel award that was up for sale, Mr. Benesh said, “I don’t believe the thing mattered.” “I believe the item to be a metaphor; it’s a sign for something,” you said. It’s the chance to take a stance and say, “This is an issue that a gift can begin to remedy, and it’s a cause that has purpose.”
Mr. Muratov is regarded as the dean of Russia’s beleaguered independent press, and Novaya Gazeta has been praised ever since it was established in 1993 for its investigative journalism and campaigns on behalf of children suffering from rare illnesses and families struggling to make ends meet. His statements during the auction struck a chord with several individuals in the audience.
According to Polina Buchak, a Ukrainian filmmaker and activist who now resides in New York and is 24 years old, some members of her family are displaced persons. She has high expectations that the New York community and others from all around the globe would be inspired by the auction to maintain their commitment to assisting Ukraine in some way.
She said, “We’re hearing the quiet from everyone around us,” and I believed her. “We get it. They’re exhausted, but so are the rest of us. This triumph must happen as quickly as possible if it is to serve the interests of any human person.