Stack’s Bowers Galleries will soon present private collectors, educational institutions and museums the opportunity to bid on the world’s most famous medal: the Nobel Peace Prize. The first Nobel Peace Prize to ever sell in the U.S., it is scheduled to be sold at auction as part of Stack’s Bowers Whitman Coin and Collectibles Spring Expo which will take place in Baltimore on March 27, 2014.
The 1936 Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Argentinian Carlos Saavedra Lamas and was the first Nobel Peace Prize ever presented to anyone from Latin America. The Foreign Minister of Argentina, Lamas (1878-1959), was awarded the medal for his central role in negotiating the end of the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia. Lamas was also recognized for his work towards an anti-war pact that was signed by 15 nations, beginning in 1933. In presenting this award to him, Christian Lous Lange of the Nobel Committee commended “his recent achievements in the politics of peace … his unusual energy and singleness of purpose.”
The historic medal, which is 23k gold (222.4 grams) was salvaged from a bullion shop in South America. The medal, which will be sold without a reserve, is expected to sell for $40,000 to $60,000, according to John Kraljevich, senior numismatic consultant who specializes in American historical medals. The last Nobel Peace Prize to have been sold occurred in London in 1985. Only 94 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded since the award’s inception in 1901.
Many other important rarities, including coins and collectibles, will be offered in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction at the Baltimore Convention Center.
“In terms of collections of medals, this collection (The Charles A. Wharton Collection) is as broad and deep as we have seen since the Ford Collection of medals, which is still the all-time record holder as far as the most valuable collection of American medals ever sold (which Stacks sold beginning in 2003),” says Kraljevich, owner of John Kraljevich Americana in Fort Mill, S.C. “This collection of medals was assembled mostly during the mid-eighties through the mid-nineties, and were purchased from all the major sales and major collections that were around then. He put them together with a real historian’s eye and a real coinnoiseurship that is unusual for a collection of medals like this.”
“While there are very valuable medals, there also medals with a lot of history that are are not necessarily expensive, so there is something for all kinds of collectors,” Kraljevich adds.
Another significant lot expected to draw interest from around the world will be the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service that was awarded to the New York World-Telegraph (see photos below). The crown jewel among American journalists and the single highest award that a newspaper or member of the press can hope to attain, the 1932 edition of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service will be the first of its kind to hit the auction block.
This 14k gold medal was awarded to the now-defunct New York World-Telegram “for its series of articles on veterans’ relief, on the real estate bond evil, the campaign urging voters to ‘write in’ a candidate name, and the articles exposing the lottery schemes of various fraternal organizations.” According to Kraljevich, a potential buyer for this medal might be a collector of all things related to Benjamin Franklin, as he is depicted on the medal. Other potential buyers might be collectors of printing medals or of Columbia University medals. It is also of special interest to people who are fans of the artist who designed it, Daniel Chester French, as he also sculpted the statute of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, he adds. Kraljevich predicts the medal will sell in the $15,000 to $30,000 range.
The third lot that is headlining the auction is the “1776” (Circa 1789) Washington Before Boston Medal (see photos below). Author Mike Hodder once referred to the silver medal as “the single most historic of all early American medals and the prize of all Washingtoniana collections.”
The medal commemorates Washington’s Siege of Boston, one of the country’s most famed battles. While living in Paris, Thomas Jefferson hired a sculptor to design the medal and, upon his return, presented a solid gold example to George Washington (which is now in the Boston Public Library). Jefferson also commissioned an edition of silver medals (including this one), of which there are ten in existence with four in private hands.
This example is one of just three to sell publicly in the modern era. Many of same medals still existing are located in the world’s major museums, in keeping with Thomas Jefferson’s desire to see sets in silver distributed to major centers of learning. Washington’s own set, hand delivered by Jefferson, is the crown jewel of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Other museums holding examples include the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Russia’s famed Hermitage and Vienna’s Kunsthistoriches Museum. Three others are in private collections for a total of ten. ” This medal will likely sell to a specialist in American historical medals, “of which this is top of the food chain,” says Kraljevich, “or to someone who is very interested in early American history and Revolutionary War history.” The medal will likely fetch $100,000 at auction, he predicts.
Many other interesting and rare lots will be sold in the auction. Early issues offered include a silver 1781 Libertas Americana medal which was voted number one in the Whitman book The 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens. High-grade state coppers of the 1785-1788 era will also be presented, as well as the historic 1776 Continental Currency dollar.
Pre-Auction Viewings of Nobel Peace Prize, Pulitzer Prize and Washington Before Boston Medal are available today (March 12) in New York at Stack’s Bowers Galleries which is located at 123 West 57th Street. One-hour appointments are available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries conducts live, Internet and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company’s 80-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The John J. Ford, Jr., The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collections, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few.
Carrie Coolidge is a Pursuitist contributor based in Manhattan. From 2009 to 2011, Carrie served as Co-Editor of Luxist, the luxury lifestyle website at AOL where she ran the Luxist Awards, a program that honored the very best in fine living. From 1996 to 2009, Carrie was a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, where she covered real estate, personal finance and the insurance industry, among other areas. Carrie is also the author of six books, including "The Business of America is Business". Follow her on Twitter: @carriecoolidge