The Nobel Peace Prize that Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov was auctioning off to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children sold Monday night for $103.5 million, shattering the former Nobel Prize record.
A spokesperson for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale, could not confirm the identity of the buyer, but said the winning bid was made by proxy. The $103.5 million sale translates to 100 million Swiss francs, hinting that the buyer is from overseas.
The live auction took place on World Refugee Day. Previously, the highest amount ever paid for a Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA won him a Nobel Prize in 1962 , sold his.
Three years later, the family of its co-recipient, Francis Crick, received $2.27 million from auctions also managed by Heritage Auctions.
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Muratov, who received the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor when it closed in March amid the Kremlin’s crackdown on journalists and of public dissent following the invasion of Russia. from Ukraine.
It was Muratov’s idea to auction his prize, having previously announced that he was donating the $500,000 cash prize to charity. The idea of the donation, he said, “is to give refugee children a chance for a future.”
Muratov said the proceeds will go directly to UNICEF in its efforts to help children displaced by war in Ukraine.
Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold contained in Muratov’s medal would be worth around $10,000.
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In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the auction, Muratov said he was particularly concerned about children orphaned by the conflict in Ukraine.
“We want to give back their future,” he said.
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He added that it is important that international sanctions imposed on Russia do not prevent humanitarian aid, such as drugs for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants, from reaching those in need.
“This must become the start of a flash mob as an example for people to auction off their valuables to help Ukrainians,” Muratov said in a video posted by Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale but did not. takes no share of the proceeds. .
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Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa.
The two journalists, who each received their own medals, were honored for their fights to preserve freedom of expression in their respective countries, despite attacks from harassment, their governments and even death threats.
Muratov strongly criticized Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war launched in February that caused nearly 5 million Ukrainians to flee to other countries for their safety, creating Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis. since World War II.
Freelance journalists in Russia are watched by the Kremlin, if not outright targeted by the government. Since Putin came to power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who worked for Muratov’s newspaper.
In April, Muratov said he was attacked with red paint while riding a Russian train.
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Muratov left Russia for Western Europe on Thursday to begin his trip to New York, where live bidding will begin on Monday afternoon.
The online auctions started on June 1 to coincide with the celebration of International Children’s Day.
On Monday morning, the highest bid was $550,000. The purchase price was expected to skyrocket, but perhaps no more than $100 million.
“It’s a very bespoke deal,” said Joshua Benesh, chief strategy officer at Heritage Auctions. “Not everyone in the world has a Nobel Prize to auction and not every day of the week a Nobel Prize crosses the auction block.”
Since its inception in 1901, there have been nearly 1,000 recipients of Nobel Prizes honoring achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and the promotion of peace.
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The ongoing war and international humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of those affected in Ukraine are sure to generate interest, Benesh said, adding that it was difficult to predict how much someone would be willing to pay for the medal. .
“I think there will definitely be some excitement on Monday,” Benesh said. “This is such a unique item being sold under such unique circumstances…a significant act of generosity and such a significant humanitarian crisis.”
Muratov and Heritage officials said even those who weren’t in the running could still help by donating directly to UNICEF.
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