Technology & Science

Nobel medal for DNA discovery nets $4.7M at auction

The Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to the U.S. scientist and co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, sold at auction on Thursday for more than $4.7 million US, smashing the world record price for any Nobel prize.

Record-breaking sell shows market's growing demand for 'iconic pieces' related to DNA discovery

Geneticist James Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for the discovery of the double helix shape of DNA. Watson shared the honour with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. (Daniel Mordzinski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to the U.S. scientist and co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, sold at auction on Thursday for more than $4.7 million US, smashing the world record price for any Nobel prize.

The medal, which Christie's auction house had estimated would sell for anywhere from $2.5 million to as much as $3.5 million, was the first Nobel put on sale by a living recipient.

Christie's did not disclose the buyer, who was bidding via telephone and paid $4,757,000, including commission.

The price and record "demonstrate the growing strength in the market for the iconic pieces related to the early understanding and development of the implications of DNA and its growing relevance today," said Francis Wahlgren, international director of books and manuscripts at Christie's.

Crick's letter to son sold for $6M last year

Watson, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, unravelled the double-helix structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in Britain in 1953 in a discovery that heralded the modern era of biology.

James Watson's 1962 Nobel Prize medal sold at auction by Christie's for $4.7 million US - a world auction record for any Nobel Prize. (Christie's/The Associated Press)
The scientists received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1962 for their groundbreaking work in genetics. Watson, 86, said he planned to donate part of the proceeds to charities and to support scientific research.

A letter by Crick to his son sold for $6 million in 2013, setting the world record for any letter sold at auction. The missive, in which Crick outlined the structure of DNA shortly before the discovery was published, sold for more than three times the estimate.

Crick's Nobel medal fetched $2.27 million when it was auctioned last year.

A 1936 Nobel Peace Prize medal sold for $1.1 million last year. It had been awarded to Carlos Saavedra Lamas, foreign minister of Argentina, for his part in ending the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, and for his work on a South American antiwar pact signed in 1933.