Russian journalist, Dmitri A. Muratov, decided he could help Ukrainian refugees by auctioning off his prized possession, the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 2021. Muratov was the editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and a very vocal advocate for an independent press in Russia. In March of 2022, Muratov was attacked; someone tossed a ‘mixture of red paint and acetone’ at his face causing a chemical burn to his eyes. He was then forced to shut down the paper the same month in response to the Kremlin’s harsh press laws.
As we all know, the war in Ukraine has forced millions of people to flee their homes, and the need for assistance for these refugees is overwhelming. Muratov wanted to help the refugees and decided the best way would be to put his medal up for auction and donate the proceeds; he had already donated the $500K cash award to charity. His inspiration came from the Danish physicist Niels Bohr who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 and sold it at auction in 1940 to raise money for the Fund for Finnish Relief. (The fund helped refugees in Finland after the Soviet invasion in 1939.) The buyer of Bohr’s medal donated it to the Danish Historical Museum, which still has it on display today.
The auction began on June 1st and closed on June 20th at a live event in Manhattan. On the morning of June 20th, the online bidding was already up to $550K, and then an auctioneer took over to close the sale. Bidders worldwide were bidding in increments of $100K – $200K at a clip. The price quickly flew to $16.6M, but it would not end there. An anonymous phone bidder jumped the price from $16.6M to an astonishing $103.5M, causing the room to erupt in cheers and setting an auction record. Before this sale, the most expensive Nobel Prize sold at auction was set in 2014, when James Watson’s 1962 medal sold for $4.76M.
The proceeds were donated to UNICEF to help children displaced by the war. In addition, the auction house did not receive a buyer’s or seller’s premium – ALL THE MONEY WAS DONATED! Muratov hopes this sale will inspire more people to donate or auction some of their prized possessions to help those in need.