The Nobel Peace Prize, auctioned by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children, sold for $103.5 million Monday night, breaking the old record for a Nobel Prize.
A spokesman for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale, could not confirm the buyer’s identity, but said the winning bid was made by proxy. The $103.5 million sale translates to $100 million Swiss Francs, suggesting that the buyer is from abroad.
“I was hoping there would be a huge amount of solidarity, but I didn’t expect it to be such a huge amount,” Mr Muratov said in an interview after bidding on the nearly three-week auction that ended on World Refugee Day.
Previously, the highest-paid Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his. Three years later, his co-recipient Francis Crick’s family received $2.27 million in bids, also run by Heritage Auctions.
Muratov, who received the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and served as editor-in-chief of the publication when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s crackdown on journalists and public dissent in the aftermath. of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It was Mr Muratov’s idea to auction his prize, having already announced that he would donate the associated $500,000 cash prize to charity.
Muratov has said the proceeds will go directly to UNICEF in its efforts to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine. Just minutes after the bidding ended, UNICEF told the auction house it had already received the money.
Online bidding started on June 1 to coincide with the celebration of International Children’s Day. Many bids came in by phone or online. The winning bid, made over the phone, catapulted the bidding of the low millions to astronomical levels.
Mr. Muratov had left Russia on Thursday to begin his journey to New York City, where live bidding began Monday night.
Early Monday, the high bid was just $550,000. The purchase price was expected to go up, but not more than $100 million.
“I can not believe it. I am stunned. Personally I am baffled. I’m stunned. I don’t really know what happened in there,” said Joshua Benesh, Heritage Auctions chief strategy officer.
“We knew there had been a huge flood of interest in the last few days from people who were moved by Dimitry’s story, by Dimitry’s generosity, and that the global audience was listening tonight,” he said.
Mr Muratov and Heritage officials said even those who did not bid can still help by donating directly to UNICEF.
Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize with journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines last year.
The two journalists, who each received their own medals, were honored for their fight to preserve free speech in their respective countries, despite being attacked by intimidation, their governments and even death threats.
Remelted, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold in Mr. Muratov’s medal would be worth about $10,000.
Muratov was highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war launched in February that has seen nearly 5 million Ukrainians fleeing for safety to other countries, sparking the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
Independent journalists in Russia have come under scrutiny from the Kremlin, if not outright targets of the government. Since Putin came to power more than 20 years ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been murdered, including at least four who had worked for Muratov’s newspaper.
In April, Mr. Muratov that he had been attacked with red paint on board a Russian train.
Since its founding in 1901, nearly 1,000 Nobel Prizes have been received for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and the promotion of peace.
This story was reported by The Associated Press. Andrew Katell contributed to this report.