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Gold Nobel Prize Medal to Highlight Stack's Sale
By NumisMaster Staff
March 17, 2014

Beginning at noon ET on Thursday, March 27, 2014, The Charles A. Wharton Collection will cross the auction block at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo. The star of this landmark event will be the 1936 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Carlos Saavedra Lamas.

“Without reservation, the Nobel Peace Prize is the most famous medal in the world,” said Q. David Bowers, chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “It is more universal than the Pulitzer Prize, more well-known and multiples rarer than an Olympic gold medal, and revered worldwide by collectors, historians, museums curators and others. This may well represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an example of the world’s most famous medals and one of the rarest.”

The medal awarded for peace is distinctive and unique. Designed by Gustav Vineland and struck from dies by Erik Lindberg, this and other Nobel medals of its era were struck at the Swedish mint in Eskilstuna. Stuck in 23-karat gold, it is an impressive 65 mm diameter, and weighs 22.4 grams.

Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1878–1959) was the Foreign Minister of Argentina. He was awarded the medal for his central role in negotiating the end of the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, and he fought for control over the Chaco Boreal region. Lamas was also recognized for his work toward 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.”

This is only the second opportunity on record to purchase a Nobel Peace Prize medal at auction, and the first in almost 30 years. The previous medal sold at auction was one of seven presented to Englishmen. The medal offered in the March Baltimore auction is the first Nobel Peace Prize ever presented to a Latin American. Previously, all recipients had been from Western Europe and the United States. There have been four more Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to Latin Americans since, and one other awarded to an Argentinian after 1936.

The Nobel Peace Prize medal has been awarded 94 times since 1901. Nobel Peace Prizes have been stolen (Yasser Arafat) and recovered (Desmond Tutu). They have also been placed on permanent display in U.S. Presidential Libraries (Jimmy Carter), house museums (Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the U.S. Library of Congress (Woodrow Wilson). While other Nobel awards have been sold at public auction, including prizes awarded to both Neils Bohr (awarded in 1922 and sold in 1940 to benefit the Fund for Finnish Relief) and his son Aage Bohr (awarded in 1975 and sold in 2012), and more recently, the Francis Crick medal that realized $2.27 million in 2013, there is only one instance recorded of a Nobel Peace Prize selling at auction: in November 1985, when Sotheby’s London sold the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 1903 to Sir William Cremerfor. It is unknown if it remains in private hands today.

Rarities abound in The Charles A. Wharton Collection. Its owner was front-row center at auctions and negotiated many private treaties in the waning decades of the 20th century. Washington medals will set the pace at this sale, led by the most notable Washington medal: a silver original Washington Before Boston medal from the Comitia Americana series. The Washingtoniana is not just fine, but broad and deep, with rare varieties from the mid 19th-century abundant, along with classic early rarities. The cabinet covers the wide span from Washington’s lifetime to the centennial of his inauguration, with most rarities in fine condition and boasting well-known pedigrees.

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Other famous Americans, like Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, are also included, representing sought after issues cataloged as part of the Betts, U.S. Mint medal, and DeWitt political series. Rare inaugural medals include the issues marking John Quincy Adams and Zachary Taylor at the early end of the series and the prized Calvin Coolidge among 20th century issues. From the earliest days of the Republic, the Columbia and Washington medal of 1787 is still a classic. From more modern times, gold medals marking the New York City subway system and the famed “Mad Bomber” of Los Angeles will appeal on both historic and aesthetic grounds.

Lot viewing for the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo begins March 10–13 at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and continues March 18–22 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries in New York, NY. Final lot viewings will be held March 24–29 at the Baltimore Convention Center. For a complete auction schedules and additional information, please visit the company’s website at

Stack’s Bowers Galleries is currently accepting U.S. and consignments for its June 2014 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo, and U.S. and world items for its August 2014 World’s Fair of Money Showcase and Rarities Night Auctions. For more information, please call 800.458.4646 (West Coast) or 800.566.2580 (East Coast) to speak to a consignment specialist.

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