It depends if you’re talking about what the Nobel Prize winner receives — or what the Nobel Prize medal itself is worth to a new owner. The answer is $765,002, if you were to ask the winning bidder at a Los Angeles auction house last Sunday. $765,002 was the winning bid to own the medal presented to Leon Lederman as part of his 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics package. Lederman shared the prize, awarded for their discovery of the muon neutrino, with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger. With three Physics prize medals floating around, intuition says each would be less valuable, but then who knows what pride of ownership attaches to somebody else’s Nobel medal? Has Lederman’s now become more valuable because later, in 1993, he came up with the name “God particle” for the Higgs boson subatomic particle?
So far, ten Nobel prize medals have been sold at auction. Only twice was one offered by a winner still living. Lederman is 92 and has been diagnosed with dementia; his wife put the medal up for sale. James Watson, co-discover with Francis Crick of the double helix, also sold his while he was alive in 2014 ($4.76 million). Selling your Nobel prize medal doesn’t seem quite right, does it? But then what’s a little bling when you’re used to dealing with, you know, the God particle?