Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for $103.5 million on Monday (Jun 20) to aid children displaced by the Ukraine conflict.
Heritage Auctions, which handled the transaction, could not confirm the buyer's identity but said the winning bid was placed by proxy. The transaction price is equivalent to $100 million Swiss francs, indicating that the buyer is from another country.
"I was hoping that there was going to be an enormous amount of solidarity, but I was not expecting this to be such a huge amount," After the nearly three-week auction closed on World Refugee Day, Muratov said in an interview.
After the Soviet Union fell apart in 1993, he was one of a group of journalists who created Novaya Gazeta.
Muratov, who received the gold medal in October 2021, was the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian daily Novaya Gazeta when it closed down in March amid the Kremlin's crackdown on journalists and public opposition following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The previous record for the highest price paid for a Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million in 2014, when James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the structure of DNA in 1962, sold his. Three years later, Heritage Auctions got $2.27 million from the family of his co-recipient, Francis Crick.
The auction was lively, with much clapping and bidders encouraging one another to raise the total. Muratov was caught on camera filming the bidding screen and those present.
Many in the room, including Muratov, were stunned when the final proposal came in at tens of millions of dollars higher than the prior offer.
Bidders could purchase Muratov's medal in person or online, with all revenues benefiting UNICEF's Humanitarian Response for Ukrainian Children Displaced by War.
The high bid was a mere $550,000 on Monday morning. The purchasing price was projected to rise, but not exceed $100 million.
"I can't believe it. I'm awestruck. Personally, I'm flabbergasted. I'm stunned. I don't really know what happened in there," Joshua Benesh said, the chief strategy officer for Heritage Auctions.
"We knew that there was a tremendous groundswell of interest in the last couple of days by people who were moved by Dimitry's story, by Dimitry's act of generosity, that the global audience was listening tonight," he added
Muratov said why he chose UNICEF as the receiver of the funds: "It's critical to us that that organisation does not belong to any government. It can work above government. There are no borders for it."