Every year, fascinating people in the world win Nobel Prizes in one of several categories (economic sciences, chemistry, literature, physics, physiology or medicine, and last but certainly not least, peace). Now a piece of peace history is going up for auction in Baltimore, Maryland on March 27, 2014. An unnamed someone recently discovered the 1936 Nobel Peace Prize medal presented to Argentina’s Foreign Minister Carlos Saavedra Lamas seventy-seven years ago. Believe it or not, the celebratory, 23-karat gold, coin-like award was sitting forlornly in a South American pawn shop for 20 years before a United States collector rescued the medal when he purchased it from the pawn shop dealer. When the medal is auctioned off on March 27, 2014 the winner will own a rare miracle.
How many of us truly understand the rare wonderful of a Nobel Prize? What is the “who, what, where, why and how?” If you are like this writer, who thought for years that the awards were called “noble” prizes, then the answer would be “no.” Though the definition for “noble” fits, the awards are name after Alfred Nobel, a famous scientist and the man who invented dynamite for use in construction. Nobel deeply appreciated work that not only benefitted the world, but also those living upon it. So much so that his last will and testament outlined the specific use for his fortune as prize money for excellence in the before mentioned categories (economic sciences, chemistry, literature, physics, physiology or medicine, and peace), much to the consternation of Nobel’s possible beneficiaries. In fact, his relatives took legal action against his will, however Nobel’s instructions were explicit and eventually followed. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901.
The 1936 peace medal going up for auction on March 27, 2014 originally went to Argentine Carlos Saavedra Lamas to recognize his peace negotiations between Bolivia and Paraguay during the “Chaco War,” which had caused over 100,000 deaths, and his efforts to add Argentina to the League of Nations. In addition, he engineered an anti-war pact signed by thirty-one South American states, lending to the international law condemning all aggressive war acts. Finally, Lamas was the first person outside Western Europe and the United States to receive a Nobel Prize.
After Lamas’ death in 1959, the whereabouts of his gold medal was unknown for many years. Conjecture says that one of Lamas’ relatives sold the award to the pawn shop for its gold value only. Weighing in at 222.4 grams, the gold value by today’s standards is $9,168. Of course, well-deserved awe and respect bring the unspoken value much higher. The medal will go to auction on March 27, 2014, beginning at noon ET at the Stacks Bowers Galleries Official Auction in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit nobelprize.org, stacksbowers.com or numismasters.com for additional information.
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