Nobel prize of ‘towering economist’ goes under the hammer

A Nobel prize is at the heart of a collection of items belonging to a “towering economist and political philosopher” who influenced Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher which are up for auction.

Personal items belonging to Friedrich August von Hayek will be put on sale by auction house Sotheby’s later this month to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the publication of his book The Road To Serfdom in 1944.

Hayek was born in Vienna in 1899, and first made his name on economic issues before expanding into the wider political and philosophical implications of his free market economics in the 1940s, the auction house said.

He was jointly awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1974 with Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal for their “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena”.

Nobel prize gold medal
The Nobel Prize gold medal (Sotheby’s/PA)

Hayek also famously argued with economist John Maynard Keynes over British monetary and fiscal policy during the Great Depression, and is often credited with being an influence on Margaret Thatcher and former US President Ronald Reagan.

Hayek died aged 92 in 1992, and his Nobel Prize will be offered as the top lot of the sale – with an estimated price of £400,000-£600,000.

Other accolades going under the hammer include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by President George HW Bush in 1991, a set of presentation presidential cufflinks from Ronald Reagan with the Seal of the President on the front and a signature engraved on the reverse alongside a signed photograph, and the Companion of Honour awarded by the Queen in 1984.

Personal lots also include Hayek’s writing desk, his early Smith Corona Model ‘S’ portable typewriter, and his personal underlined and annotated copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations.

Companion of Honour
The Companion of Honour awarded by the Queen in 1984 (Sotheby’s/PA)

Margaret Thatcher’s signed speech on Hayek on receipt of the International Prize of the Friedrich August von Hayek Foundation in 2003 also forms part of the collection.

Sotheby’s said Hayek’s explanation of the relationship between market forces and personal freedom had a “profound impact on the shaping of the modern world”.

The auction house also said his 1976 book Denationalisation Of Money is often credited with laying down the theoretical foundations for crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin.

Smith Corona Model S portable typewriter
The early Smith Corona Model ‘S’ portable typewriter (Sotheby’s/PA)

Gabriel Heaton, director, Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts, said: “Friedrich Von Hayek’s work asks searching questions about markets, freedom, and the importance of understanding the limits of our knowledge; these questions lie at the heart of his profound influence on our society, and continue to be highly relevant today.

“The Nobel Memorial prize, the greatest accolade granted to Hayek, is rightly at the heart of the sale. But this wonderful collection also includes a number of other treasured items that give us insights into both Hayek as the public intellectual and as a private individual.”

The exhibition will run from March 8-10 in New York and from March 15-18 in London.

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