The Nobel Prize of a “towering economist and political philosopher” who influenced Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan has become the most valuable item ever to be auctioned by Sotheby’s online after it sold for £1.1 million on Tuesday.
Friedrich von Hayek’s Nobel Prize for Economic Science sold for almost triple its pre-sale low estimate of £400,000-£600,000, the auctioneer said.
The auction was organised to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom in 1944.
The Nobel Prize was auctioned alongside Hayek’s possessions from his personal collection, including his annotated copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which sold for £150,000, the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Hayek by President H.W. Bush in 1991, which sold for £112,500.
The auction also featured the Companion of Honour awarded by the Queen to Hayek in 1984, which sold for £35,000, and the economist’s typewriter, which sold for £18,750.
In total, the auction raised £2.04 million for the 27 lots and drew more than 1,000 bids.
Hayek’s Nobel Prize replaces an archive of Supreme skate decks as the most valuable item ever to have sold at an online auction at Sotheby’s.
The previous record of 800,000 US dollars (£602,880) was set in January.
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”.
The economist is perhaps best known for his dispute with John Maynard Keynes over monetary and fiscal policy following the Great Depression, when he argued for the regulating power of the market and against government stimulus packages.
He is also often credited with influencing right-wing policymakers of the 1980s, including Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
During a policy meeting, Mrs Thatcher is said to have slammed a copy of Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty on the table and declared: “This is what we believe.”
The debate over Hayek’s work has been revived in recent years in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Sotheby’s said.
Sotheby’s specialist Dr. Gabriel Heaton said: “Friedrich von Hayek’s influence is perhaps still unmatched by any other Economics laureate. His theories, which have influenced some of the of the major political moments in Western history, continue to resonate today as demonstrated by the extraordinary demand we witnessed for his personal collection at Sotheby’s.”