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Harvard economics professor’s Nobel Prize to be auctioned

The starting bid on the Nobel Prize will be $150,000.

If you ever wanted a Nobel Prize but couldn’t even make it through Econ 101, now’s your chance.

The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences awarded to Simon Kuznets, a longtime Harvard professor who died in 1985, will be sold to the highest bidder on Thursday.

Kuznets, who laid the groundwork for official methods used to calculate the nation’s economic output during the Great Depression, won the prize in 1971 for his empirical research, which underlies much of mainstream economic theory. According to Nate D. Sanders Auctions, the Los Angeles-based auctioneer, his medal is the sixth Nobel Prize ever to be sold.


The medal was consigned to the auction house by Paul Kuznets, Simon’s son who is a professor emeritus of economics at Indiana University.

“It was sitting in [my parents’] safe deposit box from ’71 to ’98. It’s been sitting in my safe deposit from ’98 to this year. It has been something of a burden,” said Paul Kuznets, 83, who researched development economics and retired from the faculty of Indiana University in 1995. His family was never particularly attached to the medal, he said, so the decision to sell made sense.

“I would like it to go to somebody who knows something about economics and has the funds to buy an expensive object,” he added.

Simon Kuznets received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1926. He worked for the Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economic Research in the 1930s and returned to Boston in 1960 to join the economics department at Harvard. He retired from teaching in 1971, the year he won the Nobel.

The gold medal, which is issued by the Swedish central bank, is emblazoned with an image of Alfred Nobel and has Kuznets’s name engraved on the edge. It comes with a letter of authenticity signed by Paul Kuznets, and the starting bid is $150,000. Since 2013, two Nobel Prizes in Medicine have sold, for $2.27 million and $4.46 million, while a physics prize sold for $329,000, according to Sam Heller, a spokesman for Nate D. Sanders Auctions.


The medal will be sold online, with the end time of 8 p.m. Eastern time Thursday and half-hour extensions for the top bidders. Heller said dozens of parties had shown interest.

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.