Albert Einstein’s courier tip notes soar past estimate

A handwritten note Albert Einstein gave to a Japanese courier as a tip in 1922 has sold for an extraordinary $1.5m in an auction in Israel.

It was originally valued at just $8,000, resulting in a staggering increase of 19,400%.

Albert Einstein letter

Einstein gifted this note to a courier in Tokyo in 1922 

Einstein was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo around the time he heard he was going to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the quantum description of light.

The story goes that on receiving a delivery, Einstein realised he had no money for a tip (it’s also possible the courier wouldn’t accept one, as tipping is considered rude in Japan).

Instead Einstein quickly scrawled two notes, which he signed and dated, and told the man they might be worth something in a few years.

This note reads (in German): “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness”.

The other note, which reads “Where there’s a will there’s a way”, achieved $240,000 – up 3,900% on its $6,000 estimate.

The notes have passed down in the family of the courier, who could never have anticipated quite how generous his tip would turn out to be.

So what’s behind this spectacular result?

Put simply, demand for written material from Einstein is at an all time high. There’s particular interest in pieces that offer a window into his inner life and this pair of notes, with their optimistic messages, very much fit the bill.

The result also indicates Einstein’s price point has moved significantly. His record at auction is $2m, set for the letter he wrote to Roosevelt in 1939 on the viability of developing an atomic bomb.  

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