Science collectibles reveal their secrets in 2013 sales

Have you seen the news this week?

Christie's will reveal the secret of life on April 10.

Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, rather Christie's will offer a letter that explains the secret of life shortly after the 60th anniversary of its discovery.

The auction house announced yesterday (February 26) that it has been tasked with the sale of a remarkable letter sent by scientist Francis Crick to his son, in which he outlines his revolutionary discovery of the structure and function of DNA.

Francis Crick Nobel Prize auction
Crick's Nobel Prize that he won for the discovery will also be sold, this time through Heritage Auctions

This charming letter, consigned by Crick's family, sees the co-discoverer of DNA's secrets tentatively explain his revelation to the 12-year-old, who was at boarding school at the time. Signed "Lots of love, Daddy", it shows a human side to one of the most important scientific discoveries ever made.

It's estimated at $1m-2m and, given its importance to just about everything, I have no doubt it will sell well.

You see, collectibles from our greatest scientific minds have a tendency to be snapped up at auction. These are artefacts from some of the best-known and most important figures in history yet, unlike celebrity memorabilia, they are in short supply.

There weren't legions of fans lined up outside Crick's laboratory waiting for his autograph. No one slipped away a test tube as a memento of the occasion in the hope that it might be worth something one day. In fact, outside of the science community, most of these life-changing discoveries went almost unnoticed.

It is only over time that we come to realise their significance, and that's when values start to rise.

At Christie's in 2008, a first edition copy of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, in which he laid down the foundations of classical mechanics, sold for $194,500 - an 8% gain on its $180,000 high estimate. A strong result for sure, but just four years later in 2012, Sotheby's offered an issue at $600,000, a significant leap in value.

Thomas Edison's journal of his final experiment in 1931 sold with a 100% increase on estimate for $50,000 last year.

Even Fahrenheit's first thermometer, a relatively low-key invention, saw heated bids when it crossed the block. At Christie's in October 2012, one of the three surviving examples sold for ?�67,250 ($107,802).

But there's one name I've missed, perhaps the most important of all - Albert Einstein.

No one has made an impression on the scientific world as much as Einstein did. His theory of relativity propelled him as close to stardom as it is possible for a scientist to achieve, his eccentric personality helping him on the way.

The previous world record for Einstein's memorabilia was set by a letter in which he reveals his feelings on religion and God. It sold for $257,795 in 2008, raising the former world record - set in 2007 - by 759%.

This same letter, still a record holder, appeared on eBay in 2012, soaring to $3m and achieving a 1,063% increase on 2008's record. Einstein is undoubtedly the most valuable scientist for collectors.

Yet, despite these outstanding sales, you can still own Einstein's letters at a more down to Earth price.

Albert Einstein letters auction
Corliss Lamont endeavoured to keep a good relationship between the USA and the USSR, dragging Einstein somewhat reluctantly into the cold war

PFC Auctions is currently offering a fantastic series of correspondence between Einstein and the socialist philosopher Corliss Lamont, which shows Einstein's involvement not only in physics, but also in politics.

At the forefront of any intellectual debate, Einstein's connections with Germany and zionism, as well as his socialist ideals and relations with leading communist figures, ensured that the distrustful FBI held a file on him, which would grow to 1,427 pages. Like many intellectuals in America at the time, Einstein felt oppressed under the watchful eye of his adopted government.

This is a little-known aspect of Einstein's fascinating life and more details of his feelings as an intellectual are revealed as the correspondence progresses. The four letters are being sold separately. Each is currently selling for under ?�1,000 ($1,514) - this an opportunity not to be missed.

You only have one day left to bid. The auction closes at 7:00pm GMT on February 28.

Good luck,


P.S. Did I mention that 2016 will see the 100th anniversary of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity? This is a scarce chance to make short-term gains in a typically long-term market. 

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock