Curious Objects: Let the Market Decide–Economist Friedrich Hayek’s Assets Head to Auction

Benjamin Miller Curious Objects

Friedrich Hayek’s Nobel Prize medal. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The weighty thoughts and worldly goods of Austrian-born economist Friedrich Hayek are the subject of this episode of Curious Objects. A polarizing figure throughout much of the twentieth century, Hayek published critiques of the welfare-embracing macroeconomics of his English contemporary John Maynard Keynes, which endeared him to free marketeers like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan while earning him opprobrium from their left-leaning opponents. Now, Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Prize medal in economics and his personal dog-eared copy of The Wealth of Nations have come up for auction at Sotheby’s. Ben Miller calls on the expertise of Duke University professor Bruce Caldwell and Sotheby’s specialist Gabriel Heaton to put these and other items in historical context.




Bruce Caldwell (left) and Gabriel Heaton (right).


Bruce Caldwell is a research professor of economics and the director of the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University. He is the author of Beyond Positivism: Economic Methodology in the Twentieth Century (1982), and of Hayek’s Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F. A. Hayek (2004). Since 2002 he has served as the general editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. A past president of the History of Economics Society and the Southern Economic Association, Caldwell has held research fellowships at New York University, Cambridge University, and the London School of Economics. He is currently working on a full biography of Hayek.

Gabriel Heaton is a director and specialist in the Department of Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby’s, London. He was educated at the Universities of Durham and Cambridge and has worked at Sotheby’s since 2005, where he has handled major literary manuscripts by John Donne, Jane Austen, and Samuel Beckett; leaves from The Origin of Species and the nonsense poems of John Lennon; historical documents by figures from Elizabeth I to Mahatma Gandhi; and more unusual items such as an Elizabethan book of spells and Oliver Cromwell’s coffin plate. He has sold four Nobel Prizes in the past and is the lead specialist on Sotheby’s auction of Friedrich von Hayek: His Nobel Prize and Family Collection.


A signed photograph of Friedrich Hayek meeting President Ronald Reagan, and a set of presentation presidential cufflinks, from Reagan, with the Seal of the President on the front and signature engraved on the reverse. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.



Desktop ephemera and personal effects including 3 passports, a driver’s license, two compasses, one diary dated 1976, a Churchill Toby Jug, a bust of Adam Smith, and various other items. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.


Friedrick Hayek’s Smith-Corona Model S typewriter, manufactured c. 1933–1934. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.


The Wealth of Nations volumes 1 and 2 by Adam Smith, published by J. M. Dent, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1912. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.