Autographed Notes by Albert Einstein Sold at an Auction

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. date back / deɪt bæk / (phrasal) – to exist since a specific date

    The ancient buildings date back to the 18th century.

  2. valuable / ˈvæl yu ə bəl / (adj) – costing a lot of money

    Many rich collectors want to buy the valuable artwork.

  3. authenticate / ɔˈθɛn tɪˌkeɪt / (v) – to confirm that something is real or genuine

    The museum needs to authenticate the paintings before putting them on display.

  4. confidential / ˌkɒn fɪˈdɛn ʃəl / (adj) – hidden in secret; cannot be revealed

    The buyer’s identity will be kept confidential for security purposes.

  5. at a premium / æt ə ˈpri mi əm / (idiom) – higher than the normal price

    The classic painting was sold at a premium during the auction.


Read the text below.

Two notes written by Albert Einstein were sold at an auction in Jerusalem.

The notes date back to 1922 when Einstein found out during his trip in Japan that he was granted the Nobel Prize. Einstein was thinking about his recent recognition when a messenger delivered a package to his room in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. As payment, Einstein gave the messenger two notes with his signature instead of money.

In the first note, Einstein wrote what is known as the “Theory of Happiness” while the second note says, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The messenger accepted them when Einstein told him that the notes could be far more valuable than any amount of money he could have given.

After more than 90 years, the messenger’s grandson went to an auction house in Israel called Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions to put the notes up for auction.

The auction house authenticated the items and initially estimated the value to be between $5,000 and $8,000. During the auction, the bidding started at $2000. After nearly 30 minutes, however, the first note was sold at $1.56 million, while the second note was purchased at around $240,000. The buyer and seller’s identities were kept confidential.

The two notes were bought at a premium because of Albert Einstein’s popularity. He is widely recognized for his contributions in the field of science. He proposed numerous concepts like the Theory of Relativity, which predicted the presence of black holes. He also proved the existence of atoms and molecules.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Given the chance, would you participate in the auction of Einstein’s notes? Why or why not?
• If you were the one who was given the note, what would you do about it? Why?

Discussion B

• What do you think makes an object valuable enough to be auctioned?
• Would you be interested to participate in an auction? Discuss.