|By Eric C. Rodenberg
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Albert Einstein’s “God Letter” has reportedly been sold for a little more than $3 million to an anonymous eBay bidder.
The 10-day auction ended Oct. 18, with two bidders, both with zero feedback, vying for the handwritten letter, offering the thoughts of one of the greatest minds in modern history on the nature of God, religion and human relations.
Very little else has been shared on the fate of the letter sold through the auspices of Los Angeles-based Auction Cause, who represented the seller on eBay. The letter opened at $3 million, a figure arrived at by the seller and Eric Gazin, president of Auction Cause.
“All parties involved have requested anonymity and are involved in the process of post-auction matters,” Gazin told AntiqueWeek. He would not comment further.
The letter was allegedly sold with the original envelope, stamp and postmark, precisely how it was bought by an anonymous bidder for $404,000 from Bloomsbury Auctions in London in 2008.
Although the seller – should he have been the Bloomsbury buyer – made a tidy profit, the $3,000,100 figure did not break the world record for the highest price paid for a single signed letter. That 2009 record, according to Guinness World Records, still stands for a letter written by George Washington to his nephew in 1787 which sold for $3.2 million.
Gazin said Auction Cause elected to sell the letter on eBay due to its “global platform,” with “the greatest potential to sell it for the highest price.”
Anyone bidding on the letter was required to complete a pre-qualification process to ensure they could back their bid, according to Gazin. After the sale, Gazin would make no comment about pre-qualification requirements or the fact that both bidders seemingly were “new bidders” on eBay.
Bidders without a feedback history are often seen as “non-paying bidders,” with eBay sellers having the option to sell only to bidders having a more extensive feedback history. It is entirely possible, though, that the bidders took entirely new bidder identities to further ensure their anonymity.
The “God Letter” was listed on eBay on Oct. 8. On that day, at 6 p.m. PDT, the document received a $3 million bid. It wasn’t until the last day, Oct. 18, at 18 minutes past noon PDT that a second bidder topped the initial $3 million bid. The auction closed shortly after 6 p.m. on that day.
The handwritten God Letter was written by Einstein a year before his death. Written in German and on Princeton University letterhead to author Eric B. Gutkind in 1954, it expresses Einstein’s views on God, religion and tribalism. It was in response to Gutkind’s book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.
In part, Einstein wrote, “I read a great deal in the last days of your book and thank you very much for sending it to me. What especially struck me about it was this. With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
Gazin maintains the letter has been stored in a temperature-, humidity- and light-controlled environment. Although held by a museum, the document is not on display.
Gazin would not comment on where the letter is, or whether it was sold to a buyer outside the United States.