Francis Crick's family is auctioning off the Nobel Prize medal and diploma that he won in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA.
Heritage Auctions, the auction house handling the sale, estimates the value of the 23 carat medal to be around $500,000. Heritage describes it as "housed in an elegant, yet simple, red leather case with Crick's initials giltstamped on the top, surrounded by a decorative border, also in gilt."
The auction, scheduled for April 10-11, will also include Crick's award check, his lab coat, his gardening logs, nautical journals, and books.
In a separate auction, the family is selling a letter that Crick wrote in 1953 to his son Michael, describing "a most important discovery" that he made with James Watson. The New York Times reports that Christie's is handling that sale. The auction house values the letter to be worth between $1 million and $2 million.
Kindra Crick, Francis Crick's granddaughter, tells LiveScience that the Nobel medal "was locked in a room with her grandfather's other awards and other family heirlooms after he moved to California at the age of 60" and later placed in a safe deposit box.
"My grandfather was not the type of personality to show off," she says. "His conversation tended to be on what's next as opposed to reminiscing about the past … I guess he always thought there was more to come."
LiveScience reports that the Crick family hopes to see the medal displayed publicly after its sale and that the family and Heritage Auctions plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the medal and the other items to the Francis Crick Institute, which is scheduled to open in London in 2015.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the letter to Michael Crick will benefit the Salk Institute, where Francis Crick held a post after retiring from the UK's Medical Research Council.