Einstein’s Handwritten Note on Happiness Sold for US$1.56m

A note on happiness handwritten by Albert Einstein to a Japanese courier as replacement of a tip fetched US$1.56m at an auction in Jerusalem. The bid far exceeded the pre-sale estimate of US$5,000 - $8,000.

Albert Einstein

The Old Imperial Hotel Tokyo

In 1922, Einstein was on a lecture tour in Japan. When the courier came to his room to make a delivery, he did not have any money to reward him.

“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

Instead, he used stationery of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo and gave the courier two signed notes written in German. One with a sentence “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” A second note that was written at the same time simply reads: "Where there's a will, there's a way."

"Where there's a will, there's a way.”

Einstein had just heard that he had won the Nobel Prize in physics and told the messenger that “If you’re lucky, those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip.”

Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics

The bidding of “the happiness note” started at US$2,000 and was further boosted by the enthusiastic reception by people in the room, telephone bidders and online bidders. After 20 minutes, only two telephone bidders stayed in the bidding battle. The note was hammered down at US$1.3m and sold for US$1.56m with buyer’s premium.

The second note was also hammered down at a price far exceeding its pre-sale estimate. Estimated at US$4,000 - 6,000, “the note on willpower” was hammered at US$200,000 and sold for US$240,000 with buyer’s premium.

It said the buyer of one of the notes was a European who wished to remain anonymous. The seller is reported to be the nephew of the messenger. 

Professor Albert Einstein, Regarding Fitting Way of Life. Imperial Hotel, Tokyo [Japan], 1922

Lot no.: 36
Size: 13 x 21 cm
Estimate: US$5,000 - 8,000
Hammer price: US$1,300,000
Price realized: US$1,560,000

Professor Albert Einstein on Willpower. Imperial Hotel, Tokyo [Japan], 1922

Lot no.: 37
Size: 14 x 18 cm
Estimate: US$4,000 - 6,000
Hammer price: US$200,000
Price realized: US$240,000


Auction details

Auction house: Winner's Auction (Jerusalem)
Sale: Holy books, Manuscripts, Rabbinical & Admors Letters, Etc.
Auction date: 2017/10/24