Albert Einstein 'God letter' sells for $2.9 million

The famous 1954 letter lays out the physicist's thoughts on the existence of a supreme being.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The physicist signed the letter "A. Einstein."


"The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends," scientist Albert Einstein wrote in a letter in German to philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954. 

The missive became known as the "God letter" and it sold at auction in New York on Tuesday for a hammer price of $2.4 million (£1.9 million, AU$3.3 million), though the full price with buyer's premium and fees came out closer to $2.9 million.

Auction house Christie's describes the two-page letter as "Einstein's single most famous letter on God, his Jewish identity, and man's eternal search for meaning."

Bidding shot upward from an opening price of $750,000. The letter had originally been estimated to sell for up to $1.5 million. "Apologies to God, I think," the Christie's auctioneer quipped after wrapping up the sale. The buyer's identity has not been revealed.

The price tag seems like a slight bargain after the letter previously went up for bid on eBay in 2012 for $3 million (£2.36 million, AU$4 million). 

Einstein's thoughts on God are intense and fascinating. If you need a lighter chaser, check out a short note the genius wrote in 1922 on the secret to happiness. At auction, his message on a "calm and modest life" pulled in about half of what the God letter did.

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