A pile of Richard Feynman detritus sold recently at Sotheby’s.1 In total, the 44 lots of Feynman’s stuff fetched $3,796,625, most of it paid for Feynman’s Nobel Prize.2 While I remain puzzled by the desire to own souvenirs from some famous scientist, I am truly baffled by the fact that somebody paid $60,000 for Feynman’s damaged tambourine.
An 11 inch diameter Pandeiro, wood, metal, and goat skin. Skin torn from use. Signed by Richard Feynman: “R.P. FEYNMAN. HOTEL MIRAMAR / COPACABANA, RIO.”
This object can have only reverential use or be assumed to confer on the new owner some reflected authority, in the way a saint’s finger or skull or whatever conferred authority on the church or family that possessed it. I imagine Feynman’s tambourine will look lovely sitting on some altar in its own reliquary: