Did a rare Einstein note just show up in a 'Pawn Stars' episode?

Viewers were skeptical when a recent episode of the hit reality show featured the mathematical doodling of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

How much would you pay for a handwritten math lesson from Albert Einstein? Well, that all depends. Is it authentic?

That's the situation that confronted the father-son duo Rick and Corey Harrison. The collectors were approached with the document on a recent episode of "Pawn Stars," a History Channel reality show which they host. Their biggest obstacle was authenticating the mathematical doodles. It was not signed by Einstein and its provenance was questionable at best.

The hosts brought in a friend who had a little more expertise on the writings of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Based on the calculations on the page and the type of pen used, they deemed it to be a pre-World War II document. They then looked at other verified writing samples from Einstein to compare the shapes of each letter. "This stuff really isn't out there," the expert said. "It's pretty rare."

The purported mathematical doodling of Albert Einstein. The purported mathematical scribbles of Albert Einstein. (Photo: YouTube)

The owner of the document was hoping to get in the neighborhood of $18,000 for the piece of history, while the Harrisons were only offering $3,000 for it. Both prices seem to be way off base. If the item was indeed authentic, it would likely net at least $50,000 – if not 10 times that amount. Einstein memorabilia has sold remarkably well in recent years, especially if it includes the physicist's own handwriting.

This fall, a short note written by Einstein to a Japanese bellhop broke records when it fetched a whopping $1.5 million at a Jerusalem auction. The next most expensive document is likely the 1987 auction of a handwritten paper where Einstein spelled out his famous formula, E=mc2. That scribble and its accompanying pages sold for $1.2 million. At the time, the price was a record auction for any manuscript sold in the U.S. and for any unillustrated text manuscript sold anywhere in the world.

Einstein bequeathed his papers to Hebrew University in Israel, a school he helped establish. It's home to the official Albert Einstein archives, which just announced it will be opening the archives to the public. But items that belonged to others, like the scribbling that appeared on the "Pawn Stars" show, are often sold to collectors.

A scene from the recent episode which featured a small note believed to be from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. A scene from the recent episode which featured a small note believed to be from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. (Photo: YouTube)

The "Pawn Stars" Einstein episode aired on Oct. 30, but the clip was just posted to YouTube yesterday where it has already racked up more than a quarter million views. Not surprisingly, viewers were quick to weigh in. "Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) expert dude called to appraise Einstein math. Why not call the janitor?" asked one commentator. Another added: "Imagine the expression of derision Einstein would have if he saw his work being pawned off on a reality show."

The episode caps off an exciting year of Einstein-related news – including multiple auctions, a Steve Martin play and the award-winning TV series "Genius" on the National Geographic channel.

As for the owner of the purported Einstein note, he did not end up selling the relic on the episode. Perhaps he's holding out for a different reality show. Maybe "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

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Related Topics: Albert Einstein