1896 Olympic bronze medal a worthy contender at RR Auction, Jan. 19
BOSTON – Boasting nearly 400 lots, RR Auction presents its biggest Olympic auction to date. Highlighted by winner’s medals, the grand prize in this sale, which ends on Thursday, January 19, is an Athens 1896 Olympic bronze medal with its original box, issued for the first modern Olympic games. View the fully illustrated catalog on LiveAuctioneers.
For the inaugural modern Olympics, first-place champions were awarded silver medals, second-place winners earned bronze medals, and third-place finishers went home empty-handed. It was not until 1904 that the traditional gold, silver and bronze sequence was introduced. Winner’s medals from the historic debut of the Olympic games remain exceedingly rare, with just 150 bronze second-place prizes originally struck for the games.
“This is the only example of an 1896 winner’s medal with the original case that we have offered, and both the medal and box remain exceedingly well preserved,” said RR Auction Executive VP Bobby Livingston.“Representing the debut of one of the most sought-after prizes in the realm of sport, this is a marvelous specimen.”
Designed by Jules Clement Chaplain, the front of the bronze medal depicts a relief portrait of Zeus holding Nike, the goddess of Victory, in the palm of his hand, with text along left side that reads “Olympia.” The reverse bears a detailed view of the Acropolis of Athens topped by the Parthenon, with raised Greek characters on the upper and lower portion that translate to “International Olympic Games in Athens, 1896.” Offered with its original case lined in deep red velvet, it carries an estimate of $70,000-$80,000.
Also available are several first-place Olympic gold medals, including a solid gold first-place prize from the Stockholm 1912 games. Designed by Erik Lindberg and Bertram Mackennal, the front depicts a victorious athlete holding a palm branch as he is crowned with a laurel wreath, and the reverse depicts a herald proclaiming the start of the Olympic games along with a bust of Ling, founder of Swedish gymnastics. These solid gold medals — the last to be awarded at any Olympiad — were given primarily to the first-place winners of individual events, while gilt silver examples were given to the winners of team events. This example has an estimate of $20,000-$25,000.
A number of scarce and sought-after Winter Olympic relay torches appear in the auction lineup as well, including those from Cortina 1956, Innsbruck 1976, Lake Placid 1980, Calgary 1988 and Albertville 1992. These key pieces are bolstered by an unprecedented variety of Olympic ephemera, IOC badges and pins, participation medals and souvenirs from the games.
The Olympic Memorabilia sale from RR Auction will conclude on January 19. For more information, please visit RRAuction.com.
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