Olympic Auction in London

(ATR) Competition was intense at an auction of Olympic memorabilia Tuesday, with winners’ medals and items with a strong British provenance among the most coveted.

(ATR) Competition was intense at an auction of Olympic memorabilia Tuesday, with winners’ medals and items with a strong British provenance among the most coveted.

A collection of 1908 gold, silver and bronze medals in their original boxes went for 17,000 pounds ($26,350) plus a 17.5 percent buyer’s commission at Graham Budd Auctions, in association with Sotheby’s. The gold was for water polo, the silver for shooting and the bronze for boxing.

A 1908 gold medal awarded to an unknown Australian rugby player fetched 10,500 pounds ($16,275). In particularly spirited bidding within the extremely warm sale room off New Bond Street, a gold medal won by British swimmer Jennie Fletcher in the freestyle relay went for 11,000 pounds ($17,050), well above the estimate of 4,000-6,000 pounds.

"When you think of the Olympic Games, that’s still the ultimate in your mind -- a winner’s gold medal," Budd tells ATR.

He says he had been planning the auction almost since the announcement in 2005 that London had won the 2012 Games. "I started having exploratory conversations with collectors, telling them that it was a great time to be selling their collection at a sale in London in 2012," he says.

About 50 people attended the auction, including one Olympic gold medalist, 1980 and ’84 decathlon champion Daley Thompson.

"I thought it was really fascinating that in two hours walking aroundhere, reading all the stuff, you could do a complete Olympic history," Thompson tells ATR.

Three camera crews did news pieces on the auction.

An 1896 bronze medal fetched 15,000 pounds ($23,250), the same price as a 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen cased bronze medal with diploma awarded to a British bobsledder. A gold medal from 1920 Antwerp in its original box, estimated at 2,000-2,500, was bid up to 11,000 ($17,050).

Bidding was also spirited for a participationmedal won by British tennis player Kenneth Powell. The medal, in its original box, had an estimate of 500-700 pounds, but fetched 3,600 pounds ($5,500).

There were also online and telephone bidders, with Budd anticipating 200-300 total participants.

However, the expectations of some people selling on consignment were not always met. Quite a few lots went unsold because they did not reach the reserve. An extremely rare 1920 Official Report garnered a high bid of only 8,500, well below the estimate of 14,000-17,000, while several of the 1908 participation medals did not sell.

A smaller Olympic auction will be held Wednesday at another venerable London auction house. Bonhams will put 214 items on the block, including 28 torches. There are five torches from 1948 London, although two are missing the handle.

Bonhams also has a fine collection of 1908 pieces. One lot, which carries an estimate of 4,000 to 6,000 pounds, features a 1908 silver medal for the former Olympic sport of tug of war. It was awarded to James M. Clark of the Liverpool Constabulary. The lot also includes his participant’s badge, embroidered team jersey badge and a photo of the British team.

Written by Karen Rosen.

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