Rare Torches, Medals Highlight Upcoming Olympic Auctions

(ATR) A torch from the Albertville Games is one of many rare items headed to the block.

(ATR) A gold medal from Chamonix, a silver medal from Sochi and a Vancouver official report highlight upcoming Olympic auctions.

The bookend Winter Olympic medals from 1924 and 2014 are offered by Ingrid O’Neil of Californiain her 75th mail bid auction. They are among more than 21 winners’ medals in the 518-item auction closing Saturday.

O’Neil said she has seldom seen a Chamonix gold, which has a minimum bid of $35,000. Winning bidders also pay a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

Chamonix medals, like all Winter Olympic medals until 1960, are not engraved with the sport. O’Neil says, "Most of the time, you don’t know from where it came."

With athletes now receiving prize money from their countries and less likely to sell their medals, it is harder for winners’ medal collectors to stay current.

The Sochi silver is unawarded, so it also is not engraved with a sport. It comes with its case and cardboard box ($32,500).

"This is probably the only one [to come up for auction]," says O’Neil, who cannot divulge how she acquired it. "I have not heard of any others. I think the Russians will keep a tight guard on it and the medals are at the IOC now."

Other high-ticket medals include a 1932 Lake Placid bronze ($27,500), a 1952 Oslo silver ($28,000) and a 1956 Stockholm bronze ($18,500). Only 12 bronze medals were awarded at the 1956 equestrian games.

Rare Torches Command High Prices

However, these medals are not the most expensive items in O’Neil’s auction. Torches from 1992 Albertville and 1952 Oslo each have minimum bids of $75,000.

Hard-to-get winner’s medals and torches remain in high demand, O’Neil says.

In November, an 1896 silver medal from Athens sold for an astounding 180,000 pounds ($286,000 at the exchange rate at the time) at the Graham Budd Sporting Memorabilia auction in London.

"Anything rare that is hardly ever seen will go up very high," O’Neil says, "because collectors now realize it’s their only chance to get one."

Some torch collectors also seek the security lamps that carry the flame in case it goes out on the torch relay. While a Sochi torch has a minimum of $5,000, the torch relay security lamp is $9,500. The Paralympic pair from 2014 is $4,000 for the torch and $5,500 for the lamp.

Cardboard Badges Reappear

Three round cardboard badges worn by service providers and students at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics are rarer and higher-priced than the metal badges given to competitors and officials.

The official report mentions 109 service badges issued for porters of telegrams and those who helped the press, but O’Neil says none had been known to survive.

"It’s understandable that people might not have paid much attention to them and discarded them," she says.

The press service badge has an estimate of $1,500. An unissued badge for a provider of services to athletes and a service badge for students are both $1,250.

"Big Swiss" Pins in Demand

O’Neil says that so far the most interest in her auction has been for the Big Swiss pins from 1992 to 2012, which had an original starting price of $65.

Since 1988, Olympians from Switzerland have each been given only one large team pin, known as the "Big Swiss," in addition to multiple smaller NOC pins.

This has made the larger pins exceedingly rare, but in the last year they have suddenly become more common.

Both O’Neil and German auctioneer Heinrich Winter have offered the pins.

"It’s a nice series," O’Neil says. "You can collect them from every Olympics."

Team members also receive a medal with the same design. O’Neil says the London team medal ($200) was the last one made.

"There were none for Sochi and they are not going to make them anymore," she says. "Somebody contacted the Swiss NOC, and they said that was the last one. That is a pity. Maybe if enough collectors write to them, they might reconsider. At this point I think it is a financial decision."

Other interesting items in O’Neil’s catalogue include a book autographed by Louis Zamperini, whose life story was told in the book and movie "Unbroken" ($125), and an ancient Greek strigil used by wrestlers to remove oilfrom their bodies ($2,250).

Exchange Rate Issues

O’Neil says the existing exchange rates have dampened worldwide interest,in her auction, particularlyfromRussian and European collectors,. In previous auctions, the exchange rate was about 1.3 dollars perEuro, but it is now 1.09.

Although the next Olympics is in Brazil, O’Neil says she has not seen an increase in collectors from the South American country because of "the 40-50 percent decline of the currency."

Large German Live Auction on Monday

U.S. collectors have an exchange rate advantage in the next auction hosted by AGON Sportsworld, based in Kassel, Germany, which lists the items in Euro. For the live auction on Monday, there will be 599 Olympic items, including many paper items such as tickets, diplomas, official reports and posters. The rest of the auction is composed of 750 football (soccer) items.

Participants can also register to bid online.

Official report collectors have had few opportunities to acquire the two-volume/3 CD set from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It has an estimate of 2,000 Euro/$2,180. It is one of the rarest official reports because of its small production run. The winning bidder must also pay a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

Neymar Jersey on the Block

Apparel collectors will compete for the football shirt worn by Neymar of Brazil in the 2012 Olympics (1,500 Euro/$1,635). Brazil won the silver medal. The shirt, size XXL, has the Brazil flag, Olympic rings and Nike emblem with Neymar and No. 11. The soccer star gave his shirt to Austrian international Marco Janko, who had it auctioned in favor of children's cancer research.

A 1924 Chamonix participation medal, which is the same as the third-place winners’ medal, is the most expensive item with an estimate of $12,500 euros ($13,625).

One of the most beautiful Olympic diplomas, a 1912 Stockholm silver winner’s diploma awarded to Swedish high diver Lisa Regnell, has an estimate of 2,600 euros/$2,834.

Winners’ medals include silver (12,000 euros/$13,080) and bronze (8,500 euros/$9,265) medals from the 1948 St. Moritz Games and a 1960 bronze medal from the Squaw Valley Olympics that was produced in case of a tie and is not engraved with the name of the sport (8,000 euros/$8,720).

Great Variety from 1936 Games

Not surprisingly, the most items come from the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berlin Olympics, with 113 offerings. A 1936 Berlin torch used in the first torch relay has an estimate of 3,200 euros/$3,488. Paper items include complimentary ticket for the government box in Berlin (1,250 euros/$1,365) and Garmisch and Berlin posters in French for at least 2,000 euros/$2,180.

The world’s smallest Olympic book dates from the 1964 Innsbruck Games. Only 0.5 x 0.6 cm, the 20-page book has the first words of the Olympic Oath in seven languages, in a silver embossed leather binding and can only be read with a magnifying glass which is built into the acrylic case (125 euros/$136).

Written by Karen Rosen

20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.