Scarce Torch, "Miracle" Medal Among Collectibles On Block

(ATR) A 1956 Stockholm torch and a gold medal from the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team are featured in upcoming auctions.

30 Sep 2000:   Michael Johnson, Antonio Pettigrew, Alvin And Calvin Harrison of the USA pose with their Medals after winning the Gold Medal in the Mens 4x400m Final Event during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
30 Sep 2000: Michael Johnson, Antonio Pettigrew, Alvin And Calvin Harrison of the USA pose with their Medals after winning the Gold Medal in the Mens 4x400m Final Event during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport

A scarce and valuable Olympic torch given to an American exchange student as a souvenir and another "Miracle on Ice" gold medal are featured in upcoming auctions.

California-based auctioneer Ingrid O’Neil says the 1956 Stockholm torch, which has an estimate of $175,000, is so rare that many people do not know it exists.

"The IOC didn’t even know about it. They don’t have Stockholm," O’Neil tells Around the Rings.

The 626-lot mail bid auction closes Saturday night and the catalog can be viewed at the Ingrid O'Neil site.

O’Neil says people assumed that 1956 Melbourne torches were used for the Equestrian Games held in Sweden because of quarantine laws. However, while similar in design to the Melbourne torch, it is engraved XVI OLYMPIAD 1956:OLYMPIA-STOCKHOLM. The Melbourne torches have raised lettering.

Stockholm torches are also 6 cm shorter since "they had to put it on sticks when they were riding because the horses were frightened by the fire," O’Neil says. "It would have been too top-heavy if it was longer."

O’Neil estimates that fewer than 10 torches were made. Two are in the Olympic museum in Stockholm. Two torches presented by the English manufacturer to employees who worked on the design are now in private collections. And then there is this one.

"I got an email one day and somebody says, ‘I don’t know what I have. It cannot be Olympic because the Games were in Melbourne and I have a torch,’" O’Neil says. "I said, ‘Hmmm, sounds like a Stockholm one.’"

The man had been storing the torch in his son’s closet, so it took three weeks for him to send a photo. He explained that he spent time with a family in Sweden as part of an exchange program. The next year, they sent him the torch as a souvenir. He didn’t remember the family’s name, only that they had a lot of land and horses.

"He said, ‘I don’t remember anything except I had a good time and the girls were so pretty,’" O’Neil says.

The man remembered that he had the torch after seeing torches from Sochi, which sell for $1,000-$1,500 "When I told him what I thought it was worth," O’Neil says, "he said, ‘My knees are so wobbly, I think I can’t walk anymore.’"

The seldom-seen Innsbruck 1964 torch could be equally rare, O’Neil says, while a 1952 Helsinki torch, one of 22 made, fetched nearly $500,000 in early 2011.

O’Neil already has one bid and says collectors often wait until the last minute to bid.However, she does not expect it to exceed the Helsinki price.

"It all depends how many collectors have the money at the moment," O’Neil says.

Gold Medal Mystery

Gold medals from 1912 Stockholm, 1972 Munich, 1976 Innsbruck, 1980 Moscow, 1984 Los Angeles, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens are also for sale in the O’Neil auction.

The gold medal from Sydney is identified as coming from Alvin Harrison, a member of the 4 x 400-meter relay team from the United States. However, the U.S. team was stripped of its gold medal after teammate Antonio Pettigrew admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

An IOC spokeswoman tells ATR that according to its research, "Alvin Harrison’s gold medal was indeed returned to the IOC."

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Treasure Trove

The gold medal and diploma awarded to Ernst Baier of Germany, who won figure skating pairs with Maxi Herber, carry an estimate of $55,000. Photos and booklets are also included in the lot.

O’Neil says the items, which already have bids, come from the family. "They wanted me to sell it together because that’s the proof that it is his medal."

Baier invented "shadow-skating" in which two skaters perform the same moves without touching. He and Herber married in 1940 and divorced in 1965. Baier died in 2001 at age 96.

The medal, which is 10 cm in diameter and weighs 325.8 grams, is in its original box and the diploma comes in its original folder.

Other 1936 material, including a wide variety of badges, comes from the collection of Fritz Pasternek, who was head of foreign publicity for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The clay pot for the oak tree presented to all gold medalists in Berlin has an estimate of $2,500.

O’Neil says she has seen it only once before.

"Either they didn’t keep it or it," she says, "or it broke because it’s clay."

"Miracle on Ice" Gold Medal

Mark Pavelich, the forward on the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team who assisted Mike Eruzione on the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union, is selling his iconic gold medal. The estimate is $250,000-plus, says Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions, which is based in Dallas.

Internet bidding is openand the auction closes May 16.

Ivy says Pavelich is not in financial difficulty, but felt the time was right to sell.

The U.S. victory "represents the most significant sports moment of the 20th century, so there’s going to be quite a bit of interest," Ivy says.

The medal is engraved "Ice Hockey Mark Pavelich."

In 2010, Heritage sold the gold awarded to Mark Wells for $310,000.

"That had the benefit of being the first one," Ivy says.

O’Neil doesn’t think the Pavelich medal will reach that level.

"I doubt it – because apparently the buyer of the first one realized afterwards that he paid an outrageous amount," she says.

She says the buyer was not an Olympic collector. He came from sports collectibles, where signed jerseys can fetch very high amounts.

"When he found out that usually these medals don’t sell for these prices, he was very upset," she says.

IOC Member to Visit Collectors Fair

C.K. Wu, the new chair of the IOC Olympic Philately, Numismatic and Memorabilia Commission, will visit the XXth World Collectors Fair in Lausanne late next month.

Wu was a member of the commission for many years before succeeding Gerhard Heiberg as chairman.

"I am a collector myself," Wu tells ATR. "I have more than 25,000 pieces in collection. I'm always interested to go to the Collectors Fair to exchange views.

"I will certainly try to meet with all the collectors, chat with them, listen to their ideas or any proposals for the future of this commission. I have some ideas to further develop this commission's work. It's part of Olympic heritage, very important."

Asked about these ideas, Wu said he'd wait for developments around IOC president Thomas Bach's Olympic Agenda 2020. "He asked us to think about future work."

The first official meeting of the commission under Wu's leadership is in September, when discussions will be based on Agenda 2020 and the commission's future, the scope of work and targets.

Written by Karen Rosen and Mark Bisson

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