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1892 Coubertin's Address
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M by Sotheby's
With a remarkable open-mindedness, Coubertin compares the progress of sport in several countries. In England, the country of the fair play, football is a team sport practiced in colleges, including Rugby, and the establishment of official rules allows competitions. In Sweden the mental benefit of gymnastics is officially recognized. In the United States, sport opens the way to the practice of collective recreation. He does not like the use of sport for military training in Germany but recognizes its heroic character.
The time is also favorable for meetings of thematic clubs in England and France. They will support the development of the Coubertin project. In 1891 he promulgates a motto : citius, fortius, altius (later modified in its sequence). Coubertin is setting the example : on March 20, 1892 he is the referee in the final of the first French rugby championship.
Taking as a pretext the fifth anniversary of a running club, a conference is organized at the Sorbonne on November 25, 1892, with three speakers. Bourdon and Jusserand tell the history of the sport. Coubertin, entrusted for dealing with modern sport, concludes his speech by proposing the reestablishment of the Olympic Games.
In this seminal address, Coubertin's vision is universal. The most developed nations will help the others. It is a matter of practicing sports in common between athletes of all nations with a search for the individual excellence, but not yet of international competition or rewards.
The autograph draft of this Coubertin thesis, largely modified by the author in the preparation phase, was sold for $ 8.8M from an estimate of $ 700K by Sotheby's on December 18, 2019, lot 173.
Very remarkably, despite necessarily different visions of his international interlocutors, it is Coubertin himself who will concretize his concept. A January 1894 autograph document defining the stadium and sports passed at Goldin Auctions on October 29, 2016. In June 1894, Pierre de Coubertin creates the International Olympic Committee.
#AuctionUpdate Moments ago in our #NYC salesroom, the original Olympic Games manifesto soared to $8.8 million, more than 8.5x its $1 million high estimate following a 12-minute bidding battle. The manifesto outlines Pierre de Coubertin's vision for reviving the ancient games. pic.twitter.com/xoR4uAzs2t— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 18, 2019
1896 Athens Silver Cup of Spyridon Louis
2012 SOLD for £ 540K by Christie's
Two unprecedented events provide a link with antiquity and exacerbate the Greek patriotism : the discus throw (won by an American) and the marathon running.
Thirteen Greeks and four foreigners have dared to compete in this endurance race. The people and the king welcomed with an extraordinary burst of joy the victory of Spyridon Louis, a humble water carrier from the Athens suburb. This modern Cincinnatus returned to his farm after his feat.
The silver cup, 15 cm high, which was awarded to Spyridon Louis had been kept by his family. It was sold for £ 540K from an estimate of £ 120K by Christie's on April 18 2012, lot 32.
1936 Berlin Gold Medal of Jesse OWENS
2013 SOLD for $ 1.47M by SCP
Owens also does not have an exceptional build. He is developing a fast stride with a minimal foot contact on the track. This innovation is very effective for sprint, long jump and hurdling. He reaches the top level in May 1935, winning four events in 45 minutes, during which he breaks or equals six world records.
He is obviously qualified for the Berlin Olympics in 1936. At first the challenge is for the sport. The Olympic Games are the best place to confirm that he is the fastest man in the world. The public is waiting for an exploit from him.
The mental state of Jesse Owens in competition is phenomenal. His records of 1935 were obtained despite a very painful back following an accidental fall. In Berlin, he manages similarly to ignore the psychological pressure. He wins four gold medals : 100 metre dash, long jump, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metre relay.
This grandson of slaves who was born in Alabama became a hero for the whole African-American community and is still now one of the most popular symbols of the Nazi abuse. On this last point, the reality is different. Owens himself stated that Hitler had not been hostile to him. Hitler was willing to admit that Negroes had morphologic features that enabled them to win. Earlier in these games, the Chancellor had only congratulated German athletes. His advisers made him understand that it was a blunder and he therefore decided to stop calling any winner.
Off the stadium, he is an African-American at a time of severe race discrimination. The amateurism doctrine in sport is ruthless. Upon his return from the Berlin Games, he seeks financial compensation and is excluded from all amateur events. His sports career is over.
One of the four gold medals of Jesse Owens was sold for $ 1.47M by SCP on December 7, 2013. It is not known which of his four wins is related to this award. Please watch the video commented by Darren Rovell for the ESPN specialized sport channel.
2019 SOLD for $ 600K by Goldin
Two medals of Jesse Owens have been confirmed as genuine by James Greensfelder, author of a reference guide to Olympic medals. One of them, presented by the champion to tap dancer Bojangles, was sold for $ 1.47M by SCP on December 7, 2013. At the time of that auction, the other three medals were not localized.
Another one resurfaced. It had been gifted by Owens to a weightlifter, as a reward for helping him to make speeches in public meetings in the 1950s and 1960s. It was sold for $ 600K as lot 1 by Goldin on December 7, 2019.
1956 Melbourne Gold Medal of Bill Russell
2021 SOLD for $ 590K by Hunt
The team leader was the 22 year old central pivot Bill Russell.who had just won two consecutive NCAA university championships with the San Francisco Dons. The African American had to withstand the period typical humiliating racism during the training phase in the USA.
The 2.08 m tall with a 2.24 m wingspan athlete was also skilled in track and field. He previously achieved 2.06 m in high jump and was able to run 400 m in less than 50 seconds.
He had already signed an NBA contract with the Boston Celtics but had postponed the beginning of his professional career for competing in the Olympic Games which were still strictly accessible to amateurs.
The gold medal awarded in Melbourne to Bill Russell was sold for $ 590K by Hunt on December 10, 2021, lot 276a.
1980 Lake Placid Jersey of Mike Eruzione
2013 SOLD for $ 660K by Heritage
Winter Games are taking place normally, but already the United States begin to organize a boycott of Moscow. In the stadium, the flagship competition becomes the ice hockey, the fastest of all team sports, where Soviet domination is overwhelming for two decades.
The ice hockey competition gathers twelve national teams, each made up of twenty players. The tournament begins with a first round of two groups of six teams. The United States qualifies painstakingly but they have the best goalkeeper, Jim Craig.
In the final phase, the United States meets the Soviet Union on February 22. Before the match, no one disputes the supremacy of the Soviets, supported by their government. Faced with this experienced team, the USA align young university players who had never played together before the Olympics. It is also the end of an era : the dogma of amateurism, required from the outset by the Olympic Charter, will be repealed in 1981.
Ten minutes before end, the US captain Mike Eruzione gives the advantage to his team by a magnificent shot. Under an incredible fervor of the public, the last ten minutes during which the Americans confirm their domination by a strategy of attack are a piece of sports anthology. The USA wins by a score of 4-3. The ABC broadcast commentator yells into his microphone : "Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles ? YES !". This extraordinary match is then known as the Miracle on Ice.
Eruzione had kept his equipment, which were separated into several lots by Heritage on February 23, 2013. The top lot is the jersey worn by him for the Miracle on Ice. It was sold for $ 660K, lot 80002.
Another jersey was sold for $ 287K. It had been game worn by Eruzione when he was awarded the gold medal. A stick was sold for $ 263K, lot 80001.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage to introduce the sale of the Miracle on Ice, courtesy of ABC Sports.
The Miracle on Ice is not the final event of the tournament. The last two games are played on February 24, 1980. The USSR crushes at 9-2 the Sweden which had achieved a 2-2 draw with the Americans in the first round.
Mistreated by Finland, the young Americans ended by winning this match 4-2 and therefore won the competition. It was a great day for Steve Christoff, who scored the 1-1 tie goal and assisted the final goal scored by Mark Johnson. Each of the twenty US players receives a gold medal inscribed in his name.
In 2006 and 2007 Christoff successively sold through a specialized broker his gold medal and his game worn jersey from the decisive match against Finland. These two lots were listed by Goldin on February 22, 2020. The medal was sold for $ 320K, lot 2 and the jersey for $ 117K, lot 3. The medal was sold for $ 375K on February 4, 2023 by SCP, lot 4.
Mark Wells sold his gold medal of the Miracle on Ice in private sale for a reported amount of $ 40K. Soon after, it was the first of the twenty to appear at auction. It was sold for $ 310K by Heritage on November 5, 2010, lot 81421.
Mark Pavelich had scored two of the four assists in the game against the Soviets, including the winning assist to Mike Eruzione. He was the first to auction his own medal. It was sold for $ 263K by Heritage on May 16, 2014, lot 82422.
1984 Big Snow by Basquiat
2023 SOLD for £ 4.05M by Sotheby's
Keen of narrating the race relations, the artist could not miss Jesse Owens and his legendary walk behind Hitler's tribune at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, although the story told by the champion did not confirm a disdain of the Führer against him.
An acrylic and oilstick on canvas 169 x 153 cm painted in 1984 twice refers to Jesse Owens - Berlin 1936 along an Olympics with a voluntary misspelling corrected in the signature graffiti style of the artist. The five Olympic rings are displayed in vivid colors. A mask could be a fancy expression of Owens. In the lower left a comic figure reminds the boxer Jersey Joe Walcott.
This opus is titled Big Snow referring to a background of much stylized snowy mountains reminding a happy stay in St. Moritz where Jean-Michel visited Bischofberger in the winter of 1983. It was sold for £ 4.05M by Sotheby's on June 27, 2023, lot 144.
1992 Barcelona Equipment of Michael JORDAN
2023 SOLD for $ 3M by Goldin
The US basketball was convinced to present a professional team at Barcelona in 1992. 11 players were selected by the NBA and one place was left to an amateur as a reminder to the obsoleted rules.
The NBA had at that time the most talented basketball players in the world. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were selected as co-captains. The Olympic number of Michael Jordan was the 9 instead of his usual 23 within the NBA.
The result was astonishing with all games won in a mean difference of 44 points. The then nicknamed Dream Team was collectively awarded many honors.
The semifinal was won 127-76 against Lithuania. At that time basketball equipment was not considered as sports relics. After the game the 12 jerseys had been thrown on the floor. The wife of Karl Malone, one of the twelve, picked them, simply. The Malones had them signed by the respective player and collected a pair of sneakers from any of them, worn in various other games from the same Olympics.
The whole collection treasured by Malone in plain sight in his car dealership in Utah will be sold by Goldin on May 25, 2023. Nine jerseys are photo-matched. Jordan's jersey was sold for $ 3M, lot 1.
Also from the Malone collection, a pair of sneakers game worn by Jordan during the 1992 Olympics was sold for $ 420K by Goldin on May 25, 2023, lot 2. This specific Nike Air Jordan (Jumpman) pair is photo-matched with the game against Puerto-Rico in the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas. USA won 119-81.
2023 SOLD for $ 1.5M by Sotheby's
Michael Jordan was the natural leader of the US basketball team, not without reluctance. He did not accept being the captain, for reason of official visibility.
The awarding of the gold medal to the Dream Team made Jordan furious. Reebok was a major sponsor of the Games and required some visibility to their brand as a feedback. The Executive Director of the United States Olympic Committee stated that no medal reception was possible unless the player wore a Reebok jacket during the ceremony. Jordan felt that constraint as a disloyalty against his career long business partner Nike.
Jordan wore the Reebok jacket but used safety pins to hide the Reebok logo. As an additional precaution he draped the right side of the garment in a US flag. After the ceremony he loudly claimed that he did not want the jacket and tossed it to the NBA Public Relations executive, to whom he dedicated and signed it at some time.
Coming from the collection of that NBA officer, the one of a kind Reebok jacket of Michael Jordan was sold for $ 1.5M from a lower estimate of $ 1M by Sotheby's on June 28, 2023, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
2008 Beijing Coin
2011 SOLD for $ 575K by Heritage
On this occasion, China has issued in 29 copies a exceptional piece of gold: each copy weighs 10 kg with a purity of 24K (0.9999). It is indeed a coin and not a medal, as it has a face value of 100,000 yuan.
It is decorated with both sports themes and traditional themes. Art lovers will be amused to recognize a typical Taotie pattern of Shang bronzes, proving that in our time China is still sensitive to the full span of its history.
Serial number 21 was the single one that was assigned to the U.S. market. It was sold for $ 575K by Heritage on January 2, 2011. See its two sides with other highlighted lots of the sale in the weekly newsletter shared by the auction house.
Its estimate of $ 600K had only been 36% higher than its price of gold per weight.