1892 Faster, Stronger, Higher
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium
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, is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 18, 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 Just like in Olympia
2012 SOLD 540 K£ including premium
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 is estimated £ 120K, for sale by Christie's in South Kensington on April 18.
Here is the link to the catalogue.
POST SALE COMMENT
As with any one-of-its-kind piece, the price of this cup was not predictable. It was sold £ 540K including premium. It is an excellent result, announced by Christie's on Twitter as an Olympic (memorabilia) record.
1896 Silver Medal for the Winner
2016 SOLD for $ 66K including premium
The ancient runners were rewarded with an olive wreath. In 1896 the winner of each event receives a silver medal, an olive branch and a diploma. The second has a copper medal, a laurel branch and a diploma.
Everything is done to honor the host country : the branches were picked on Mount Olympus and the silver medal shows on one side a head of Zeus along with a small winged Victory and on the other side a view of Acropolis and Parthenon. A silver medal of the 1896 Olympics is estimated $ 100K for sale by Heritage in Dallas on November 18, lot 53217.
The enthusiasm of the crowd culminates when a humble Greek water-carrier named Spyridon Louis wins the emblematic event of these games, which is also the very first marathon in sporting history. In addition to the official awards King George presents Louis with a silver cup and an old vase. The vase is immediately given to a museum. The cup was sold for £ 540K including premium by Christie's on April 18, 2012.
The next Olympic Games held in 1900 in Paris discontinued the award of medals. The winners got cups and trophies instead. The modern medal system including gold for the winner, silver for the second and bronze for the third appears for the first time in St. Louis in 1904. Until 1912 the medal of the winner is in bulk gold.
1913 Study for the Olympic Flag
2020 SOLD for € 235K including premium by Cannes Enchères
narrated post sale in 2020
Coubertin knows the power of symbols. The motto Citius-Altius-Fortius, in which Latin is chosen as the neutral language, had been coined from the early development of the project.
In 1913 the very recent demonstration of universality acquired in Stockholm prompted the creation of a flag. Coubertin observes that the national flags on the five continents only use six colors : blue, black, red, yellow, green and white. He conceives a figure of five interlocking circles in two rows on a white background. The similarity to the chain of the founding states of the USA is a coincidence due to the strength of such a symbol of union.
Coubertin made the first drawing, which was supplied to Le Bon Marché for the production of more than 300 flags. The original is lost. The new flag was immediately raised in promotional events but war broke out and its first Olympic use awaited the Antwerp games in 1920.
An autograph copy has just surfaced. This 21 x 27 cm drawing in graphite and gouache is signed by Coubertin with a courtesy which does not name the dedicatee. This piece had been offered by Coubertin in 1913 to one of his sponsors in Lausanne, where he transferred the IOC headquarters in 1915. This one of a kind document was sold for € 235K including premium by Cannes Enchères on July 26, 2020.
1936 Olympic Gold for Jesse Owens
2013 SOLD 1.47 M$ including premium
He won four prestigious events : 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and within 4 x 100 meters team. 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 surprising. 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 contacting any winner.
Owens himself declared that Hitler had not been hostile to him. On the opposite, the champion sharply criticized the racial segregation in his own country, which will still go further for 32 years before being abolished.
One of the four gold medals of Jesse Owens is for sale by SCP Auctions. The online auction will close on December 7. It is not known which of his four wins is related to this award. His other three medals are not localized.
I invite you to play the video commented by Darren Rovell for the ESPN specialized sport channel.
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good result for this medal that was outstanding for both sporting feat and political significance: $ 1.47 million including premium.
1936 The Stride of Jesse Owens
2019 SOLD for $ 600K including premium
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 exceptional. 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 without difficulty four gold medals : 100 metre dash, long jump, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metre relay.
Off the track, he is an African-American at a time of severe racial discrimination. The amateurish 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.
His participation in the Berlin Games was exemplary. It was politically exploited, based on the fact that Hitler was expecting an Aryan win in the major events which he personally attended. Unlike Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens will not find a leading stance against racism, rejecting and afterward supporting the black power salute of Smith and Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.
At the time of the Berlin Games, the medals of the winners are struck in a unique model, with no identification of the sport and of course of the name of the laureate. The gold medals are in silver plated gold. Replicas were also released for some laudable uses. The authentication of a Berlin Games medal requires an impeccable provenance and an analysis by a specialized expert.
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 including premium by SCP Auctions on December 7, 2013.
Another one will be sold as lot 1 by Goldin in an online auction that ends on December 7, 2019. 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.
1960 Gold on Ice
2016 SOLD for $ 50K including premium
In both cases, the Americans appeared as outsiders against the Soviets and also against the Canadians. In 1960 in Squaw Valley, they were also handicapped by quarrels between players. The brothers Bill and Roger Christian were able to give a consistency to this team which won all of its seven matches of that competition.
In 1980 in Lake Placid, the Americans are young and inexperienced but extremely combative. Their last but one match of the competition, won against the Soviets, will be highlighted in sports history as the Miracle on Ice. Two days later, their victory against Finland brings the gold medal to the USA.
Bill's son, Dave Christian, is one of the winners of 1980 and the author of a decisive action at the end of the first period of the Miracle on Ice.
Father and son are selling their gold medals at the auction organized by Heritage in New York on 20 February.
The remarkable feat of Squaw Valley, ironically nicknamed the Forgotten Miracle, does not have the prestige of the Miracle on Ice achieved in a time of heavy political tension between USA and USSR. Dave's medal is announced with a guide value of $ 400K, lot 80074. Bill's medal is announced with a guide value of $ 50K, lot 80070.
1960 (Bill) : SOLD for $ 50K including premium
1980 (Dave) : unsold
1980 The Great Day of US Ice Hockey
2013 SOLD 660 K$ including premium
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 American coach put his confidence onto young players. On February 22, they face the invincible Soviets. 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 game is now known as the Miracle on Ice.
Eruzione had kept his equipment, which will be separated into several lots by Heritage in New York on February 23. The top lot is the jersey worn by him for the Miracle on Ice. It is estimated $ 1M.
Eight years earlier, Canadians had also achieved a sensational feat against the Soviets. The jersey worn by Paul Henderson, who scored the winning Canadian goal 34 seconds before end of game, was sold U.S. $ 1.27 million including premium by Classic Auctions in Montreal on June 22, 2010. This auction house is specializing in ice hockey.
I invite you to play the video shared by Heritage on YouTube to introduce the sale of the Miracle on Ice, courtesy of ABC Sports.
POST SALE COMMENT
This jersey was sold $ 660K including premium. This is a good price for a piece from a relatively recent sporting event.
1980 Two Days after the Miracle
2020 SOLD for $ 320K including premium
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. Faced with this experienced team, the USA align young university players who had never played together before the Olympics. 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 now identified as the Miracle on Ice.
This victory is not enough to win the tournament. The last two games are played on February 24. 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.
The jersey worn by the captain Mike Eruzione was sold for $ 660K including premium by Heritage on February 23, 2013. The gold medal which had been awarded to Mark Wells was sold for $ 310K including premium by Heritage in November 2010. The medal that still belonged to Mark Pavelich was sold for $ 263K including premium in May 2014, also by Heritage.
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 are now listed by Goldin in an online sale ending on February 22, lot 2 and lot 3.
RESULTS including premium :
Medal : SOLD for $ 320K
Jersey : SOLD for $ 117K
1984 Michael Jordan Shoes of the Olympic Final
2017 SOLD for $ 190K including premium by SCP Auctions
2008 Olympic Games in China
2011 SOLD 575 K$ including premium
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 is for sale in New York by Heritage Auction Galleries on January 2. See its two sides with other highlighted lots of the sale in the weekly newsletter shared by the auction house.
For comparison, the Canadian $ 1 million coin made in 2007 weighed 100 kg for a 10 times greater purity (0.99999). The price of € 3.27 million before fees recorded by Dorotheum on June 25 is comparable to its value per weight.
The Olympic coin is estimated $ 600K. Depending on the current price of gold, this estimate is 36% higher than its price per weight.
POST SALE COMMENTS
In preparing my article, I felt that this lot was expensive compared to its weight in gold. It looks like I was not alone in this analysis: it has not been sold.
Heritage just announced that this lot was sold after the auction as soon as it has been available at fixed price. At $ 575K including premium, the buyer has made an excellent deal, well below the estimate as the above price includes the premium.