Sport Rewards and Medals
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 The English Trophy
2005 SOLD for £ 480K including premium by Christie's
The Football Association (FA) was founded in 1863 by eleven English clubs who wanted to standardize the rules and prohibit holding the ball in the hand. The founders are quickly joined by other clubs and it becomes tempting to organize a competition. The easiest is to proceed by direct elimination : the FA Challenge Cup is created for the season 1871-72.
This competition is symbolized by a trophy which is entrusted to the winning club until the final of the following year. This heavy piece of silverware to be lifted by two large handles goes from club to club. It was stolen in September 1895. Despite a promised reward of £ 10, it was not found. Much later, a counterfeiter will declare without convincing proof that he had stolen it in order to melt it.
A new trophy was therefore needed for 1896. It was made by a Birmingham silversmith as an exact replica of the lost piece of which a cast had been preserved. It is 41 cm high, 51 cm overall with the plinth, and its cover is decorated with a footballer.
A design change is decided in 1910 with the intention of protecting a new model by copyright. The obsolete trophy, which bears the list of winning clubs from 1872 to 1910 spread over several cartouches, is presented to FA President Lord Kinnaird, a champion who had been a member of its council since 1868.
In the direct descent from the Lord, the cup was sold for £ 480K including premium by Christie's on May 19, 2005, lot 100. It is estimated £ 700K for sale by Bonhams in London on September 29, lot 6.
□Up for the Cup□— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) September 8, 2020
We're offering a piece of English football history in our Spectacular Sporting Trophies & Memorabilia auction on September 29 – the oldest surviving FA Cup presented to winning teams between 1896 and 1910 □https://t.co/g2VHODn6ds pic.twitter.com/FVX285eggD
1923 The Watch of the Yankees
2014 SOLD 720 K$ including premium
The Yankees then got the title of World's Champions. To commemorate this victory, Gruen offered watches to the officials and all the players of the club. The watch presented to Babe Ruth has just resurfaced. It is estimated $ 750K, for sale by Heritage in New York on February 22, lot 80030 in the catalog.
This pocket watch with a pentagonal shape is engraved on the back with a baseball scene and inscriptions addressing the event.
This series of watches, most of which have disappeared, is the only trophy offered for this opportunity and has the same sporting importance as a gold medal at the Olympics. Babe Ruth understood the importance of this piece which he kept until the final phase of his illness a quarter century later. He then made engraved on the watch the name of the friend to whom he forwarded this sign of his glory.
For Gruen, of course, it was also a promotional act. The US-Swiss brand patented in 1922 this unusual shape of watches in an effort to capture the promising market of the wristwatch. For the same reason, their watches became ultra-flat, as indicated by the "VeriThin" movement that equips the copies presented to the Yankees.
POST SALE COMMENT
This interesting trophy was sold for $ 720K including premium.
1927 The Ring of the Champion
2017 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
This tradition gradually took hold in the 1920s in Major League Baseball for the benefit of the winning team of the World Series. The first rings linked to the MLB were awarded in 1922 to the New York Giants.
In 1923 when the New York Yankees won the World Series the memory offered to them was not a ring but a pocket watch. The watch of Babe Ruth was sold for $ 720K including premium by Heritage on February 22, 2014.
The next victory of the Yankees in the World Series was in 1927. It was also a sporting feat : they had won all four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That year as a whole was exceptional for Babe Ruth who scored 60 home runs in this single season, a record in the MLB competitions.
The Yankees have now joined the new tradition. The World Series ring in 14K yellow gold presented to Babe Ruth in 1927 is listed as lot 1 in the online sale organized by Lelands closing on June 30. A slight chip to the diamond is announced. Here is the link to Lelands.com.
The price of a ring at auction depends on the prestige of the sporting achievement that has been rewarded. When the basketball player 'Dr J' Erving sold his collection in November 2011 by SCP Auctions, his 1974 ABA championship ring was sold for $ 460K while the best of his other rings did not reach $ 250K.
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.
1948 Emotion in the Stadium
2014 SOLD 650 K$ including premium
The 25th anniversary of the stadium is celebrated in a big feast involving 50,000 spectators on 13 June 1948. The hero is once again Babe Ruth but the circumstances are tragic.
Ailing in his terminal illness, Ruth has a great difficulty for walking and talking. He participates in the ceremony in his jersey number 3, a numeral that will not be reused by the Yankees in their tradition to so honor their greatest players. He uses his bat as a walking stick. The ovation is formidable.
The Yankees offer to Ruth a gold pocket watch of Longines brand, engraved with a vibrant tribute to the champion : "Babe Ruth - Silver Anniversary - 1923-1948 Yankee Stadium - The House That Ruth Built".
The family was very sensitive to this presentation and kept this watch. It is now for sale on May 17 by SCP Auctions online from California. The page shared by Auction Report embeds a video produced by Mint Condition. The price is difficult to predict.
POST SALE COMMENT
The last reward presented to Babe Ruth was sold for $ 650K including premium.
1970 The Cup of King Pelé
2016 SOLD for £ 395K including premium
The statue later takes the name of Jules Rimet Trophy from the chairman of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) who held this position from 1921 to 1954. To create an additional interest in his idea, Rimet had proposed that the first country who would win three times the World Cup will retain the trophy.
Brazil wins the World Cup in 1958 in Sweden, in 1962 in Chile and in 1970 in Mexico. Only one player participated in the three victories : Pelé. Aged 18 at the time of the first Brazilian success, he remains to this day the youngest player to have scored a goal in World Cup. His physical flexibility and absolute control of the sport undoubtedly makes him the best soccer football player of all time. FIFA gave him such a recognition in 1999.
In 1970, a great initiative was required to formally reward such a deserving player. FIFA and Mexico made realized especially for Pelé a replica version of the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Pelé disperses the memorabilia from his career in an auction organized by Julien's in London in June 7 to 9. The trophy is listed in section IV on June 8, lot 1010 estimated £ 280K.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Julien's. The champion discusses this lot while expressing his pride and warmly thanking the players of his team who had contributed to these three memorable achievements.
1974 A Belt in the Jungle
2016 SOLD for $ 360K including premium
After being allowed to resume his gloves, Ali must face three great champions. Joe Frazier has reunified the world heavyweight title in 1970 and lost it in January 1973 to George Foreman. Ali lost to Frazier in 1971 and early in 1973 successively against Foreman and Ken Norton.
A rematch was won by Ali against Norton in September 1973 and against Frazier in January 1974. Ali becomes credible for the highest level but Foreman, physically formidable, seems unbeatable. At that point appears Don King, a boxing promoter who undertakes to organize the heavyweight championship between George Foreman, the defending champion, and Muhammad Ali, the challenger.
There is no limit to the ambitious Don King. Each of the fighters require $ 5M: King find that money by appealing the Président and future Maréchal Mobutu with the idea of a promotional event that will generate an international attention to Zaire. The match takes place in Kinshasa on October 30, 1974 and remains in the history of boxing as the Rumble in the Jungle.
Foreman is more muscular but Ali's strategy is clever. He spread before the fight some false information about the boxing style he was choosing to use. Foreman hits hard and fast but his weak point is endurance. Once on the ring Ali exhausts Foreman by an unexpected mobility. He becomes world heavyweight champion for WBC and WBA by a knockout in the 8th round.
On September 10 in Dallas, Heritage sells the WBC heavyweight championship belt awarded to Muhammad Ali after his victory in Kinshasa, lot 50040 announced with a guide value of $ 600K.
1998 The Long Rush of Ricky Williams
2019 SOLD for $ 500K including premium
His 1998 season was exceptional. He accumulated 2,327 rushing yards during that single year. This brought his combined performance of four years with the Longhorns to 6,592 rushing yards, breaking the record of the NCAA, the federation of university football. In the same year he scored 6 touchdowns in a single match.
After these feats, Williams became a professional. Playing from 1999 to 2011 in the NFL, he accumulated 10,009 rushing yards despite long-term suspensions that overshadowed two seasons.
His 1998 season is rewarded with the Heisman Memorial Trophy, the most prestigious US amateur sport award designed to encourage a promising student highlighted by the football. The winner receives a bronze showing a player in action, weighing 16.8 Kg including its base.
Rick Williams sold his bronze to a collector in private sale in 2014. The trophy is now estimated $ 500K for sale by Heritage online from Dallas on October 17, lot 53001.
This lot is not only outstanding by the champion's performance. Since 1999 the new trophies can no longer be sold by their laureates. The organizing club thus follows the example of the Oscars of cinema since 1950.
Heisman bronzes are attracting an increasing interest at auction. Here are two other examples from the 1980s and 1990s. The 1987 trophy presented to Tim Brown was sold for $ 430K including premium by Goldin on December 8, 2018. The 1994 trophy presented to Rashaan Salaam was sold for $ 400K including premium by SCP on January 20, 2018.
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.