Sport Rewards and Medals
1896 The English Trophy
2020 SOLD for £ 760K including premium
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
□The oldest surviving FA Cup, presented to the winning teams between 1896-1910, sold at #Bonhams today for £760,000□️— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) September 29, 2020
The trophy charts the transformation of the game from one dominated by public school players to the popular mass participation sport that it became and remains. pic.twitter.com/W3ukAOdbs7
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.
1923 Babe Ruth's Bat
2004 SOLD for $ 1.26M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2019 before the auction of another bat by Heritage (see below)
In the same year Christy Walsh invents two lucrative jobs. He manages a syndicate of ghost writers who prepare texts to be endorsed by baseball personalities and approach the top players including Babe Ruth for becoming their business agent.
We must encourage young people to be reconciled with baseball. Following an initiative of the Los Angeles Evening Herald, Walsh and Ruth decide in 1923 that for three consecutive seasons the bat of the first home run of the champion will be inscribed and signed by him and given to the winner of a baseball contest organized for Californian students.
In 1923 Ruth scores his first homer on April 18 during the inauguration of the Yankee Stadium. It was impossible to imagine a more prestigious event. The bat used for this feat is awarded on June 7 by the newspaper to a young player named Victor Orsatti. It was sold on December 13, 2004 by Sotheby's for $ 1.26M including premium, a huge price for a sports memorabilia at that time.
In 1924 Ruth records his first homer on April 20 in Washington DC. His bat is awarded as promised to the winner of the Californian contest, Phil Grossman. It passed at Heritage on February 23, 2019.
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.
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
It was customary that sports competitions are accompanied by a trophy. A gold plated silver sculpture showing Nike, the winged goddess of Victory, is prepared for the first World Cup of soccer in 1930. The competition is held every fourth year and the trophy is transferred each time to the country of the new winning team.
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.
In June 2016 Julien's disperses the memorabilia kept by Pelé in his career. The trophy was sold for £ 390K including premium, lot 1010. Please 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.
It is now estimated $ 650K in an online sale by Sotheby's and Goldin, closing on December 7, lot 21.
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.