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1896 Athens Olympic medal leads world’s finest collection at Heritage

A medal from the 1896 Athens Summer Olympics will lead one of the world’s finest private collections of Olympic memorabilia at Heritage Auctions next month.
The sale in Dallas will feature the collection of Harmer Johnson, one of the world’s leading experts and appraisers of ancient medallic art and a renowned collector of ancient sporting artefacts and memorabilia from the earliest years of the modern Olympic games.

"Harmer Johnson is an internationally known collector and Olympic medallic art expert who attended every Summer Olympics from 1960 until this year, as well as many of the Winter Games," said Nicholas Dawes, Vice President of Special Collections for Heritage Auctions.

"He was among the lucky ones watching the Miracle on Ice from a stadium seat in 1980. His love for the pure sportsmanship the Olympics represents is reflected in his extraordinary collection, which has been on display time and again as an educational tool as well as an example of extraordinary taste."

Leading the collection is a remarkably rare and important First Place Silver Medal from the 1896 Athens Summer Olympics, the first Olympic tournament of the modern era.

"Gold was not always the top prize in the Olympics," explained Dawes. "In the very first games, silver went to the victorious athletes. Only 100 of these medals were ever struck, and this one is particularly well-preserved. It features a Jules-Clement Champlain design with a laurel-wreathed head of Zeus and winged Victory on obverse and a view of Acropolis and Parthenon between Olympic legend on back."

Described as the "Holy Grail" of Olympic memorabilia collecting, the medal is expected to sell for more than $100,000.

Another highlight is an equally rare Gold medal from the 1908 London Summer Olympics. It was awarded to Sybil ‘Queenie’ Newall for winning the Double National Round of female individual archery – who, at the age of 52 years, 275 days, set an Olympic record as the oldest female Gold Medalist in an individual event, which remains to this day.

As one of just 250 examples created, with just a handful still in existence, the solid gold medal with a remarkable story is estimated at $20,000+.

The collection will also include the oldest item ever offered by the Heritage Auctions Sports: A Roman bronze Olympic discus from the First Century A.D, estimated at $8,000+.

The Harmer Johnson Collection will be offered as part of the Heritage Auctions Sports Collectibles Catalogue Sale on November 17-19.

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