Auction News

Olympic torches light up major Games auction


Squaw Valley winter olympics torch

A $500,000 torch and the first Paris 2024 Olympics torches to be auctioned will test the appetite of sports collectors this July.

Only 2,000 torches have been made for the Paris games, many fewer than usual.

A torch from the games is on offer with an estimate of $35,000 in an Olympics sale due to close on July 19, six days before the Olympic flame is lit in Paris for the 33rd Olympiad.

The sale includes torches from 32 games, winter and summer.

Torches from Squaw Valley winter games in 1960 are very rare. There were only 25, and a single example at this sale carries an estimate of $500,000.

It has already attracted a $50,000 bid.

Torches are among the most collected Olympic items. They are design showpieces for the host nation and can be very striking.

Rarity though is a key determinant of value.

The rarest torches here are most highly valued. With examples from Grenoble winter 68 (33 made) and Albertville 1992 carrying estimates of $150,000 and $50,000, respectively.

George Eyser won 6 medals despite having only one leg.

Medals can be surprisingly affordable, and only those with compelling stories reach really great heights. For example, the highest estimate in this sale – $100,000 – is attached to one of six medals won by one-legged gymnast George Eyser at the 1904 St Louis Olympics.

Eyser took the prize for rope climbing.

Elsewhere a set of Steve Genter’s medals from the Munich Olympics in 1972 carry a $50,000 estimate. The Munich games are now most remembered for the massacre of Israeli athletes.

Genter, an American swimmer, won gold, silver and bronze medals despite discovering he had a collapsed lung as the games began.

The auction house said in a statement: “The market for Olympic memorabilia has changed dramatically [in 10 years].”

“This category of memorabilia wasn’t as widespread until recently.”

The most valuable Olympic torch ever sold was a Helsinki 1952 example that made £420,000. The best priced medals are those won by Jesse Owens in the 1936 German games, which sold for £468,000 in 2019.

Those wishing to celebrate an equally compelling if less admirable Olympic story can bid on a figure-skating costume worn by US skater Tonya Harding the day after an assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. Harding was later convicted for her involvement in the attack.

It is for sale with a starting bid for $3,000 in a sale at Lelands due to end on June 29.

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