RR’s inaugural Sports auction (June 14-21) features more than 150 items of Olympics memorabilia. Here are just a few highlights.
An original elaborate artist’s sketch commemorating the “Marathon Race” held at the London Olympics on July 24, 1908, autographed by Italian runner Dorando Pietri. Pietri finished first in the marathon, but was subsequently disqualified: succumbing to utter exhaustion at the end of the race, Pietri fell several times and was helped back to his feet by officials. Although he managed to finish in first place, Pietri was disqualified for receiving assistance and the gold medal was given to the runner-up, American distance runner Johnny Hayes.
“It’s a famous story in Olympic circles,” said RR Auction’s Olympics expert, Jonathan Becker. “I haven’t seen [Pietri’s] autograph [at auction] in a long time.”
A complete set of track and field tickets for every event that Jesse Owens competed in during the Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics. These include all four days on which he won a gold medal: August 3 for the 100m sprint; August 4 for the long jump; August 5 for the 200m sprint; and August 9 for the 4×100 sprint relay. In overall fine condition, with paper loss to top right of the largest ticket.
The historic importance of Owens’s success at the Olympics is unrivaled: no athlete is as closely identified with an Olympic Games as Jesse Owens is with Berlin 1936, and his four gold medals helped dispel Hitler’s notion of Aryan supremacy, on Hitler’s own “home turf.”
“It’s exceptionally rare to have a complete set of Berlin track and field tickets,” Becker notes.
Rare and beautiful Sevres pate-sur-pate porcelain vase awarded to gold medal winners at the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics, measuring approximately 13″ tall and 5.5″ at its widest point. This splendid vase was designed by M. O. Guillonet and executed by Bracquemond at the world famous porcelain factory of Sevres, and features golden laurel branches hand-painted on a French blue background. It features four ‘medallions’ portraying athletes in white against gray oval backgrounds bordered in light green, with the events depicted being sailing, shooting, tennis, and cycling.
At the suggestion of the French Olympic Committee, these vases were developed to be given to the first place winners as a “special souvenir.” Several different variations were produced to accommodate the many different sports, and they were presented by the Paris City Council to gold medal winners in individual events only; a small number were reserved for dignitaries and institutions. Surviving examples of these stunning trophy vases are of the utmost rarity.
“In only two summer Games, winners received more than just the medal,” Becker noted. “Amateur rules were strict. In 1920, winners got a statue, and in 1924, this vase. They’re spectacular and rare.”