One of the most significant lifetime collections of Olympic Games memorabilia — including a finely preserved relic of international sport: an 1896 Athens Summer Olympics First Place Silver Medal (est. $100,000+)— will tempt elite collectors of that challenging theme as The Harmer Johnson Collection presents an extraordinary array of medals, badges, torches and more in Heritage Auctions’ Sports Collectibles Auction, Nov. 17-19.
“Harmon 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. He was among the lucky ones watching the Miracle on Ice from a stadium seat in 1980,” said Nicholas Dawes, Vice President of Special Collections for Heritage Auctions. “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.”
Based in New York City, Johnson is one of the foremost appraisers of ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, African, Oceanic, Native American, Pre-Columbian, and Olympic Games medallic art. A passionate collector of both ancient sporting objects and those from the first forty years of the Modern Games (1896-1936), he is an avid Olympic attendee who understands the collector’s mind and heart.
From the first edition of the Modern Games, the 1896 First Place Medal was awarded in the city where the Olympics were born millennia earlier, the ancient city of Athens, Greece. Fewer than 250 athletes participated in the 1896 Athens Games, and here we encounter the key relic of that inaugural modern Olympics. It’s a true “Holy Grail” of the challenging collecting subgenre, and one of the most significant awards of any format to be offered by Heritage Sports.
“Gold was not always the top prize in the Olympics. 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,” explained Dawes.
Also on offer is the rarest and most desirable medals of early 20th century Olympic medals, an historic 1908 London Summer Olympics Gold First Place Medal, Presented to Sybil “Queenie” Newall (est. $20,000+). The London Gold sets itself apart from the other 250 that ever existed, as well as the tiny fraction of them that likely still exists today. This medal was awarded to Sybil “Queenie” Newall, who finished first in the Double National Round of female individual archery at age 52 years, 275 days. To this day, she remains the oldest female Gold Medalist in an individual event. The solid-gold creation of Bertram Mackennal was minted by “Vaughton & Sons” of Birmingham, and features a victorious athlete being crowned with laurel on obverse and St. George slaying the dragon on the back.
The diverse Johnson Collection also offers the oldest item ever sold by Heritage Auctions Sports: A Circa First Century A.D. Roman Bronze Olympic Discus (est. $8,000+).
The collection will be offered as part of the largest sports collectibles auction of 2016, which is now open for bidding at Heritage Auctions, HA.com, and is expected to command well over $10 million for its nearly 5,000 lots. The sale is anchored by elite examples of the fabled T206 Honus Wagner (est. $800,000+) and 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie (est. $1 million), as well as important player collections from Gary Carter, Monte Irvin, Larry Brown and other sports luminaries.