MEMORABILIA: Rarely-seen 1960 and 1968 Winter Olympic torches highlight superb offer of 71 medals, 40 torches by RR Auction

The ultra-rare 1960 Olympic Winter Games torch, now up at RR Auction! (Photo courtesy RR Auction)

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There are rare items and there are rarities. The 1960 Olympic Winter Games torch is one of the rarest items among all Olympic memorabilia.

Only 23 were reportedly made and only occasionally show up for sale. The Squaw Valley torch – the site has been renamed since as Palisades Tahoe – is tinged with Disney magic, as Walt Disney himself was the chair of the Pageantry Committee for the Games and the torch was designed by Disney animator and designer John Hench.

It’s the star item in the latest auction of 380 items of Olympic memorabilia from Boston-based RR Auction, expected to go for as much as $500,000 when the bidding closes on Thursday, 18 July. It’s already at $125,000 after just eight bids.

The 1960 Winter torch is in remarkably good condition and even includes the wick still intact! But it is one of a startling 40 Olympic torches and 71 Olympic medals which are on offer, including another extraordinarily rare Olympic Winter torch.

Eight years later, the 1968 Winter Games were held in Grenoble, France and just 33 torches were made for the organizing committee. The design was an elegant, minimalist tube with a tulip-type head and a red felt grip, with an overall length of 30 inches. Also in good condition, but with some signs of wear, it is expected to fetch $150,000, with bidding now at $23,582 after nine bids.

Among the items expected to be stars of this offering, with their expected sales prices, are more than 50 additional lots valued at $10,000 or more:

● $100,000: 1904 St. Louis gold medal (rope climbing)
● $50,000: 1972 Munich Olympic medal set from Steve Genter
● $50,000: 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic torch
● $45,000: 2000 Sydney Olympic gold medal
● $40,000: 1896 Athens Olympic bronze (second place) medal
● $40,000: 2012 London Olympic gold medal
● $35,000: 1964 Tokyo Olympic gold medal and other items
● $35,000: 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic torch
● $35,000: 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic torch
● $35,000: 2024 Paris Olympic torch

● $30,000: 2020 Tokyo Olympic silver medal (in box)
● $25,000: 1932 Los Angeles Olympic gold medal (in box)
● $25,000: 1956 Stockholm Olympic equestrian silver medal
● $25,000: 1956 Stockholm Olympic equestrian bronze medal
● $25,000: 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympic gold medal
● $25,000: 2006 Turin Winter Olympic silver medal
● $25,000: 1964 Tokyo Olympic IOC President badge
● $25,000: 1936 Berlin IOC Chain of Office
● $20,000: 1924 Paris Olympic gold medal (boxing)
● $20,000: 1936 Berlin Olympic gold medal (in box)

● $20,000: 1948 London Olympic gold medal
● $20,000: 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympic torch
● $20,000: 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympic silver medal
● $20,000: 2016 Rio Olympic silver medal
● $18,000: 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympic gold medal (in box)
● $18,000: 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympic torch
● $15,000: 1912 Stockholm postcard collection (240 items)
● $15,000: 1936 Garmisch Winter Olympic bronze medal
● $15,000: 1956 Cortina Winter Olympic gold medal
● $15,000: 1956 Melbourne Olympic torch

● $15,000: 1968 Mexico City Olympic gold medal
● $15,000: 1976 Montreal Olympic gold medal
● $15,000: 2004 Athens Olympic gold medal
● $15,000: 1889 Zappas Games “Olympic” Winner’s Diploma
● $13,500: 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic bronze medal
● $13,000: 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic silver medal
● $13,000: 19 Olympic diplomas from 1900-2008
● $12,000: 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medal
● $10,000: 1906 Athens Intercalated Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 1912 Stockholm Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 1920 Antwerp Olympic gold medal

● $10,000: 1920 Antwerp Olympic silver medal
● $10,000: 1924 Paris Olympic official poster
● $10,000: 1928 Amsterdam Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 1936 Berlin Olympic silver medal and other items
● $10,000: 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic bronze medal (in box)
● $10,000: 1956 Melbourne Olympic silver medal
● $10,000: 1960 Rome Olympic silver medal
● $10,000: 1960 Rome Olympic bronze medal
● $10,000: 1972 Munich Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 1976 Montreal Olympic gold-plated presentation torch

● $10,000: 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic bronze medal (in box)
● $10,000: 1984 Los Angeles Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 1992 Barcelona Olympic gold medal
● $10,000: 2000 Sydney Olympic bronze medal

Note that a Paris 2024 torch – of which a limited number were made – is being offered (perhaps the first at auction anywhere), including a torchbearer’s uniform.

The 1994 Lillehammer torch is one of the most striking, measuring a stunning 60 inches in length, with a long, curved birchwood handle and an aluminum crown. It is believed to be the biggest torch in Olympic history.

Why do Winter Games torches seems to be at a premium? Because of the small size of the Games and the more restricted budgets, the number of torches produced has typically been smaller than for the Olympic Games, held during the summer. But the number of Olympic collectors continues to grow.

The breadth of the auction is its most amazing trait. A beginning collector would have an opportunity to bid on an Olympic medal for every Games from Athens 1896 through Barcelona 1992 and from Sydney 2000 through Tokyo 2020 … every Games except Atlanta 1996. And for most of the Winter Games, beginning with Garmisch 1936.

As for torches, a Berlin 1936 model from the first torch relay is on offer, with an expected sales price of $5,000.

The placement diplomas sets are also enticing. Not nearly as desirable as medals, they are nevertheless under-appreciated souvenirs of the Games and in addition to the 19-diploma set of Olympic Games diplomas from 1900 to 2008, there is also a set of 10 diplomas from Winter Games from 1928 to 1992, expected to bring $7,000.

Maybe the wildest offer is a set of eight individual accreditation badges for various people from the eight Games from 1984 to 2012, starting with Stan Isaacs’ press badge for Newsday for Los Angeles 1984. It’s estimated to bring $200.

Among collectors of badges for International Olympic Committee Sessions – and this is a highly-collected area – there are two interesting lots: one of badges from 18 different IOC Sessions from 1957 to 1994 (expected: $1,000) and a complete set of badges for the 104th Session of the IOC in 1995 in Budapest (HUN), expected to bring $1,000 or more.

And of course, there’s the miniature replica torch of the 1972 Munich Games which acts as a lighter, expected to bring $150.

It’s quite a show, but it will close on 18 July; the auction catalog and instructions are here.

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