Olympic Medal News: Rarest of Them All?
by Jim Greensfelder
Many times I get questions about the rarity of medals. People want to know out of curiosity and also to assess value. I have not seen every medal collection in the world but I have seen many and have seen lists of other collections. Let's separate winners and participation medals for this question.
Winner's medals: Without a doubt the rarest of the winner's medals has to be a 1904 gold awarded for events during August 29 to September 3, 1904 that constituted the official events (right). Events were held over a three-month period in conjunction with the World's Fair and all were called Olympic. Only the events from August 29 to September 3 used this special medal for winners. It is a solid gold round medal attached to a ribbon and a pin bar so it can be displayed by pinning on a garment. Look for the 1904 winner medals in the "Olympic Medals Reference Guide."
Why do I think this is the hardest medal to obtain? I have never seen one with the ribbon attached. If you look at the medals in the IOC Museum in Lausanne, they don't even have a gold one. They only have a bronze and it does not have a ribbon. I have seen a silver with the ribbon and pinbar and a bronze with the ribbon and pinbar but never a gold one. I have seen a gold 1904 in another museum but it did not have a ribbon and pinbar. That gold one is the only one I have ever seen. What would the value of a gold with ribbon, etc. Who knows, but it would be in the six figures.
There were two other Olympic Games where solid gold medals were awarded. What were they?
Participation medals: For years and years we believed that there were only two of the 1912 solid gold participation medals minted (left). They were presented to the King and Prince of Sweden. Recently a third medal was discovered that was created for the president of the organizing committee. This medal has been authenticated and was sold for six figures. Is this the rarest of participation medals? Maybe and maybe not.
The official report of the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympic Games states that 10 gold participation medals were created. I have asked dealers and historians if they have ever heard of one of these medals in existence. The answer has always been no.
Were they solid gold? Most likely they were since only 10 were made. If they were solid gold have they been melted down or does one still exist? If it still exists I believe that this is the rarest of all participation medals. Since none have ever been seen I think the 1912 Gold is the rarest participation medal and the most expensive.
Olympin Collectors Club newsletter, May 2009