Jesse Owens gold medal from Berlin 1936 Olympics sold at auction | News | DW | 08.12.2013
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Jesse Owens gold medal from Berlin 1936 Olympics sold at auction

A gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics has been bought in an online auction for more than $1.4 million. The medal - one of four golds Owens won at the Games - was bought by an American billionaire.

The bids opened on the medal at SCP Auctions on November 20, ending on Sunday. Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle was listed as the winning bidder, paying $1,466,574 (1,069,797 euros) for the medal. The price tag ensured the medal was the most valuable piece of Olympics memorabilia ever sold.

Owens won the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump events at the Olympics in Berlin, which then-Germany leader Adolf Hitler had hoped would support his ideals of Aryan supremacy. Owens had given the medal to friend and entertainer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson in appreciation for helping him find work after the Olympics.

A close up of the medal. Photo: AP

Owens' medal fetched a record price in the online auction.

The medal was sold by the estate of Robinson's late widow, Elaine Plaines-Robinson. While the whereabouts of the other medals are unknown, the Owens family confirmed the authenticity of the auctioned one.

Marlene Owens Rankin - daughter of Owens, who died in 1980 aged 66 - had expressed hopes prior to the auction that the medal's new owner would make it available for public access. SCP Auctions said Burkle also owns William Faulkner's 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature medal, and has plans for an educational tour of the pieces.

"We are honored to have handled what we consider to be among the most inspiring sports artifacts ever offered at auction," said SCP Auctions Vice President Dan Imler.

"The worldwide attention garnered by the auction of Jesse Owens 1936 Gold Medal and the extraordinary auction result proves that Owens' triumphant legacy continues to endure."

Sale beats previous record

A portion of the proceeds of the sale will be donated to the Jesse Owens Foundation. The amount paid for the medal surpassed that of the silver cup won by the winner of the first modern-day Olympic marathon in 1896, which fetched $865,000 in 2012.

The medal's impending sale had been met with disappointment from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach: "[It has] an importance far beyond the sporting achievements of Jesse Owens, which is part of world history," he said.

"To put this up for an auction is for me a very difficult decision [to accept]."

ph/msh (AFP, AP)