One of the most historically important pieces of sports memorabilia you’re likely to see was on display during the National Sports Collectors Convention over the summer and it’s coming to auction this month.
SCP Auctions had one of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens during the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany in a case at its booth. The medal has been consigned by the estate of Owens’ friend, entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Adolf Hitler hoped that the 1936 Berlin Games would prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority. Instead, Owens, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, shocked the world with a feat of unprecedented dominance. Owens won four gold medals, in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump. He managed to break or equal nine Olympic records and also set three world records. One of those world records was in the 4x100m relay. The quartet set a time that wouldn’t be bettered for 20 years.
The medal, as documented in the 1988 biography “Mr. Bojangles”, was gifted to Robinson by Owens in the late 1930’s. It has descended in the family of Robinson’s late widow Elaine Plaines-Robinson.
The auction runs Wednesday, Nov. 20 through Saturday, Dec. 7 at www.SCPAuctions.com.
“SCP Auctions is privileged to handle an item of such profound historical importance,” said Dan Imler, Vice President of SCP. “Jesse Owens is not only remembered for his incomparable feats in the Olympic arena in Berlin, but for his unrelenting character in the face of oppression and his indomitable spirit that continues to inspire millions of people throughout the world. It leaves one nearly speechless to behold this medal. It survives as one of the world’s most poignant symbols of triumph.”
Owens’ 1936 Olympic gold medal, with its in-depth history and captivating provenance, is expected to set a record for Olympic memorabilia, as it could sell for upwards of $1 million.
What happened to the other three Owens medals isn't known. Owens was later issued a replacement set that is on loan to his alma mater, Ohio State University. The Robinson family plans to use part of the proceeds to pay for the college expenses of family members and a portion will also be donated to charity.