The first 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey gold medal ever offered in a public auction sold for $310,700 Friday night. The winning bid from a memorabilia collector was three times higher than the pre-sale estimate, according to Heritage Auctions.
The medal belonged to Mark Wells, then a 21-year-old center. Needing money for medical bills resulting from a rare genetic disease of the spinal cord, Wells sold it privately earlier this year to a collector who consigned it to the auction.
"The winning bidder is a Western United States rancher who enjoys many categories of collectibles, but this was his first purchase from our sports department. He is very excited to own this iconic piece of American sporting history," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions.
"He was one of 16 collectors bidding for the medal online or by telephone who took it from its opening bid of $25,000 to the winning level."
The price includes a 19.5 percent buyer's premium paid by all winning bidders in the sports memorabilia auction, which also included the sale of a T206 Honus Wagner consigned by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
"We originally estimated it would easily sell for $100,000 because this was the first time any of the Olympic gold medals awarded to the 20 players of the 1980 'Miracle on Ice' U.S. hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union was ever offered in a public auction," said Chris Ivy of Heritage.
The medal, crafted by Tiffany, is accompanied by a letter from Wells in which he wrote: "I hope you cherish this medal as much as I have. I personally cannot think of another piece of memorabilia that has had such a profound effect on the sports world than this precious keepsake."
After the Lake Placid games, Wells spent a couple of years in the minor leagues, then managed a Michigan restaurant before reportedly becoming bed-ridden.