Forty-eight years before Michael Jordan helped Team USA to victory and took off his shoes that sold Sunday for over $190,000, the gold medal game of the 1936 Olympics had been played on a court made of sand and clay– outdoors in the pouring rain. Now, the family of one of the players has consigned a gold medal from that first Olympic basketball final in Berlin, Germany to an upcoming auction. It’ll be sold by Grant Zahajko Auctions of Davenport, WA and because of its pristine condition, could sell for a six-figure price.
The medal comes directly from the family of John “Tex” Gibbons’ family and is accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity signed by Gibbons’ son and an extensive archive of ephemera documenting the basketball team’s ocean voyage to Germany, their participation in the Games, and the social events, side trips and other activities organized by the Olympic committee while they were in Europe.
“There was a great article in Sports Illustrated that talked about how the first American ‘Dream Team’ was actually the 1936 Olympic team,” Zahajko said. “Except for one man, all of them were already professional basketball players. Also, 1936 was the first year that basketball was included in the Olympics. Playing conditions at the Berlin Games were minimal. They played on a dirt court in a horse pasture, in the driving rain. They couldn’t even dribble. They had to pass. The final game ended with a score of USA 19, Canada 8.”
Gibbons died in 1984. After the Olympics, he taught and coached at UCLA before beginning a long career in the oil business.
Zahajko said that during his career he has appraised three Olympic Gold Medals from members of the 1936 Olympics U.S. basketball team. The first medal he evaluated was privately held and not for sale. The second was very worn, a condition 1 out of 10, with a hole drilled into it. That example sold for $67,000 in 2015. The Gibbons medal is in exceptionally fine condition and is accompanied by a large archive of unique documentation, supporting a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-$150,000.
The auction also includes a newly discovered cache of several hundred 1950s and 60s baseball cards.
“Around 20 years ago the consignor went to help him mom move and, in the process, discovered his boyhood collection of cards produced primarily by Topps from 1953 to 1962,” Zahajko said. “He had always been fastidious about putting them in sleeves and keeping them in a climate-controlled environment.”
In all, 500 cards were professionally graded. They will be apportioned into 125 auction lots, joining a separate group of T206 cards including several Hall of Famers.