Monday - 22 September 2014

Winter Olympic gold – torches scoop top prices

17 February 2014Written by Anne Crane

Like those London buses where you wait forever then two come along at once, two versions of a rare Olympic torch limited to just 33 examples turned up in separate Drouot auctions in Paris within the space of just ten days.

The torches were used in the trans-France relay that preceded the Winter Olympics held at Grenoble in 1968. The pre-games relay took place from December 19, 1967, to February 6, 1968, passing through 5000 different hands en route, beginning with Alan Mimoun, the marathon gold medal winner at the 1956 Melbourne games, and ending with Alain Calmat, who won a silver in skating at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

With the Sochi Olympics just under way, these were timely offerings, but the coincidence was all the more noteworthy given that unlike the torches for the actual games which were produced in their thousands, only 33 artisan-made relay models were produced, each with slight variations, created by the Société Technique d'Equipement et de Fourniture Industrielle.

First off was the version featured in a small 15-lot section devoted to Olympic memorabilia in the January 29 auction of medals and historic memorabilia held by Beaussant Lefèvre (25% buyer's premium) at Drouot. This was missing the internal key to the burner, while the original red grip to the handle had been replaced by a green version, but it was otherwise in a very good state of repair with the original finish. An estimate of €30,000-40,000 proved wide of the mark with the hammer falling at €100,000 (£87,720).

Then on February 8 another of the 33 models turned up in a dedicated sports and Olympic memorabilia sale mounted by Olivier Couteau-Bégarie (20.84% buyer's premium). This second version, which lacked the burner, carried a slightly higher €40,000-50,000 guide and realised slightly less at €75,000 (£65,790).

Albertville Olympics

The sale also included a later pre-Olympics rally torch from the 1992 Winter games in Albertville, a distinctive curved design by Philippe Starck. It was lit at Olympus on December 14, 1991, and travelled to Paris on Concorde with Michel Platini taking the final leg to Albertville. This stainless steel example, numbered 112 from an edition of 130, realised €35,000 (£30,700).

While Beaussant Lefèvre's small Olympic section was dominated by lots from the Grenoble 1968 Olympics, it also featured one or two lots of memorabilia relating to the 1948 London Olympics.

These included the gold medal awarded to Maurice Huet of France as the winner of the fencing, epée, team event. The 2in (5cm) diameter silver-gilt medal, weighing 26g, came with Huet's diploma, which carried official signatures from Messrs Edstrom, Portal and Lord Burghley, and various photographs and press cuttings. It sold just over upper estimate at €4800 (£4210).

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top