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A Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games torch sold for £420,000 on May 18, in the process also establishing a house record for the saleroom set up 11 years ago by the former Sotheby's head of sporting memorabilia.

Estimated at £300,000-400,000, it was bought by the Saracens rugby club chairman Nigel Wray (owner of a private collection of sporting memorabilia, the Priory Collection).

Budd, who holds his sales at Sotheby's New Bond Street, said: "This was the only torch he was missing for the summer (first torch Berlin 1936) and winter (first torch Oslo 1952) games. So he is now 100% complete."

The vendor was a continental private collector.

The price Wray paid beat the record set by another Helsinki 1952 torch sold for €290,000 (£263,635) at Paris auctioneers Bernard Vassy et Philippe Jalenques in February 2011.

"In terms of Olympic prices in general I believe it has taken the 'bronze' medal position, so to speak," adds Budd.

The auction record appears to be the gold medal awarded to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin which sold for a premium-inclusive $1.47m at SCP Auctions of California in August 2013. The 'silver' award goes to a silver cup given to Spyros Louis, marathon winner at the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896, which made £450,000 at Christie's South Kensington in April 2012.

Rarity Value

Budd says the 23½in (59cm) long Helsinki 1952 torch is "exceptionally rare". At the 1952 Games only a total of 22 torches were manufactured, 15 with hallmarked silver bowls and silver in plate with a plainer, simpler design.

"Compare this to the 8000 torches produced for the most recent summer Games in London in 2012 and the all-time record number of 15,000 torch bearers employed for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games," says Budd. (Also on May 18, he sold a Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games bearer's torch for £1150.)

In the 2012 book Tuli Olympiasta (Came To Olympia), Terttu Mammela writes: "Of the original 15 Helsinki silver torches five had been lost during the relay - four in Greece and one in Kokkola, Finland."

While others went to official recipients, those lost silver torches "have dispersed into private collections over the decades. Because of their extremely limited number the Helsinki Olympic torches have become most valuable collector items".

The silver torch sold in Paris in 2011 did not have its original burner.

The £420,000 beats Budd's Ascot Racecourse Winner's Enclosure gates (£280,000 in 2005) and Stanley Matthews' 1953 FA Cup winner's medal (£220,000 in November 2014 - a world auction record for a football medal).

As if that torch record wasn't enough, on May 18 Nigel Wray also bought the stopwatch used by timekeeper WJ Burfitt when Sir Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in Oxford in 1954, paying £20,000, five times the low estimate.

And May brought more sports success for Wray... Saracens won the rugby Premiership title 12 days after the Graham Budd sale, beating Bath 28-16 in the final at Twickenham.

The buyer's premium at Graham Budd was 17.5%.