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Jack London (1905-66) was awarded bronze in the 4x4 100 metres relay and a silver in the 100 metres sprint in the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

London’s uncle John Downham inherited the collection which also included an Olympic commemorative medal that Downham had gold plated.

Downham’s daughter, Christine Downham, appeared on an episode of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow that was broadcast in September. Specialist John Foster (a consultant at Cheffins) estimated the collection at between £3000-4000 on the show.


However, at the Hansons auction in Etwall, Derbyshire, on November 19, internet bidders, a phone and room bidder competed to push the final hammer price to £8000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) and it was secured by a private UK buyer.

Downham said: “We’re very proud of Great Uncle Jack’s achievements. We decided to sell because we want the memorabilia to be enjoyed. It’s just been stuck in a cupboard where no one can see it.

“The medals came to me after my dad passed away four years ago. He loved talking about Jack and decided to get one of his commemorative Olympic medals gold-plated to make it look like a full set.”

The collection also included two relay batons used in the 4x4 100 metres in 1928 and the British Empire Games.

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Athlete, musician and film star Jack London. Image credit: Hansons.

London, full name John Edward London, was born in 1905 in British Guiana, now Guyana, and moved to London as a baby. After a short time back in British Guiana he returned to the UK. He studied at Regent Street Polytechnic, joined the Polytechnic Harriers and was trained by renowned coach Sam Mussabini - the man who helped athletes win 11 Olympic medals.

After equalling the Olympic 100 metres record of 10.6 seconds in the semi-final in 1928, London won the silver medal in the final, behind Canadian Percy Williams.

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100 metre runners Georg Lammers, Percy Williams and Jack London at the 1928 Olympics. Image credit: Hansons.

In July 1929, he became the first British sprinter to win the Amateur Athletic Association’s 100 yards title since Harold Abrahams in 1924. He was also a leading British high jumper in this period. His athletic career was curtailed by a leg injury in 1930 

When he retired from athletics, London was in the original cast of Noël Coward’s musical Cavalcade at London’s Theatre Royal in 1931 and appeared in the 1938 film Old Bones of the River.

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Jack London appeared in 1938 film Old Bones of the River. Image credit: Hansons.

London, who married twice but had no children, also co-wrote a coaching manual in 1948, The Way to Win on Track and Field.