World Coins

Olympic medals come to Swiss July auction

Medals in the July 18 Münzen & Raritätenshop sale include a gold-plated bronze medal from the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, a silver-plated bronze medal from the 1908 London Olympics and a bronze medal from the 1964 New York track and field trials.

All images courtesy of Münzen & Raritätenshop.

All eyes are going to turn to Tokyo as the 2020 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to begin, after a year’s delay because of the global pandemic.

Münzen & Raritätenshop, a coin shop in Bern, Switzerland, is conducting an online auction of Olympic medals ending July 18, just five days shy of coinciding with the July 23 opening ceremonies.

These pieces range from official participant issues to commemorative pieces, from the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896, to those in more recent times, such as the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The most recent medal in the auction dates to 2002 and marks the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Athens was chosen for the first modern games, since Greece was home to the event in ancient times.

A gold-plated bronze participant’s medal from that initial modern event is perhaps the marquee lot in the sale.

The medal measures 50 millimeters in diameter and weighs 58.6 grams.

The Athens medal comes with the original box and is in “Fleur-de-Coin” condition, according to the firm, which basically means “as issued,” and has an opening bid of 250 Swiss francs ($270 U.S.).

Gilt, the medal is rich with imagery. It depicts on the obverse a seated Nike holding a laurel wreath over a phoenix emerging from flames, with the Acropolis in the background. A Greek legend referencing the International Olympic Games in Athens, 1896, appears in a wreath on the reverse.

Classical imagery also appears on the 1908 silver-plated bronze medal from the London Games. This medal is a commemorative issue from the period and not an award medal.

The allegory of Fame appears on the obverse, standing upon a globe, with dates and city names of previous games shown. A quadriga (four-horse chariot) driven by two standing figures appears on the reverse.

English artist Bertram MacKennal designed the medal, which measures 50 millimeters and weighs 60 grams.

In original box, condition unstated, the medal has an opening bid of 120 Swiss francs ($130 U.S.).

The 1964 Summer Olympics were held in Japan, so why is there a 1964 Olympic medal from New York City?

In this case, the bronze medal is connected to the World’s Fair in New York.

One side of the medal carries a familiar scene celebrating “Man’s achievements in an expanding universe” at the 1964–1965 fair, and the Unisphere structure that came to symbolize the fair.

The other side (the firm does not define which side is obverse and which is reverse) carries an inscription identifying the connection to the Olympics: UNITED STATES OLYMPIC TEAM TRIALS.

Track-and-field events for both men and women were held in New York that summer, as a precursor to the Oct. 10 to 24 Games in Tokyo.

The bronze medal measures 38 millimeters in diameter and is Fleur-de-Coin.

It has an opening bid of 15 Swiss francs ($16.20).

The final medal we’ll consider is the 1980 Lake Placid calendar medal.

Also not an official issue, the medal has a calendar on what is presumably the reverse, while celebrating a major event from the year 1980, the Winter Games in Lake Placid, on the supposed obverse.

In its original box and Fleur-de-Coin condition, the medal’s opening bid is 80 Swiss francs ($86.50 U.S.).

To see all 44 lots, visit

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