The words “First International Olympic Games, Athens 1896” are inscribed in Greek, and the edge is stamped “Bronze.”
First Modern Olympic Games’ Medal Auctions Off For Nearly $30,000
A 126-year-old bronze medal from the first ever international Olympic Games in 1896 has been sold at auction for £25,000 ($28,608) after spending decades gathering dust in a drawer.
The two-inch wide award was given to athletes who finished in second place – along with a laurel branch – at events held at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens.
The rare medal was handed down through the same family for a number of generations until one relative came across it during a recent clear-out at her home in Shropshire.
The owner had no idea what it was until they recently decided to get a valuation and were left stunned to discover they had an Olympic treasure.
The medal went under the hammer at Mullocks Auctioneers, in Ludlow, Shrops., UK, on Friday, September 30, where it was sold to a private overseas bidder for £25,000.
It was designed by French sculptor J.C.Chaplain and comes complete with an image of the ancient Greek god Zeus next to the word Olympia.
On the reverse, the words “First International Olympic Games, Athens 1896” are inscribed in Greek, and the edge is stamped “Bronze.”
“Any winner’s medal from the historic debut of the Olympic Games remains exceedingly rare and is highly desirable within the world of sport,” said Ben Jones, from Mullock’s Auctioneers.
“It is great to have handled such a rare piece of sporting history, and it was eventually sold to a private individual buyer in the USA.”
“We are very honored to have been given the opportunity to auction off such a piece.”
“This medal has been handed down in the family for a number of generations without anyone really looking or knowing what it is.”
“It was kept in a drawer until the vendor decided to have a clear out and came across it and decided to get a second opinion.”
In total, 43 second place medals were awarded across nine different sports, and only three British athletes received them.
Mystery surrounded who this particular medal was awarded to as the family were unaware of its significance.
During the inaugural Olympic Games, winners were given a silver medal, and an olive branch while a copper medal and a laurel branch were awarded to runners-up.
The modern gold, silver, and bronze medal system wasn’t introduced until 1904 and the iconic Olympic rings symbol was not designed until 1912.
The International Olympic Committee has since retroactively assigned gold, silver, and bronze medals to the three best-placed athletes in each event.
A total of 14 nations and 241 athletes competed at the games, with all participants being European apart from the United States team, which won the most gold medals.
Athens was chosen as the first host of the modern games as Greece was considered the birthplace of the Ancient Olympic Games, dating back to 776 BC.
The host nation, Greece, won the most medals overall, 47, during the competition, which took place between April 6-15, 1896.
The nine sports featured were athletics, cycling, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, wrestling, fencing, shooting, and tennis.
The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, who won four events across both his disciplines.
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