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Jesse Owens’ Olympic Gold Medal Garners Record Auction Price

An Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games was sold in an online auction for a record $1.

An Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games was sold in an online auction for a record $1.4 million. SCP Auctions reports that Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle purchased the medal, adding that it was the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

Of course it is.

The symbolism the medal represents is the stuff of legends.  Owens won the gold in the 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 relay and long jump at the 1936 Olympics with Adolf Hitler in attendance. Owens' stellar performance killed the mad man's hopes that the games would reinforce his racist ideas of Aryan supremacy. Thanks to Jesse, he was sorely mistaken.

The medal was then given to legendary entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson as a gift for helping Jesse find work in entertainment after the Olympic Games were over. It was sold by the estate of Robinson's widow, Elaine Plaines-Robinson. Today, SCP Auctions VP Dan Imler said the medal's authenticity was confirmed by the Owens family. But the whereabouts of the other three are unknown.


“We reached out to the family of Jesse Owens as soon as we were first contacted about the medal,” said Dan Imler, prior to the auction. “Out of unmitigated respect, it was imperative to us and to our consignor that they be immediately informed of the decision."


A portion of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Jesse Owens Foundation. In an interview with CNN, a Robinson family representative said they were "disappointed" with the sale and hoped the medal at the very least would be placed on display. But Imler says the family intends to use the proceeds to fund college tuition.  International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wasn't really feeling the auction of the medal as well.

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"[It has] an importance far beyond the sporting achievements of Jesse Owens, which is part of world history," Bach said. "To put this up for an auction is for me a very difficult decision [to accept]."

But in these tough economic times, everybody's gotta eat.


Ricardo A Hazell has served as Senior Contributor with The Shadow League since coming to the company in 2013. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the South China Sea Post, the Root and many other publications. At TSL he is charged with exploring re black cultural angles of where they intersect with the mainstream.