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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 45, November 8, 2009, Article 13

DEALER INGRID O'NEIL ON OLYMPIC MEDALS

An article this week in the Vancouver Sun discusses the market for Olympic collectibles and interviews dealer Ingrid O'Neil, a longtime specialist in Olympic medals. -Editor

In the world of Olympics collectibles, the key to value is rarity. And the rarest commodity is an Olympic medal.

"Everybody would like a winner's medal, but most people can't afford one," said Ingrid O'Neil, who runs an Olympic memorabilia auction out of Vancouver, Wash.

"I would think a winner's medal [from Vancouver] ... it depends if it's gold, silver, or bronze, but I think I would pay on the spot $25,000 for a gold medal."

But she doesn't expect one to come up for a while.

"They will be very, very, very hard to get," O'Neil said.

"Many countries now offer a lot of money to their medal winners, so they don't need to sell their medals any more. When the Soviet Union still existed, the eastern European countries had so little money, if [an athlete] sold their medals for a few thousand dollars that was several years income for them.

"Nowadays I think in Russia they get $50,000 for a gold medal. They don't sell their medals for a few thousand dollars any more."

If you can't lay your hands on a gold, silver or bronze, the next best thing is the "participation medal" every athlete gets for showing up and competing.

"There are a lot of collectors who want participation medals of each Olympiad," said O'Neil, a German who has been dealing in Olympic memorabilia since the mid-1980s.

"It depends on how many are available, [but they can be worth] more than $100 for sure."

"The most expensive medal we've sold is a participation medal for the 1904 St. Louis Summer Olympics," said Chris Ivey of Heritage Auctions in Dallas, which often sells Olympic memorabilia in its sports auctions.

"That's because it's so rare . Everyone who's an Olympic medal collector is looking for this participation medal. It went for $16,700 [US]."

The 1904 St. Louis Games also produced O'Neil's biggest sale: $50,000 US for a gold medal.

"At that Olympiad they had real gold medals," O'Neil said.

"Actually there were four Olympiads that had real gold medals: Paris 1900, St. Louis 1904, London 1908, and Stockholm 1912. Sometimes you hear from [modern] gold medal winners, ‘Oh my gold medal should be worth so much, just for the gold.' They do not realize [they are made out of] six grams of gold over sterling silver. They are not gold."

To read the complete article, see: Rarity sets prices for Olympic memorabilia (www.vancouversun.com/sports/2010wintergames/
Rarity+sets+prices+Olympic+memorabilia/2189967/story.html)

Coincidentally, a reader from Munich forwarded these notes on an earlier E-Sylum item about Olympic medals. -Editor

I also read this article with great interest as I'm also an Olympic coin collector. But unlike many other Olympic coin collectors I did only concentrate on Atlanta 1996 and Lillehammer 1994 games. Everything else would have been too expensive and time-consuming. Alone from those two games 487 different coins exist. Maybe there are more, but I doubt it. I have found only those during my 15 years of collecting. This includes only coins (official money in an official country - no medals, token or similar). I have roughly 400 of those and I would say that this is one of the most complete coins on earth for those Olympic games (the collection in Lausanne is by far less than mine or Mr. Driegas)

Due to the inflationary issue of Olympic coins (especially from Atlanta 1996 onwards) a complete collection is impossible in my eyes. It took me almost 20 years to collect those coins and the missing 80 coins are probably next to impossible to get. I only know those out of coin books, but have never seen them in a shop, eBay or somewhere else. I would doubt that somebody has the energy and the money to collect really all Olympic coins especially from 1996 onwards. As 1996 is alone 407 coins I would assume that all Olympic coins from 1952 up to now contains at least 2000 coins. So also Mr. Driegas collection is far from being complete but indeed could be one of the most complete collections. Maybe we should bring our two collections together?

So I will continue looking for the remaining 80 coins and maybe one day my collection is really complete. Maybe Mr. Driega or any other Olympic coin collector wants to get in touch with me to exchange some information. Please email me under mctobler@web.de



Wayne Homren, Editor

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