Athlete Jesse Owens' 1936 Olympic gold fetches $1.8 million

Track and field star Jesse Owens' gold medal from the 1936 Olympics. The medal won by Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games, but unidentifiable to a specific event, has sold at an auction for US$1,466,574 (S$1,832,500), the highest price ever paid for
Track and field star Jesse Owens' gold medal from the 1936 Olympics. The medal won by Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games, but unidentifiable to a specific event, has sold at an auction for US$1,466,574 (S$1,832,500), the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia. -- FILE PHOTO: AP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - An Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games has sold at an auction for US$1,466,574 (S$1,832,500), the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

SCP Auctions, based in Laguna Niguel, California, said the price for the medal in the auction that concluded on Sunday surpassed that of a silver cup won by the winner of the first modern-day Olympic marathon in 1896 that sold for US$865,000 in April 2012 and the highest price paid for a US Olympic item - the "Miracle on Ice" hockey jersey worn by team captain Mike Eruzione - that sold for US$657,250 in February of 2013.

The auction, including more than 1,000 sports memorabilia items, brought in a total of nearly US$4.5 million.

With Germany's Adolf Hitler using the Olympics as a backdrop for notions of an Aryan master race, US legend Owens famously showed the power of a black athlete by capturing gold in the 100m and 200m, the long jump and the 4x100m relay.

The medal sold in the auction was not identifiable to a specific event but was given to famed dance and movie star Bill "Bojangles" Robinson by Owens after Robinson helped Owens find work in the years after his epic Olympic victories.

The estate of Robinson's late widow, Elaine Plaines-Robinson, put the medal up for auction.

The auction house said the buyer of the medal wished to remain anonymous at this time. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the medal will be donated to the Jesse Owens Foundation.

Other top lots included Jackie Robinson's game-used bats from his historic 1949 National League Most Valuable Player season and the 1955 World Series that sold for US$183,500 and US$128,617, respectively; and a Jackie Robinson single-signed baseball attracted a record sum of US$104,765.

A Muhammad Ali v Jimmy Young fight-worn robe fetched US$60,667 in the auction and a 1960s Wilt Chamberlain Los Angeles Lakers game-worn road jersey went for the same price.

Ali wore the robe before defending his world title in the fight.

"We are honoured to have handled what we consider to be among the most inspiring sports artefacts ever offered at auction," said SCP Auction vice-president Dan Imler.

"The worldwide attention garnered by the auction of Jesse Owens's 1936 gold medal and the extraordinary auction result proves that Owens' triumphant legacy continues to endure." Other lots included Major League Baseball great Goose Gossage's collection of personal memorabilia, which garnered more than US$365,000, including US$66,734 for his 1978 New York Yankees World Series Champions Ring and US$41,372 for his 2008 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ring.