Leonid Zhabotinsky’s Olympic gold winners medal among Olympic memorabilia up for auction

Art Daily
Published on
Among featured lots is an extremely rare winner's medal issued to legendary Ukrainian weightlifter Leonid Zhabotinsky at the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction.
Among featured lots is an extremely rare winner’s medal issued to legendary Ukrainian weightlifter Leonid Zhabotinsky at the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction.

BOSTON, MASS.-RR Auction is presenting a special Olympic auction representing over a century of competition with a curated selection of important memorabilia that includes Olympic torches, winner’s medals, and ephemera such as posters and pins. In celebration of Games past, RR Auction’s forthcoming Olympic Memorabilia auction will offer over 150 rare and historic artifacts commemorating the resolve and spirit of the enduring Olympic tradition. Representing over a century of competition, our curated selection is replete with Olympic torches, winner’s medals, and ephemera such as posters, pins, and tickets.

Among featured lots is an extremely rare winner’s medal issued to legendary Ukrainian weightlifter Leonid Zhabotinsky at the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction.

In an athletic event that featured the world’s biggest stars, weightlifter Leonid Zhabotinsky was larger than life. Representing the Soviet Union in the heavyweight division, Zhabotinsky squared off against his archrival and Soviet teammate, Yuri Vlasov, who was determined to defend his 1960 Rome gold medal. With one lift remaining in the competition’s three events—the clean and press, the snatch, and the clean and jerk—Zhabotinsky delivered a mighty final effort, breaking his own clean and jerk record and securing his first gold medal.

Four years later, at the 1968 Mexico City Games, he soundly defended his position and attained his second Olympic gold to become the first two-time Olympic champion in the men’s heavyweight class. Prior to the victory, the 6-foot 3-inch and 365-pound Zhabotinsky stole the show when he marched in the opening parade: while all the other flag-bearers held their national banners with two hands, Zhabotinsky marched ahead effortlessly, gripping the 40-pound Soviet banner with only one. So inspiring was the Soviet strongman to budding weightlifters and bodybuilders the world over, that as a young Austrian teenager Arnold Schwarzenegger kept a photograph of Zhabotinsky taped over his bed. Highlighted by its luminous gold medal and prestigious, powerful recipient, this rare complete awards package marks only the second time we’ve offered a winner’s medal from the first Olympics held in Asia.

The Olympic medal; Gilt silver, 63 mm, Highlighted by its luminous gold medal and prestigious, powerful recipient, this rare complete awards package marks only the second time we’ve offered a winner’s medal from the first Olympics held in Asia.102 gm, by Toshikaka Koshiba (based on the classic design of Giuseppe Cassioli); manufactured by the Japanese Mint. The front is inscribed, “XVII Olimpiad Tokyo 1964, Weight-Lifting,” and features a ‘Seated Victory’ with the Colosseum in the background; the reverse depicts a victorious athlete being carried by several jubilant athletes. The medal is attached to its original ribbon with Olympic colors. (Estimate: $20,000+)

Among other Olympic Winners Medals:

Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics Gold Winner’s Medal. Winner’s medal issued for the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics. Gilt silver, 63.5 mm, 142.5 gm, by Dugald Stermer, Indianapolis. The front, inscribed, “XXIII Olympiad, Los Angeles 1984,” features a ‘Seated Victory’ with the Colosseum in the background; the reverse portrays a victorious athlete being carried by a jubilant crowd. The edge is inscribed with the name of the event, “Wrestling, Greco Roman, 100 kg.” Complete with original magenta, vermillion, and yellow ribbon, which is separated at the seam. Exhibits some rubbing to the gilt on the edge. Only 478 of these gold medals were produced for the LA Games. A scarce, attractive medal from this memorable USA-hosted Olympiad. (Estimate: $30,000+)

Stockholm 1956 Summer Olympics Bronze Winner’s Medal. Bronze winner’s medal from 1956 Stockholm Games, one of only 12 awarded. Extremely rare winner’s medal issued for the Stockholm 1956 Summer Olympics equestrian events. Bronze, 50 mm, 92 gm, by V. Falireus/John Sjosvard. The front depicts an ancient Greek horse and rider, inscribed with a Swedish legend, “XVI Olympiadens Ryttartavlingar, 1956, Stockholm.” The reverse portrays the torch and Olympic rings, with “Jeux Olympiques” above, and the Olympic motto below, “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” Stamped on the edge, “Lagerstrom / Mjolby.”

Due to Australian agricultural quarantine regulations, the equestrian events of Melbourne’s XVI Olympiad were held five months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden, making the 1956 Summer Games the second Olympics not to be held entirely in one country; the 1920 Olympics, which Antwerp, Belgium co-hosted with Amsterdam and Ostend, were the first. Given the low number of participants in the equestrian events—158 riders competed in six events—any Stockholm medals remain rare and highly sought-after. In total, only twelve of these Stockholm bronze winner’s medals were awarded, making it an exceptionally rare Olympic medal. (Estimate: $25,000+)

Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics Gold Winner’s Medal. Exceptionally rare winner’s medal issued for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics. Gilt silver, 69 mm, 198 gm, by Peter Friedrich. The front depicts combined profiles of a laureated athlete and a First Nations indigenous person whose headdress is formed by winter sporting equipment; the reverse bears the stylized snowflake/maple leaf emblem of the Games and the Olympic rings at center, with surrounding raised bilingual text: “XVes Jeux Olympiques d’hiver, XV Olympic Games, Calgary 1988.” The edge of the medal engraved in English and French with the name of the event: “Biathlon 4 x 7.5 KM Relay.” The medal is suspended from its cyan, red, and blue ribbon, and is accompanied by its original blue velvet case.

The three biathlon events of the Calgary Games were dominated by East and West Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, with the latter securing the most medals with four—the lone gold medal attained by the Soviet Union was in the 4 x 7.5 km relay team event, which featured the skiing and shooting prowess of Valeriy Medvedtsev, who had only days prior won silver medals in the individual and sprint biathlon events. A bona fide Olympic treasure from the first Canadian Winter Olympics. (Estimate: $20,000+)

Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics Silver Winner’s Medal. The silver-and-Lalique crystal winner’s medal from the 1992 Winter Games. Entrancing winner’s medal issued for the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics. Silver and Lalique crystal glass, 92 mm, 175 gm, designed under the direction of Marie-Claude Lalique; manufactured by Lalique. The front features a crystal design of the Olympic rings over a mountainous valley, with border inscribed with Games emblem, laurel branch, and legend, “Albertville 92, XVI Jeux Olympiques D’Hver / XVI Olympic Winter Games”; the reverse features the etched side of the same mountain valley design with a plain border. The crystal bears some soft scuffing. Complete with its original silver ribbon with Olympic color stripes, and the attractive gray leatherette presentation case with velvet-lined interior. The 1992 Winter Olympics were the last competition to be staged in the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first winter games since the end of the Cold War. An utterly unique and innovative second place prize that represents only the second winner’s medal that we have offered from the historic XVI Winter Olympiad. (Estimate: $25,000+)

Additional featured items:

Oslo 1952 Winter Olympics Torch, The torch of the first Winter Olympics relay. Historically significant official 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics torch, constructed of a silver-colored brass and steel alloy, designed by Geir Grung and Adolf Thoresen. The oval-shaped top is engraved with large Olympic rings and a representation of the relay route from Morgedal to Oslo. The handle and bowl exhibits various scuffs and scratches, with underside of bowl showing some light scattered spotting. Accompanied by a red scarf, with one end threaded in white with the Olympic rings and “Norge” (Norway). This first-ever Winter Olympics torch relay was designed to honor the origins of skiing, beginning in Morgedal, county of Telemark, at the birthplace of 19th-century legend Sondre Norheim, considered the father of skiing in Norway. The symbolic flame was then carried 225 km by a total of just 94 torchbearers, arriving two days later at Oslo’s Bislett Stadium on February 15 for the opening ceremony. Exceedingly rare, a total of only 95 torches were produced. A rare and important torch used in the first torch relay in the history of the Olympic Winter Games. (Estimate: $50,000+)

A rare prototype torch from the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics. Exceedingly rare prototype of the official Special Ceremonies torch used in the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics, comprised of aluminum alloy, designed by Boris Tuchin. Open top section reveals the fuel pipe. The torch bears various dings and scuffs, with toning to handle and slight dents to the upper rim. In all, about 5,435 torchbearers participated in the relay, which lasted from June 19 to July 19. The Moscow Olympics were especially controversial due to the USSR’s recent invasion of Afghanistan, and the United States led 65 countries in a boycott of the Games.

There were two types of torches used in the 1980 Moscow Olympic torch relay. While the torch used in the relay itself is fairly common, a Special Ceremonies torch, which features an alternate design, was used in the lighting ceremonies in Moscow, Leningrad, Minsk, and Kiev. Only 20 of these Special Ceremonies torches were ever made, thus making them extremely rare. According to Oleg Vorontsov, expert on the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and author of the International Society of Olympic Historians magazine article: ‘The ‘unknown’ Moscow-80 torch, an Olympic mystery, only two prototypes of the Special Ceremonies torches were ever made, ‘as proof of concept.’ The prototype is slightly shorter than the actual Special Ceremonies torch, and the handle is made of metal, as opposed to plastic on the actual torch. One of only two prototypes extant, this torch represents a tremendously rare piece of sporting history and an historical, museum-quality artifact from the XXII Olympiad. (Estimate: $25,000+)

The Olympic Memorabilia auction from RR Auction will conclude July 23.