Olympic memorabilia auction record up 126.4% in 12 months

The marathon winner's cup from the first modern Olympic Games smashed its high estimate by 238.2% at Christie's Olympic memorabilia auction in London on April 18.

The Breal's Silver Cup, presented to Spyros Louis, the winner of the 1896 marathon in Athens, Greece, sold for £541,250 against a £160,000 estimate, becoming the most valuable piece of Olympic memorabilia ever sold at auction in the process.

The previous record was held by a torch from the 1952 Helsinki Games, which made €290,000 (£239,000) at Christie's in April 2011. That corresponds to a 126.4% increase in the world record in 12 months.

1896 Olympic marathon cup
The most valuable piece of auctioned Olympic memorabilia

Frenchman Michel Bréal invented the marathon for the 1896 Olympics. He was inspired by the tale of messenger Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in 490 BC.

The cup has superb provenance, having remained in the Louis family since the victory - a fact that helped boost its value among collectors.

The cup was bought by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which is behind a new cultural centre in Athens. The cup will be displayed in the Greek capital until 2015.

"The significance and value of the silver cup is far greater than almost any other Olympic memorabilia dating from those first modern Games in Athens," commented Olympic historian Alexander Kitroeff.

A collection of medals, cups and photographs belonging to gold winning British athlete Harold Maurice Abrahams from the 1924 Games achieved £39,650, far above their £5,000 valuation.

A poster from the 1908 London Olympics made £15,000, while a torch from the London 1948 "austerity Games" sold for £6,250, against a £1,800 estimate.

The impressive figures are testament to the growing clamour for Olympic and sporting memorabilia among collectors. You too can grab a piece of the action, via this superb drawing of 1960 Olympic heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, autographed by the star, which is available now at Paul Fraser Collectibles.

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