Could Wenlock and Mandeville be the collectibles of the future?
The one-eyed mascots, named after Much Wenlock and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the birthplaces of the modern-era Olympic and Paralympic Games, are not everybody's cup of tea. But in the week that the schedule was announced for the London 2012 Olympic Games, collectors and investors are already thinking about the Olympic 2012 memorabilia that could provide them with a tidy sum in years to come.
While we're not suggesting that a Wenlock tea-towel or a London 2012 umbrella will provide much in the rarity stakes any time soon, after all 20% of the Games' £70 million merchandising budget is expected to come from these two mascots, collectors willing to sit on their purchases could find themselves with a nice nest egg. But with an estimated 10,000 items of merchandise on sale, how to choose?
Olympic pins are always popular, and items from even recently held Games can change hands for sizable sums if they are rare.
In an interview with China Today, Gu Bingfu, director of the sports Branch of the China Association of Collectors, explained that Olympic merchandise appreciates quickly. "The price of a 2004 Olympics souvenir badge, for example, has gone up 10 fold," he said, adding that a 1988 Seoul Olympics poster recently sold for $227.
The most expensive 2012 item set to come on the market is a commemorative £1,000 gold coin being produced by the Royal Mint. It is expected to cost around £40,000.
Used Olympic sporting equipment can be particularly lucrative for investors. A torch from the 1952 Helsinki Games made $400,000 at a Vassy-Jalenques SARL auction in Paris earlier this month, making it the most expensive item of Olympic memorabilia ever sold. Unlike modern Olympic torches which have a run of thousands, only 22 Helsinki specimens were produced.
That price surpasses the $310,000 realised for a gold medal won by Mark Wells, a member of the 1980 "miracle on ice" men's hockey team.
A popular item needn't come from events in the distant past. Sometimes the very immediacy of an event can ratchet up the price. For example, a sale of 23 game-worn Canada hockey jerseys from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver raised $94,000 for the Haiti appeal.
And if you're looking for something really different, why not try to get your hands on some official 2012 Olympic condoms? A collector recently bought 5,000 unrequired condoms from the 100,000 distributed free to athletes at the Beijing 2008 Games. Each condom bore the slogan "faster, higher, stronger" in both Chinese and English.