Rare Medal from First Modern Olympic Games in 1896 Sold at Auction



Bronze Medal from the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A medal awarded during the very first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, was recently sold at auction for $65,625 (€55,375).

The bronze medal was awarded to Georgios Tsitas, the runner up in the Greco-Roman wrestling event at those Games.

At the time, the first place winners received a silver medal, a diploma, and an olive branch, and the runners up won a bronze medal, a diploma, and a laurel branch.

Tsitas lost to German wrestler Carl Schuhmann, who won three other first-place medals in gymnastics.

The strikingly beautiful medals, which were designed by Jules-Clement Chaplain, a famed French Art Nouveau sculptor and medal designer, feature a relief of Zeus holding Nike, the goddess of victory. Along the edge of the medal is the word “Olympia.”

On the reverse is a detailed view of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, along with the words “International Olympic Games in Athens, 1896,” written in Greek.

Along with the medal itself, two pictures of Georgios Tsitas and an invitation to a celebration for the athlete from King George I of Greece at his palace were included in the sale.

The Boston-based auction house RR Auctions noted that winners’ medals from the first Olympic Games are extremely rare, and this is the first one they have ever sold. Considering their great historic and artistic value, they are very highly sought-after.