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The Paris Olympic Games start on July 26, and as we build up to the excitement, I am reminded of some of the exceptional prices achieved for collectables linked to this global sporting event.

When the Games were revived in 1896 – the first of modern times – winners received silver medals, with runners-up getting bronze and nothing for third place. One of those silver winner’s medals came up for sale in January this year at RR Auction of Boston where it took $112,000, although RR sold another in 2021 for $180,000.

However, the real money is reserved for the rarest of Olympic torches. In 2015 a Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games torch sold for £420,000 at auction. In this case, the torch was one of three – along with the first torch, introduced at the summer games in Berlin in 1936, and the first winter games torch, from Oslo in 1952 – needed to complete a collection.

The price beat the record set by another Helsinki 1952 torch, which had sold for €290,000 in Paris in early 2011.

The reason the Helsinki torch is so treasured is that very few were made – only 22, in fact, 15 of them with hallmarked silver bowls. To put that in context, London’s 2012 Games produced 8,000 torches, and as many as 15,000 were produced for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

That £420,000 is certainly a high price, but only the third highest in terms of Olympic collectables.

The price of £450,000 was paid for a silver cup given to Spyros Louis, who won the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. The winning bid was placed in London in April 2012, just before the capital’s own Games were held – showing just how important timing can be for auctions.

Out in front at a massive $1.47m, though, is one of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens, perhaps the most famous Olympian of all time, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Owens won his medals for the 100m, 200m, 400m relay and Long Jump, but it was what he represented above and beyond these feats that have made him such an icon. His triumphs were a direct challenge to Hitler’s belief in the supremacy of the Aryan race, and Owens rubbed his face in it at the very Olympics that Hitler staged to prove his point. Good for him!