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  • Collectors' Corner -- Heiberg Fair-Bound; London Olympin Unveiled; Phelps' Cap Sold


    IOC member from Norway Gerhard Heiberg counts stamp collecting among his hobbies. (ATR)
    (ATR) Influential IOC member Gerhard Heiberg has confirmed he will attend the World Olympic Collectors Fair to be held August 3-7, 2011, outside Chicago.

    The fair, in its 17th edition, will take place for the first time in North America. Adding to its prestige and drawing power, it will be part of the National Sports Collectors Convention, which draws about 30,000 visitors annually.

    Heiberg, chairman of the powerful IOC marketing commission as well as the lesser-known Olympic philately, numismatic and memorabilia commission, will see his work in action. After all, the Olympic souvenirs of today are the memorabilia of tomorrow.

    Heiberg, who had planned the trip before suffering a heart attack earlier this year, will appear at the official opening/ribbon cutting on Aug. 4, followed by a press conference. The attendance of the IOC Executive Board member from Norway “adds a lot of credence to the importance of this show and the hobby,” Jim Greensfelder, show chairman, tells Around the Rings.

    Three other members of the so-called “collector’s commission” will also be on hand: Greensfelder, a new appointee and the only U.S. member; David Maiden of Australia, who is a consultant to the IOC; and Halvor Kleppen of Norway.
    Late IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was famous for his extensive memorabilia collection. (ATR)

    Juan Antonio Samaranch, the late IOC president who was also an avid stamp collector, would sometimes make the rounds when the show was held at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. It is the largest Olympic show in the world and has also been held in Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Warsaw and Cologne, Germany.

    Attracting New Collectors?

    The “Olympic Pavilion” will be near the entrance of the show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., which should drive traffic past the Olympic tables.
    Attendance was down at last April's 15th edition after ash from an Icelandic volcano eruption prevented about a third of the table holders and other participants from traveling to Cologne, Germany. (ATR)

    Greensfelder says the Olympic collectors show was keen to join forces with the event known simply as “The National” in order to expose new people – especially young people – to the hobby.

    “Interest is not increasing in this hobby of collecting Olympic memorabilia – and some people think it’s decreasing,” Greensfelder says. “Having gone to this show many years as the only Olympic dealer, I’ve seen a lot of young people come to the show with a parent, usually their father. We hope we would pick up a certain percentage of people who walk through.”

    Because everyone has to pay admission to the show, adds Greensfelder, “it says they’re serious about collecting sports memorabilia.”

    Around the World

    More than 65 tables already have been booked by Olympic collectors representing 14 countries, including Russia, China and Australia. Organizers expect the total number of tables to reach 100.

    At least 75 percent of items must be Olympic in nature, in accordance with rules set by “The National.” Olympic pins, mascots, posters, winners’ medals, commemorative medals, stamps, coins, programs, tickets, uniforms, game-used equipment and other items will be available for sale or trade.

    There will be crossover appeal with the larger show as well. The Winter Olympic Museum at Lake Placid has reserved a table and will sell 1980 items, including original ice hockey tickets.

    Tables are $200 for the duration. Other events include an auction organized by Olympic memorabilia guru Ingrid O’Neil and a dinner/reception. Noted Olympic historian Bill Mallon will speak at the dinner about the unusual aspects of the 1904 Olympics, including its move from Chicago to St. Louis.

    For questions or further information, contact Greensfelder at

    Olympin Collectors Club

    The show also serves as the 30th Olympin Memorabilia Festival. Olympin, founded in 1980, is a worldwide club with more than 600 members.

    Olympin recently unveiled its latest membership pin. It incorporates the 2012 London logo, following a tradition that began in 1998 with the use of the Nagano “snowflower” logo. The club goes to great pains to negotiate with organizing committees for the right to use their primary marks.

    Phelps’ Swimming Cap Auctioned

    The swimming cap Michael Phelps wore when he won his historic eighth Olympic gold medal in Beijing has been auctioned for $19,120. The price includes commission.

    Phelps originally gave the cap to his British bodyguard, suggesting that he auction it off to help pay for his daughter’s medical treatment. The cap sold in a small British auction in late 2008. The buyer then put it on the block Friday with Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas.
    Phelps wore this cap during his record-setting 4×100m medley relay swim in Beijing. (Heritage Auctions)

    The cap was signed by Phelps and was accompanied by a letter of provenance from the swimmer.

    In other Heritage auctions, the U.S. Olympic hockey team “Miracle on Ice” ring awarded to Mark Wells fetched $21,510, a pittance compared to the $310,000 price tag on his 1980 gold medal sold by Heritage in October. A swimsuit worn by legendary swimmer Duke Kahanamoku sold for $10,755, and an Innsbruck gold medal for hockey went for $20,912 despite having no ribbon.

    Olympic Review Story on Medals

    The most recent issue of the IOC magazine, the Olympic Review, includes an article on the history, art and manufacture of Olympic medals.

    According to the story, when the 1960 Rome Organizing Committee decided to hang the medals on a chain around the athletes’ necks (they had previously been presented on a cushion), they were unsure how the IOC would react. The women presenting the medals were given a pair a scissors, ready to cut the medals off the chains if the IOC objected. Happily, the idea was so popular that all medals since have been attached to a chain or ribbon.

    Nowadays, the IOC is informed of the medal design well before the first athlete steps onto the victory podium. The Royal Mint will produce 4,700 medals for the 2012 Olympics, but the design has not been disclosed.
    Vancouver's medals were neither square nor circular. They were squircular. (Getty Images)

    London has a tough act to follow after the wavy “squircle” of Vancouver, the jade-embossed circles off Beijing and the “doughnut” of Turin. One thing is certain: the obverse of the medal will feature the same design first used in Athens in 2004. It shows Nike, the goddess of victory, striding through the Panhellenic Stadium.

    However, the IOC allows each organizing committee to come up with its own design for the reverse. The 2004 medals featured the first lines of Pindar’s Ode (in Greek), while the 2008 medals had the Beijing logo surrounded by a jade ring. The gold medals were graced by a light jade, then the stone got progressively greener for the silver and bronze medals.

    Written by Karen Rosen.

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