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  • Unique Grenoble Torch on Auction Block


    (ATR) The torch that ignited the cauldron during the closing ceremony in Grenoble could fetch more than $200,000 at auction.

    The torch that lit the cauldron at the Grenoble closing ceremony (RR Auction)
    The 1968 torch is the featured item in the online sale by Boston-based RR Auction, which closes tonight. As one of only 33 produced, the torch is not only exceedingly rare, it also carries a unique story. Daniel Robin, the first French wrestling world champion, was the penultimate torchbearer in the 1968 torch relay. Because of heavy winds and rain on the day of the opening ceremony -- which was held outdoors – organizers feared the flame would go out. Instead of carrying this torch, Robin was given a resin stick. He climbed 96 steps, handing the stick to figure skater Alain Calmat, who lit the cauldron.

    With the closing ceremony in Le Stade de Glace, this red-handled torch finally had its chance to shine. Robin carried it to light the indoor cauldron, which was soon extinguished. He also had double duty in the 1968 Mexico City Games, where he won silver medals in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

    Two months ago another Grenoble torch without the impressive provenance of this one sold for $230,000 (including commission) in an Ingrid O’Neil auction.

    By early evening, the RR Auction torch had reached $185,030 not including a 25 percent commission.

    Other highlights of the 147-lot auction include a rare 1980 Lake Placid torch, which had already surpassed its estimate of $30,000 early in the week-long auction.

    RR Auction specializes in medals and torches, with the priciest of the 38 winner’s medals a 2016 Rio gold carrying an estimate of $60,000 despite being one of more than 800 produced. Other gold medals include examples from 1928 Amsterdam, 1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo, 1968 Grenoble, 1972 Munich and 1996 Atlanta.

    Among the 24 torches, a hard-to-find Nagano torch carried by Olympic advisor George Hirthler has seen some of the most active early bidding. It has an estimate of $6,000-plus. Hirthler is the author of “The Idealist,” a novel based on the life and times of Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin. A signed copy of the book is included with the torch.

    The sale features 41 lots, mostly winners' medals, torches and diplomas, from the Mason Dinehart collection.

    A seldom-seen 2018 PyeongChang participation medal was already at $1,532 with hours left to go in the auction.

    Written by Karen Rosen

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