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  • Candlestick Becomes Olympic Treasure


    The Stockholm torch in the May 4 auction. (
    (ATR) A candlestick used by a Swedish family turned out to be a rare Stockholm 1956 Olympic torch that already has a bid of $280,000 in the current online auction by Ingrid O’Neil.

    The 321-lot auction closes May 4 at

    Fewer than 10 examples are known of the Stockholm torch.

    Because of a quarantine on horses in Australia, the 1956 Equestrian Games were held in Stockholm. The torch is similar to the Melbourne 1956 version, but the writing around the bowl is incused instead of raised.

    This is the second Stockholm torch O’Neil has handled in five years. In April 2014, she sold one for $412,500 (plus 15 percent commission for a total of $474,375) after spirited bidding.

    “The first one I had was from a 20-year-old exchange student from the U.S. who went to Stockholm and lived with a family,” O’Neil told Around the Rings. “He didn’t remember the name of the family, but he remembered they had a lot of horses.”

    She said that when the student returned to the U.S., the family’s son sent him the torch as a remembrance of his stay in Stockholm.

    Years later, the man examined the torch and was confused because he did not know Stockholm had played a part in hosting the 1956 Games.

    He sent O’Neil photos.

    “I called him and he said, ‘What is it worth -- $100, $200?’ she said. “I said, ‘Well, I would start it at $175,000 and he said, ‘Oh my, my knees are so wobbly, I have to sit down.’”

    The owner of the second torch had no idea what it was worth until he found O’Neil following a Google search of Stockholm 1956 torches.

    He told O’Neil he was born in 1959 and always remembered seeing the torch in his family home.

    “He said they used it as a candlestick once in a while,” O’Neil said. “They put a big candle in it and nobody thought much about it.”

    The man’s father was on the board of directors of a company closely associated
    The 1956 lighting ceremony in Stockholm.
    with the 1956 torch relay.

    O’Neil said she has no idea if the torch was used in the relay or was a spare. She has found no documentation about Stockholm torches, but knows there is one in the Olympic Stadium Museum in Stockholm. Two came up several years ago from individuals whose relatives were high-ranking officials for the manufacturer.

    The Olympic torch relay began in 1936. Although thousands of torches are made now, in some previous relays the bearers handed off the torch instead of transferring the flame to a new torch.

    For summer Games, the rarest torch was originally thought to be Helsinki 1952, of which only 23 were made. Then the Stockholm torches began appearing.

    “This one is even harder to find than Helsinki,” O’Neil said. “It’s just a matter of do they really want to spend that money?”

    The Stockholm torch was the first item to have a bid as soon as the auction went live. O’Neil said three or four other bidders are thinking about getting in on the action.

    She said a collector who doesn’t yet have a Helsinki torch might be tempted because if they eventually get the Helsinki torch, they won’t have a complete collection without Stockholm.

    Several gold medals also garnered early bids including Albertville ($35,000), Oslo ($32,500), Seoul ($30,000) and Beijing ($30,000). The Beijing medal, for men’s football, has a box but no ribbon. A similar medal with a ribbon sold for $35,000 recently.

    A rare 1904 silver medal won by Joseph Stadler for standing high jump is back on the auction block. It was sold July 15, 2016 for $73,600 (including commission) and has no bids yet. The minimum bid is $75,000.

    “You never know” when a medal will be available again, O’Neil said.

    Another rare item is a Sochi Official Report, which has a bid of $1,400. O’Neil said it may be the last of the official reports that is not available strictly on disc.

    She said Rio didn’t make a printed official report and she has heard PyeongChang is not producing one.

    Reported by Karen Rosen. For general comments or questions, click here.

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