LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) — An Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games has sold for a record $1.4 million in an online auction. SCP Auctions said Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle paid $1,466,574, the highest price for a piece of Olympic memorabilia. The online auction ended Sunday.
“We just hope that it’s purchased by an institution where the public could have access to it, a museum or something like that,” Owens’ daughter, Marlene Owens Rankin of Chicago, told The Associated Press before the sale. The auction house said Burkle, who also owns William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize for literature, has plans for an educational tour of the historic pieces. He wasn’t available for comment Sunday. The Los Angeles billionaire investor’s holdings include retail, food and entertainment companies.
Owens won gold in the 100- and 200-meters, 400 relay and long jump at the games attended by Adolf Hitler, who used the Olympics to showcase his ideas of Aryan supremacy. According to the auction house based in Laguna Niguel, Calif., the medal is unidentifiable to a specific event. It said Owens gave the medal to his friend, dancer and movie star Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, as thanks for helping Owens find work in entertainment after he returned from Berlin.
The medal was sold by the estate of Robinson’s late widow, Elaine Plaines-Robinson. SCP Auctions Vice President Dan Imler said the Owens family confirmed the medal is original; the whereabouts of the other three is unknown. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the medal will be donated to the Jesse Owens Foundation. The Robinson family had declined to comment on the auction, but Imler said they also plan to use the proceeds to pay college tuition.