Holiday Auction Closing December 7 ,2019
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/8/2019

Please note that we have received written communication in the past week from both the Jesse Owens Memorial Park & Museum and other  National Museums of significance  that they would be honored to display this medal as a loan or a gift. Should the winning bidder choose to do either, Goldin Auctions can facilitate this. 

The history of the modern Olympic Games is filled with milestone feats by American athletes – Jim Thorpe’s pentathlon and decathlon Gold’s in the 1912 games, Mark Spitz’s record-setting 7 Gold Medals at Munich in 1972, the “Dream Team” of the ’92 Barcelona games, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” – but none of these can come close to comparing with Jesse Owens’ exploits at the 1936 Berlin Games.

By the time Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin in 1936, he had already overcome many obstacles placed in his path. Born in segregated Alabama in 1913, Owens was the youngest of 10 children in a sharecropper farming family. At age 9 the Owens’ moved to Cleveland, Ohio in search of better opportunities and education. In high school, Owens excelled at track and field, and in 1933 tied the world record in the 100-yard dash at the National High School Championship in Chicago. This led to his acceptance at Ohio State University where he won four Gold Medals at the 1935 NCAA Championships and repeated the feat in 1936. The record of 4 NCAA Gold’s at one meet was equaled only once in the decades since. His complete dominance of college track events was demonstrated at the 1935 Big 10 meet where Owens set three world records and tied another in just 45 minutes. Yet despite all the accolades and press Jesse Owens received, he was not permitted to live on the campus of Ohio State and when traveling with the track team was forced to find food and lodging in “blacks-only” establishments.

At the 1936 Olympic Trials, Jesse Owens easily made the team, but world events conspired to put the actual Games in jeopardy. The 1936 Olympics were to be held in Berlin, Germany, ruled by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Since coming to power in 1933, Hitler had put his theories of racial supremacy to work, systematically marginalizing Jews, Gypsies and any other ethnic group deemed non-Aryan. By the time preparation began for the 1936 Olympics, Hitler had made it well known that he envisioned the Games to be his showcase for Aryan dominance in all sports. All over the globe calls were being heard for a boycott of the Berlin games, and the American team came close to heeding the mounting pressure to stay home. Eventually, the spirit of sportsmanship prevailed and the American contingent, including Jesse Owens and 17 other African-Americans, proceeded to Berlin. Due to his college record, Owens was already a star when he took the field in Olympic Stadium. As a side note, a German shoemaker convinced Owens to wear a pair of his athletic shoes during his events. That shoemaker was Adi Dassler and his company was “Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik “ - later known by the name “Adidas.”  

At the Games, Owens surpassed all expectations, winning the Gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4×100-meter relay events, becoming the first athlete in Olympic history to win four gold medals. On top of his stunning display of athletic ability, Owens’ record-breaking exploits was a crushing defeat of Hitler’s Aryan racial ideology. That it was on display before the whole world during the most elaborate Olympic Games to date made Jesse Owens an international hero of anti-Fascism. In addition to his gold medals, Owens showed that the bond of sportsmanship was stronger than racial hatred when he befriended Luz Long, Germany’s popular track star. The pair’s friendship at the 1936 Olympics garnered much publicity and Owens’ besting of Long in every event the two faced off in struck another blow to the Nazi’s claim of Aryan supremacy.

Owens returned to America a hero, but his fame was short-lived. Racial laws and cultural norms in America kept Owens from capitalizing on his Olympic triumphs. Because of the color of his skin, there were no corporate endorsements, high paying speaking engagements or Big 10 coaching offers. Instead, President Franklin Roosevelt declined to meet with America’s greatest Olympian and Owens was forced to take a series of menial and demeaning jobs to support his family. During the next two decades, the 4-time gold medalist pumped gas, toured with a jazz orchestra, and raced horses before Negro League baseball games. When asked about these exploitation races, Owens said, "People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals."

Fortunately, Owens’ friends often came through with job opportunities that kept the former Olympian financially stable. One of those friends was John Terpak, Sr., a weightlifter who met Owens during the 1936 Games in Berlin. Terpak went on to compete in the 1948 London Games and won many international weightlifting championships. Later he became a coach of the 1968 and 1972 US Olympic Weightlifting Team and is enshrined in the Weightlifting Hall of Fame. As early as 1954, Terpak arranged for his friend Jesse Owens to appear at speaking events in his native Pennsylvania, and he was invited back many times over the next decade. Newspaper articles featuring various events with photos of Terpack and Owens together were published in the local papers and  copies of them are included in the lot.  One example of these was the York Area Sports Night, an annual event promoted by John Terpak. Owens was the keynote speaker for the January 29, 1964 event, and a copy of the program is included in this lot. At some time during the pair’s friendship, Owens showed his appreciation for his friend’s speaking invites by gifting John Terpak, Sr. one of the four gold medals he won at the 1936 Olympics. While the gifting of a personal memento such as an Olympic gold medal might seem extravagant, it is a documented fact that the Olympic hero had previously presented one of his gold medals to close friend and entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

The exact year and circumstances surrounding this momentous gift has been forgotten, but Robert M. Strickler, Terpak family attorney since 1972, states in his affidavit, “I was not present when Jesse Owens gave the medal to John Terpak, Sr., but from information received from other persons, I have been aware for decades that the medal was given to John Terpak, Sr. by Jesse Owens out of friendship.” And added, “I am not aware of the exact date the medal was first given to John Terpak, Sr. I believe it was given in the 1960s.”  Please note that there are two affidavits from Robert Stricker. One is a copy dated in 2017 and the other is an original affidavit that was redone exactly as the 2017 copy version. In another affidavit, Terpak’s daughter Joan Terpak Plitt states, “It was during the tenure of the close friendship between John Terpak, Sr. and Jesse Owens that Jesse Owens gifted John Terpak, Sr. one of his 4 Gold Medals won in the 1936 Berlin Olympics in recognition of their close friendship and for the help that John Terpak, Sr. gave to Jesse Owens during their friendship.” In addition, there are indivial affidavits from both of John Terpak's children included. The actual 1964 York PA program for the Sports Expo where Terpack sr. booked Owens as keynote speaker and all documentation, affidavits, articles on Terpack sr. and photos of Owens and Terpack together are included in this lot.

The 71.5 gram gilt silver 24 karat gold-plated medal was a treasured possession of John Terpak, Sr. until he passed away in 1993, whereupon the medal passed to his children Joan and John, Jr. until consigned to this auction. The medals awarded at the 1936 Games were not engraved with the name of the awardee nor the event, so we do not know if this medal is from Owens’ win in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, or 4×100-meter relay. The Terpak sibling’s affidavit outlines the history of the medal from its gifting by Owens to their father up until the present. Attorney Robert M. Strickler’s affidavit mentions the existence of a 1936 gold medal that resides in the York Barbell Museum and states that the museum medal originates from a member of the 1936 US Weightlifting team and is separate from the one gifted to Terpak, Sr. by Jesse Owens. It is known that before he passed away in 1980, Jesse Owens received replicas of his gold medals. Renowned Olympic medals expert James D. Greensfelder has analyzed this medal and deemed it an authentic example minted for the 1936 Games. His letter of authenticity also accompanies the medal. This medal also comes with a LOA from PSA/DNA.

Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympic Games gold medal is a 55 mm piece of world history. Designed by Giuseppe Cassioli, the obverse has the Goddess of Victory with a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right. “XI. OLYMPIADE BERLIN 1936” in raised letters appear to her right. The reverse features a victorious athlete being carried away from the Olympic stadium by a cheering crowd. The medal shows the expected toning and wear from age and displays magnificently. One cannot stress the historical significance of this piece. Of the four, identical gold medals Owens won at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the whereabouts of two have been lost to time. The third, which was gifted to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, was sold at auction in 2013 to supermarket magnate and billionaire investor Ronald Burkle for $1.46 million. This is the fourth of Owens’ history-making gold medals, gifted to John Terpak, Sr. and proudly offered here by Goldin Auctions for the first time.

No athletic award since the beginning of time carries the same historical weight and value this one does, for no athlete ever achieved nor proved as much as Jesse Owens did during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This gold medal – Jesse Owens’ gold medal – is physical evidence that a man cannot and will not be judged by his color, race or religion alone.

NOTE: To correct a TYPO in the catalog description, please note the medal is 24kt gold plated over silver.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $250,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $600,000.00
Number Bids: 11
Auction closed on Sunday, December 8, 2019.
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