The Jesse Owens Estate Collection will be featured as part of the SCP Auctions’ 2018 Spring Premier online auction. Bidding is currently open and will conclude on March 24.
Among the most important athletes of the 20th century, Jesse Owens’ accomplishments at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin are generally considered the greatest individual performances in the history of sports. His character, valor and excellence at those Olympic Games, demonstrated in the face of bigotry and oppression would grow in importance almost exponentially with the passage of time and are further punctuated by Owens’ lifelong dedication to helping and inspiring others.
Former President Jimmy Carter said of Owens, “Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry. His personal triumphs as a world-class athlete and record holder were the prelude to a career devoted to helping others. His work with young athletes, as an unofficial ambassador overseas, and a spokesman for freedom are a rich legacy to his fellow Americans.”
The Jesse Owens Estate collection features dozens of items spanning the breadth of Owens’ athletic career as well as numerous awards and mementos accumulated throughout his life. The collection is highlighted by the 1976 Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to Owens by then-President Gerald Ford (est. $200,000-$300,000). The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award the United States can bestow upon a civilian, and in the words of John F. Kennedy who established the honor in 1963, the award recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security of national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public and private endeavors.”
While Owens helped the U.S. triumph at the 1936 Olympic Games, his return home was not met with the kind of fanfare one might expect. President Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to meet with Owens and congratulate him, as was typical for champions. Owens famously stated, "When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus," he said. "I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the president, either."
“Astonishingly, it took 40 years before the United States properly recognized Jesse Owens,” said SCP Auctions V.P. Dan Imler. “In 1976, when President Gerald Ford awarded him this Presidential Medal of Freedom, he finally received the ultimate and long overdue recognition he so richly deserved from his country he so profoundly impacted. The gold medals he received in Berlin are undeniably historic, but this medal recognizes the totality of Jesse Owens ultimate victory.”
In 2013 SCP Auctions sold one of Jesse Owens original 1936 Olympic gold medals for a record $1.46 million.
Among the other collection highlights is Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympic Gold Medal Winner’s Diplomas for both the Men’s Long Jump and the Men’s 200 Meter Dash. These diplomas, issue in accompaniment to his gold medals for these respective events are touted as the two most significant and valuable Olympic diplomas ever offered publicly. Each diploma could go for $50,000 or more.
Another significant highlight in the collection is the 1990 Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Owens posthumously by President George H.W. Bush. Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award the United States can bestow upon a civilian. Crafted in solid 22-karat gold, the medal measures three inches in diameter and weighs a hefty 18.2 ounces. The award was created in 1776 by the Continental Congress, with George Washington as its first recipient. As its title suggests, Congress awards the medal to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." The medal is estimated to sell between $100,000 and $150,000.
Speaking on behalf of the Owens family, Jesse Owens’ daughter Marlene Owens-Rankin stated, “Our family has cherished the items in this collection for many years. In the interest of fairness to our families and because of the number of items in the collection, we made the decision to put the memorabilia up for auction. We hope that the majority of the items will end up with collectors who wish to share them with the public so that the collection will be a source of enjoyment and inspiration for as many people as possible for generations to come.”
For more information on how to participate in SCP Auctions 2018 Spring Premier auction, visit www.scpauctions.com or call 949-831-3700.