An Olympic torch carried by David Beckham as the flame arrived in Britain goes under the hammer this Wednesday.
It is the highlight among hundreds of items that are listed on the Official London 2012 Auction website throughout the Games, which start on July 27.
Investors might be tempted by the Beckham torch, valued at more than £7,000, but most modern Olympic collectables, such as the toy one-eyed London 2012 mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, are worthless.
Collectors say it is the earlier rare Olympic objects that tend to make the best long-term investments.
Auction house Bonhams is holding an Olympic Games sale in Knightsbridge, West London, on July 25. Highlights include gold medals won in 1928 and 1932 in sculling races by Australia’s Bobby Pearce. Together with other Pearce items, they are valued at £50,000.
Jon Baddeley, managing director at Bonhams, says: ‘The spirit of the Olympics is what is most important. Interest in the early Olympic Games really captures the imagination and has huge historic importance that lifts values. It was an era when amateur sports people competed for honour and national pride with no big money rewards.’
As with other top Olympic investments, the Pearce collection has appeal not only as a result of history but also because it has a colourful story. Baddeley says: ‘In the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Pearce was rowing against a Frenchman in the quarter-finals.
‘The Australian stopped at one point to let a group of ducks cross the course but he still went on to win by 20 lengths. Pearce showed the true Olympic spirit. He beat Kenneth Myers in the final and the American was so disgusted that he smashed up his boat.’
The flame is one of the most iconic Olympic images, but it was only introduced at the 1928 Games. The torch relay was added at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In Ancient Greece, a fire burned during the games to symbolise the theft of fire from the god Zeus by Prometheus.
A torch from the 1948 London Olympics was sold for £6,250 by Christie’s in South Kensington, West London, last April, smashing the £1,800 estimate.
A total of 1,720 torches were made for the 1948 Games for the journey from Greece to London. A torch used in the final leg in Britain was sold for £2,520 at Bonhams in 2008.
Baddeley says: ‘The 1948 torch looks like utility ware – made from aircraft parts after the Second World War – but it represents a great piece of history.’
A total of 8,000 bearers are carrying torches across Britain for the 2012 Olympics.
Those who have run with a 2012 torch can buy them for a discount £215 but they cost £495 to make. A realistic re-sale value might be £1,000 to £2,000.
Olympic clothes and related items are also collectable. A kitbag belonging to Britain’s Harold Abrahams, who won the 100 Metres final at the 1924 Paris Olympics and whose story was told in the 1981 film Chariots Of Fire, is valued at £3,000 at the Bonhams sale this month.
Running shoes worn by British sprinter Linford Christie in his 1992 Barcelona Olympics 100 Metres victory sold for £720 in 2008.
Chris Williams, who runs sports auction house Sportingold in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire, says: ‘The Olympics has become big business, but mass-produced items may never fetch much. Even participation medals from the Sixties given to all athletes can still be picked up for less than £30.’
Williams says: ‘One of the most memorable Olympics is the 1936 Berlin Games attended by Adolf Hitler. I own a hardback 1936 Olympics book that is a fascinating piece of history, but worth only £80.’