1. 1973 Mark Spitz Stamp from Togo – $3.94 (current bid)
How big of a deal were Mark Spitz’s 7 gold medals and 7 World Records at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich? Not only was he commemorated with a stamp in the United States, he was commemorated with stamps around the world. Among the countries who issued stamps honoring his achievement were Mongolia, Liberia, India, and even the tiny African nation of Togo, whose 7 million citizens have an average GDP of under $600. That’s global stardom. Better yet, this unused stamp is a bargain, at under $4 by current bidding.(Buy it here). And if that doesn’t do it for you, check out this vintage 1970’s Mark Spitz t-shirt. One could easily see reprints of this shirt selling well today.
2. 1928 Edward J. Basker Trophy – $125 (current bid)
This one is cool on so many different levels. First of all, it’s a really old trophy awarded for the high-point honor by the NewsTimes back in 1928 – almost 90 years ago. Playland Park, in South Bend, closed in 1961, when it was turned into a golf course, and now is the site of dorms for Indiana University – South Bend. Not only is this a really cool looking swimming award, but the man who won it is fairly well known. Edward J. Basker would become a prolific, and well-known, artist in the Midwest who painted watercolor scenes of rural Indiana. (Make your bid on the trophy here).
3. 2012 U.S. Olympic Swim Team Autographed Flag – $999 (current bid)
This is one of those famous Team USA Olympic flags that have been swirling around where every member of the team and the staff signed them. Each member of the team got one, each coach got one, and select other members of the organization got one. The opening price of this flag is $999…note that one recently sold by the USA Swimming Foundation went for almost 10 times that much – over $9,000. This is an item that could become hugely valuable in the next 10 years if its final price settled at $1,000. Interesting to note that the item is being sold from Florissant, Colorado, just about a 30 minute drive from Colorado Springs: home of USA Swimming. Wonder who’s selling such a priceless memento? (Bid here).
4. 1936 Milwaukee Athletic Association Championship Medal – $38.95
Again, another piece with a lot of really cool elements to it, even beyond just being 80 years old. This award actually has the winner’s name on it, Robert Crowley, which gives it some character – and shows that once upon a time, these sorts of awards were really treated with some respect. Further, this is a great award ideas – the victory for the 50 yard back (itself a relative rarity of an event in the 1930’s where 20 yard pools were the norm) is the top medal, and then his silver in the 75 yard IM (again, a 25 yard pool) hangs off of that marquee award, and an athlete could continue chaining more awards together, making for a really cool display piece. Maybe the neatest thing is the awarding of a 75 yard IM, a reminder of how much our sport was change (it would be another decade before the butterfly would be a glimmer in breaststroke’s eye). I’d buy this one. (You can buy it here.)
5. New York Times Edition Announcing First English Channel Crossing – $45.00
This paper, claimed to be a totally original one, from 1875, is the page of an 1875 New York Times where they reported on “Capt. Webb,” Matthew Webb, completing the first ever documented swim crossing of the English Channel without any floating or life-saving apparatus. The news was reported as the second-biggest story in the paper’s “Great Britain” section, below a report about a meeting discussing the high price of meet. It took him under 22 hours to complete the swim, won him £100, and a Stanhope medal. While British press gushed over his accomplishment, it was relatively buried in the New York Times, which with 140 years of perspective seems curt. While that may have changed, many of the themes have continued – including very similar-sounding reporting to many attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida today. Webb would end up dying trying to swim through the Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River below Niagara Falls. (Buy this memento here).
6. 1930’s Swim Meet Medal Won By Gilbert S. Meem – $39.99 (current bid)
For any civil war or genealogy enthusiasts, these medals could be an adventure of sorts. The three, won by a “Gilbert S. Meem” in the 1930’s in meets at the Lakeside Pool in Roanoke, Virginia, hold some secrets. Note that there is a “Gilbert S. Meem” who was a famous Brigadier General for the Confederacy during the Civil War, hailing from Virginia, who had a long career in politics afterward. These awards wouldn’t belong to him, as he passed away in the early 1900’s, as did his son Gilbert S. Meem, Jr. So, perhaps this is a much later generation of the Gilbert S. Meem legacy? The geography certainly makes sense. Beyond that, these medals, with their original medals, are pretty neat on their own. (Bid here).
7. Autographed photo of 2012 Australian Olympic Women’s 400 Free Relay – $199 (AUD)
This is a certified, autographed photo of Mel Schlanger, Alicia Coutts, Brittany Elmslie, and Cate Campbell: the four swimmers who won the gold medal in the 400 free relay for Australia in London in 2012. This image of them holding the Australian flag has become somewhat iconic as a shining light through the murky 18 months of the sport in Australia. This is a fully certified and authenticated piece, and framed, part of a 100 limited run. (Buy it here).
8. 1912 Stockholm Olympics Official Swimming Program – $149 (current bid)
This is the official swimming program for swimming at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, which was the 5th edition of the meet. It’s stunning that someone had the foresight that long ago, before the Olympics were even a whimper of what they are now, to save this program. Canada’s George Hodgson, America’s Duke Kahanamoku, and Germany’s Walter Bathe were the stars of the 1912 Games. (Buy it here). Have some cash to burn and want to start a 1912 Olympics collection? Check out this bronze medal from the Olympics. There’s no indication of what event it’s from, but it’s still cool. (Buy it here.)
9. Michael Phelps Autographed Autobiography – $349.99
For whatever reason, Michael Phelps autographs are always listed for huge money, either online or at sports memorabilia shops. Swimmers sign lots, and lots, and lots of autographs. It’s part of the USA Swimming business model, so the market factors that drive prices so high are a bit of a mystery to me. This one, if you can swallow the price tag, is pretty cool – an autographed copy of Phelps’ Autobiography called “No Limits”. (Buy it here).
10. 1948 London Olympics Ticket Stub – $8.10 (current bid)
This ticket comes from the 1948 Summer Olympics, the first Games held after the conclusion in WWII and hosted by London as they tried to rebuild. The pool, specifically the Empire Pool in Wembley, hosted that year’s swimming events. The Americans swept the men’s titles, including Bill Smith winning the 400 free gold in 4:41.0. (Buy it here). This pool, built in 1933, was an absolute gem of a facility for its time, and was widely considered the largest and nicest indoor pool in the world. (See a photo of it here).