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This featured 1908 London Olympics 18-karat gold medal has tremendous historical significance and a fascinating story behind it. Originally intended as the 1st place winner’s award for the men’s golf competition, this medal became an important memento of an admirable act of sportsmanship stemming from a bitter dispute between the British Olympic Committee and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the world’s oldest golf organization). It was also the last Olympic golf winner's medal before a 108-year stretch.

The R&A bitterly contested the BOC’s proposed six round, 108-hole format for the 1908 Summer Games and challenged the amateur status of several players, putting their eligibility in question. A couple days before the Olympic tournament was scheduled to tee off, all British, Irish and American golfers were either disqualified or withdrew in protest, leaving just one man left to compete: George Seymour Lyon. The eccentric Canadian, an insurance salesman who had picked up golf as a hobby at age 38, was looking to defend his unlikely 1904 Olympic title that he won at age 46 after upsetting then 20-year-old U.S. Amateur champion Chandler Egan in St. Louis. Named Olympic Champion once again – this time by default – after the 1908 London tournament was abruptly canceled, Lyon was presented with this exquisite gold medal. The 50-year-old man of honor promptly refused it. "Sport is a gentlemanly affair,” he retorted, "and I will only accept an award having won it through proper competition.”

Ultimately, the controversy caused by player boycotts and Lyon’s rejection of a gold medal he felt he did not deserve culminated in golf being removed from the Olympic program for over a century. In 2009, the IOC finally reinstated golf as an Olympic sport, starting with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. (Ironically, it was Justin Rose of England who took gold in Rio.) Where this unaccepted gold medal ended up after the 1908 Summer Games remains a mystery. But it finally resurfaced in 2010 when our consignor purchased it from a reputable, longtime appraiser of fine art and antiques based on the east coast.

Winner’s medals from the 1908 London Games are the smallest (tied with 1912 Stockholm) in the history of the modern Olympiad and among the most meticulously hand-crafted. Minted by Vaughton & Sons of England, they measures 33 mm across and 2 mm thick. Designed by Bertram Mackennel of Australia, the obverse shows a victorious athlete being crowned with a laurel wreath by two women, inscribed "Olympic Games, London 1908” at the bottom. The reverse depicts St. George, the patron saint of England, slaying a dragon with a winged goddess in the background. Another special feature on 1908 medals is the fact that the competitor’s place (“WINNER”), sport (“GOLF”) and event (“SCORE PLAY”) are engraved on the bottom edge. This is extremely important in verifying the authenticity of this medal, which we also had professionally tested to confirm its 18-karat (75%) gold composition. 1908 golds typically weigh 25 grams, but this example is slightly heavier (32 g) due to the added loop feature. The condition is breathtaking for being struck 114 years ago. Both sides are nearly flawless. Its gold shine has not faded one bit. All inscribed lettering and raised relief imagery displays exceptionally well.

The only known 2nd place silver medal produced for the 1908 London Games golf event is on display at the British Golf Museum in St. Andrews, Scotland. A 1908 golf bronze winner’s medal sold at auction in 2016 for £17000 (converting to $23,000 at the time). Tough to put a value on golf’s only 1908 Olympic gold winner’s medal in existence, one that symbolizes such a commendable act of sportsmanship and represents such a long hiatus for the world’s greatest gentleman’s sport at the Olympics. It’s truly one-of-a-kind and belongs alongside the silver at St. Andrews or within the most prestigious golf/Olympic collection.

For more on the fascinating story behind George Lyon and the 1908 London Olympics golf controversy, we recommend this 2016 ESPN article with several quotes from Lyon’s great-grandson. https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/15153240/george-lyon-golf-forgotten-olympic-champion-missing-medal

Only Known 1908 London Summer Olympics 18K Gold Winners Medal for Golf (Refused Admirably by Defending Champ George Lyon) - Last One Issued Before Golfs 100+ Year Absence at Olympics!
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