1952 Helsinki Olympic Torch
Selling price: $360,000
Just about any Olympic torch is a big deal, but one of the 20 or so remaining from these Olympic games is a precious commodity.
Helsinki's Summer Olympics were only the second after World War II and the first the Soviet Union saw fit to participate in. It was still dealing with a whole lot of issues of its own under Stalinist rule when London hosted the Summer Olympics in 1948, but became a sporting superpower immediately in Finland. Its 71 medals were second only to the 76 won by the U.S.
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It was also the first appearance by the relatively new state of Israel, which was fighting its War Of Independence in 1948. Israel had boycotted Adolph Hitler's Berlin games -- for reasons that should be patently obvious -- in 1936, when the nation was known as the Palestinian Mandate.
Just as importantly, it would be the first time the world laid eyes on an athletic contingent from the People's Republic of China, which just came into being as well. It was a messy bit of business, as Taiwan outright withdrew from the games in protest, and it didn't really take. The People's Republic of China wouldn't show up at the Olympics again until 1984, when the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc friends decided to boycott.
All that history, plus the torch's lovely silver bowl and birch handle, made it pretty easy for sellers Vassy-Jalenques SARL of Paris to unload it in April 2011. Memo to the thrifty: Pick a more mundane Olympics if you really want to get your hands on a torch.