A lot of times, sports memorabilia can feel like low-stakes archaeology—amusing, but vacant of context to the world beyond sports. Jesse Owens is one of the exceptions.
Owens winning four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin games is as close to the personification of Captain America punching Hitler in the head as anything. It wasn't just walking into a Nazi-charged Berlin and stripping bare the Aryan ideology on the world stage; it was how he served as a counterbalance to hackneyed sports story arcs assigning meaning on the other side. Just a few months earlier, German Max Schmeling had knocked out an out-of-shape Joe Louis in 12 rounds, and Hitler rushed to co-opt the win into nationalist agenda.
The medal being sold was given by Owens to a dancer and movie star named Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and the auction comes from the estate of Robinson's widow. Its proceeds will apparently go towards college tuition and a charity. It isn't clear which event the medal was won in, but that doesn't matter so much. It's a moment in history, encapsulated in a chunk of precious metal.
(That said, and not to get all Indiana Jones, but this really belongs in a museum, right?)
Image credit: Central Press / Hulton Archive