21 Jun 2016

Snell's 'golden' singlet sells for $122k

7:14 pm on 21 June 2016

Sir Peter Snell is considering gifting Te Papa his two gold medals, now the museum has purchased the singlet he wore when he won them.

The national museum bought the iconic black singlet Sir Peter wore during his twin gold medal runs at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics at an auction earlier today for more than $122,000.

Sir Peter remains the only male athlete since 1920 to win the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics.

The singlet sold this morning at Cordy's Auctions in Auckland, with competition from two phone bidders ramping up the price.

Sir Peter, who is now 77 and lives in Texas, said he was blown away by how much Te Papa paid for the singlet, given it sold for just a few hundred dollars at a charity auction years ago.

He was glad Te Papa won the auction, and he was now thinking about sending his two gold medals to add to the collection.

"Now that Te Papa has the singlet, my thinking is - and I need to talk to my daughters about this - they need to have the medals to go along with it.

"They would be free of course, they don't need to pay anything for that."

The black singlet Peter Snell wore during his twin gold medal runs at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics has sold $122,500 - more than double the auction estimate.

Sir Peter Snell's iconic black singlet goes under the hammer in Auckland Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

He said earlier this month he did not remember giving it away but probably had done for a charity event many years ago, and that he had initially accused his ex-wife of throwing it away.

He told Checkpoint with John Campbell he was shocked at how much it had now sold for, and said the person who sold it would be "rubbing their hands in glee".

"So the person who lucked out in finding this is the one who benefits handsomely from this, though the guy whose singlet it was gave it away, hopefully for a charity thing, and this is what happens.

"Obviously I didn't realise how valuable it would become."

He said he was enjoying life and didn't need the money. He was still playing competitive sports, and had recently managed to "knock off" some competitive 75-plus table tennis players.

"Mind you, when you get to 75-plus, there's not a lot of people in your age group."

The singlet had 'Snell PG' snitched in the back of it, which gave it a measure of authenticity, he said.

Te Papa 'thrilled' at acquisition

Te Papa chief executive Rick Ellis said he was thrilled to acquire the singlet for New Zealanders.

"It's a great thrill for New Zealand and an item that has so much to tell us about our history, and the history of sport."

The singlet would be displayed at the museum, but the timeline for this hadn't yet been confirmed.

The singlet was bought for $122,500 at the auction, but the buyer's premium bumped up the total figure Te Papa would pay to $140,875.

Andrew Grigg, from the auction house, had predicted the auction could beat its $30,000 to $50,000 estimate - and said before the sale that none of the prospective buyers appeared to want to take it abroad.

He said he was sure of the garment's authenticity, and although the singlet was not in mint condition, it was iconic.

"The 466 label is a bit deteriorated and there's a few little tears and bits and pieces and creased and slightly stained but that's as you would expect.

Peter Snell in the 1500m final at the Tokyo Olympics, 1964.

Peter Snell competing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Photo: WikiCommons

"One of the absolute key things for me is that little name tag on the back, 'Snell PG', you know, it looks like it's been stitched in by his mother, you know - as you would in a school jumper.

"And just the 466, the 'New Zealand', the stitching, the age - this is the one."

In 2000, Sir Peter was voted New Zealand Sports Champion of the 20th Century.

He had said previously he hoped the singlet would eventually end up in the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in Dunedin, which is where he intended - at that point - to donate his medals.