It’s hard to believe, but another Olympic Games will take place this February! The XXth Olympic Winter Games is scheduled for February 10-26 in Turin (Torino), Italy. Already one of the most recognizable parts of the Games, the Olympic Torch Relay, is under way.

The Olympic flame was kindled at Olympia, Greece on November 27th, and began its long journey winding through the Greek countryside towards Athens. At the original 1896 stadium, site of the First Modern Olympics, the custody of the flame was officially transferred from the Greek Committee to the Italian hosts.

The 2006 Olympic Torch Relay will spend a total of 64 days covering most of Italy. The total distance the flame will travel will be over 6500 miles, visit 140 cities and all of Italy’s regions. It is expected that over 10,000 torch bearers will carry the flame during its journey.

Italy has played host to the Winter Olympics before, in 1956, and the torch relay will pass through the historic former Olympic host city of Cortina D’Ampezzo exactly 50 years to the day that the Games began there. The flame will also visit the city of Albertville, France, host of the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Of course, one of the most sought after collectables from an Olympic Games is an actual Olympic Torch and the 2006 torch will be no exception. The 2006 Torino Torch is very special, having been designed by the famous Milan automobile design firm, Pininafarina. The torch is about 30 inches high, 4.25 inches in diameter, and weighs 4 pounds. About 12,000 torches were produced for the 2006 Olympic Torch Relay.

Olympic Torches

One of the most dramatic events of an Olympic Games if the Olympic Torch Relay held prior to every Olympic Games. No other aspect of an Olympic Games is seen in person by as many people. The relay involves thousands of people and covers much of a host country’s geography. It is one of the few chances for the average person to have a sense of involvement with the Olympic Games. Anyone can either be nominated by their peers to carry a torch or apply on your own behalf for the honor.

The Olympic Torch itself is based on ancient Greek artwork. Pictures of runners carrying a flame are a common theme. The first Olympic Games to have an Olympic Torch relay was the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Germany (see attached picture). The flame was ignited by the sun in Plympia, Greece, site of the ancient Olympics, and carried by a relay of runners and torches to Berlin. The torch then ignited a huge caldron at the Olympic Stadium. The relay proved to be such a success, that it became an important part of the Olympic Games. The first Winter Olympic Torch Relay was held during the Oslo Games of 1952.

The quantities of torches produced for a particular Olympic varies greatly. For some Games only 10 or so torches are made, while for others 10,000 or more are produced. This creates a vast range of price value for collectors of Olympic Torches. For example; the oldest torch being 1936 Berlin is valued at $3,000 while the 1992 Albertville Winter Games torch can bring $15,000 or more. All because of the scarcity of certain Olympic year torches. As a rule winter Olympic torches were produced in lesser numbers and are, therefore, more prized and valuable then their summer games counterparts. Pictures, rarity scales and value of Olympic torches can be viewed in “The Unauthorized Guide to Olympic Pins & Memorbailia” by Jonathan Becker and Gregory J. Gallacher, a Schiffer Book Publication.

Grading Olympic Torches

Olympic torches are graded based on the condition of the finish, and the amount of scratches and dents. Some torches are finished in natural metal coloring while others are enameled and plated.

Average Condition: Torch may have a small amount of scuffing, perhaps a small dent or two, and possibly a scratch of two.

Near Mint: Torch would have no blemishes, no scratches, and an almost perfect finish. If a torch shows signs of burn marks from the flame, it does not necessarily affect the value up or down.