Boston Marathon 1937 gold medal up for auction at RCNA convention

By Mike Walsh

A gold medal from the 1937 Boston Marathon, won by a Canadian, is one of the significant highlights of the upcoming Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) convention auction this July in Boucherville, Que.

Walter Young, a relatively unknown runner from Verdun, Que., claimed the coveted title by crossing the finish line in 2:33:20, defeating second-place finisher John A. Kelley by more than six minutes. According to a brief biography on Wikipedia, weather conditions on that April 19 race day were “unseasonably hot.”

Young’s triumph is a celebrated moment in marathon and Canadian sports history.

Born on March 14, 1913, in Lime Ridge, Que., the long-distance runner and snowshoe racer spent most of his life in Verdun, Que., where he also worked as a firefighter. After the death of his wife in 1996, he moved to Mission, B.C., to live with his son until the elder Young died in 2004 at age 91.

Lot 380, featuring the Boston Marathon medal, is one of more than 1,700 numismatic lots being offered from July 12-16 by The Canadian Numismatic Company (TCNC) at the RCNA’s annual convention.

“The 1937 Boston Marathon took place during a period of heightened international tension, with the threat of the Second World War looming large,” says auctioneer Marc Verret. “Despite these uncertain times, Young’s victory provided a sense of inspiration and hope to many.”

The Quebec-based auction firm notes the medal bears the date 1937 enamelled and inscribed with “1st Prize” on the back, but does not feature Young’s name. However, all details correspond to his historic win. Young returned to the Boston Marathon in 1939 and won the bronze medal.

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