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Tests reveal Snell's singlet not genuine

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/06/2016
The black singlet Peter Snell wore during his twin gold medal runs at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is going under the hammer.: Auction lot 194 - The black singlet Peter Snell wore during his twin gold medal runs at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. © RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly Auction lot 194 - The black singlet Peter Snell wore during his twin gold medal runs at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Fabric tests have unstitched Te Papa's purchase of Sir Peter Snell's double Olympic gold medal-winning singlet.

The national museum has backed out of the deal after buying it at auction in Auckland earlier this month thinking it was worn by Snell when he won the 800m and 1500m finals in Tokyo in 1964.

Te Papa paid $122,500 for the item bearing Snell's number 466 below the embroidered words New Zealand and Silver Fern logo. However, a staff member raised questions about its cotton-type fabric which led to it being tested, and now Te Papa doesn't think it was the type used at the 1964 Olympics.

The museum and auction house Cordy's had both believed it to be the genuine article.

"When you look at it all the elements are right... the numbers, the lettering, the name tag in the back: 'Snell PG', everything about it was right," Cordy's auctioneer Andrew Grigg said.

Cordy's had done everything it could within its powers to verify it was the real garment. They hadn't got to the bottom of whether or not it was a fake. There was no suggestion it was a scam, Mr Grigg said. It may have been put together in the mid-1970s as some sort of fundraiser, he said.

The unnamed vendor had the singlet for five or 10 years but its history before that was unknown. He was devastated, but philosophical, to discover it wasn't genuine after trying to raise money for overseas medical treatment for his father, Mr Grigg said.

The story had got New Zealand talking about a fantastic part of New Zealand's sporting history but Te Papa had done the right thing, he said.

Snell, who now lives in Texas, says the whole thing "smells pretty fishy".

"I thought, it seemed to me, to look authentic, but there must have been something else that they're not saying right now," he told Newshub.

He sold the singlet for charity but didn't know where it went.

Whoever has it now will be "salivating" over its worth, he said.

Te Papa says the Cordy's singlet may remain a mystery.

"It's quite possible for an object's origins to be lost in the mists of time. We have faith the auction house came into it with good faith ... believing it was the genuine article," museum spokeswoman Kate Camp told NZ Newswire.

The singlet has been returned to the vendor and Te Papa will not need to fork out $141,000 after a buyer's premium was added to the auction price.

The museum was disappointed and the public would be too, said chief executive Rick Ellis. It would now review the process that led to it entering bidding, he said. It went after the singlet based on photographs and the advice of an independent expert.

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