The arrival of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles awoke in Mason Dinehart a dormant passion that over the span of three decades has grown into one of the world’s most impressive Olympic collections.
“I was never a collector,” recalls Dinehart. “I never collected stamps or autographs. I never had an interest. That changed with LA.”
In the sprawling parking lot of the Memorial Coliseum thousands of Olympic spectators converged. His curiosity piqued, Dinehart wandered amongst the crowds and soon found his first Olympic keepsake.
“The number of people on the grounds was incredible. But as you walked in, you would find groups of people excitedly selling and trading and bargaining for these small Olympic pins.”
Dinehart’s purchase of his first Olympic pin ultimately led to a completed set, which in turn led to participation medals and then to torches and then, eventually, to winner’s medals—of which his 1936 Garmisch bronze and his 1984 LA gold sit above all others.
While the significance of the 1984 LA Games experience cannot be understated, Dinehart admits that the events and prizes of the Berlin Olympics in 1936—the year of Dinehart’s birth—remain his favorite, with the large pins of the XI Olympiad representing “the most beautiful” of the entire Olympic field. Other Dinehart favorites include: the 1964 Tokyo and 1988 Seoul participation medals, the 1956 Cortina silver and bronze winner’s medals, the 1964 Tokyo gold winner’s medal, and the numerous handsome torches of the Summer Games.
“They represent the Olympic ideal, of hard work and determination. The Olympic motto—‘Faster, Stronger, Higher’—these medals and pins and torches represent the very best of our athletes, of the various competing nations. They’re unique, and beautifully designed, and I find them each to be remarkably fascinating pieces of history.”
The Dinehart collection is rooted in its owner’s background as a young athlete, a former track star who relished in the thrill of competition. But perhaps the allure of the Olympic spotlight and performing under pressure also reminds Dinehart of his first career—that of the Hollywood actor.
From 1948 until 1960, Dinehart appeared in a variety of movies and television shows alongside famous costars like Roy Rogers, George Burns, Rory Calhoun, and Mickey Rooney. He played a youthful Bat Masterson in 34 episodes on the Western TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, and, in one his earliest roles, he appeared briefly as a young Clark Kent on the first episode of the 1948 serial Superman—making him one of the first actors to appear as the ‘Man of Steel’ on screen. Dinehart recently turned his collection efforts to amassing the first 180 copies of the comic book series Classics Illustrated.