This year’s Olympic medals will be the heaviest ever at a Summer Olympic Games by nearly double. At 400 grams (roughly 9-tenths of a pound), they outweigh the medals from Barcelona that had been 231 grams. The medals are also the largest ever in diameter at 85 mm, or about 3.5 inches. Of course, even these are dwarfed by the misshapen discs that were the Vancouver medals. They ranged from between 500 to 576 grams – winter medals are usually larger and heavier, and also less round.
The 2012 edition of the winners’ medals are hardly gold at all: they’re made of 92.5% silver, 6.16% copper, and just 1.34% gold, but with today’s inflated commodity prices this still makes them quite valuable.
Of course, there’s an added value that goes along with a gold medal. The perks, the free airline upgrades, the sudden demand for speaking engagements and endorsements. But we were curious about exactly what the hard value of the metal in the medal.
We’ve calculated, in terms of melted, commodity value, the spot prices of this year’s gold medals. Traders expect these prices to drop by the time the Olympic awards are handed out, but this should be fairly close to what they’ll be in August:
370 grams of silver: $356.04
24.64 grams of copper: $2.99
5.36 grams of gold: $300.18
Total Value: $659.21
The medals at the first Olympics where gold medals were given out regularly, 1904 in St. Louis, were dwarfed by the current brand, as they weighed only 21 grams and were just 37mm in diameter. But those were made of pure gold – $15.32 in the prices of the day, or $1173.94 at today’s market price.
But of course, being an Olympic medal, we all know they’re worth much, much more than that on the free market. How much depends largely on who is buying and who is selling, though Olympic medals don’t always have events or winners identified, so proving provenance can be a challenge.
Anthony Ervin sold his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics for $17,100, saying that it was just a symbol. He then donated the money to tsunami relief. Ukrainian boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko auctioned off his 1996 gold medal for $1 million for charity, but was then returned to him by the winning bidder. You can currently buy a bronze medal from soccer from the 1956 Olympics on Ebay for $12,000.
To most athletes (as Michael Phelps touched on in his 60 minutes interview) the medal is more symbolic; they’ll show the medal to others who want to see it, but to the great ones it was about the journey and the victory as much as it was the hardware.