The return of the Olympic Games brings myriad questions. This reporter is fascinated with the medals won by the athletes. Are the gold, silver, and bronze medals really made of the metals for which they are named? Well, yes they are. However, in the case of the gold and silver medals, not as much of the expensive stuff as you might expect.
The medals, designed by David Watkins measure just over 3 inches across and weigh close to a pound. They are the largest medals ever awarded at the Summer Games.
- Gold medals contain just 1% gold. The remaining metal mix is silver 92.5% and about 6% copper, which puts the material price under $650.
- Silver medals are mandated by the International Olympic Committee to contain at least 550 grams of “high quality silver.” Despite the mandate and the rising price of silver, the second-place medals are worth about half of the gold medals.
- Bronze medals (like the one dented in a bizarre shower accident by Brazil’s Felipe Kitadai) are made up of 97% copper, 2.5% zinc, and .5% tin. Based on current market prices, the raw value of the materials in the medals would bring less than $5.00.
Of course the value of an Olympic medal is well beyond the cost to make one. These medals represent a lifetime of dedication to a sport that typically includes countless hours spent training to become one of the best in your country, and then competing against the rest of the world.
Can you buy an Olympic medal? Yes. The practice of selling a medal is not something that the IOC encourages, but they cannot stop it. In 2010, gold medal won by Mark Wells of the championship USA Hockey team was auctioned. The “Miracle on Ice” medal sold for over $310,000.
If you are interested in getting a medal for your personal collection, this bronze medal from the 1972 Munich games was found on Ebay. (Bidding starts at just under $3000.)