The True Value of an Olympic Medal

 CREDIT: REUTERS
CREDIT: REUTERS

For the last several months we have been hearing all about the athletes competing in their respective disciplines at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games to win one of three medals – bronze, silver or gold.  One can imagine that for these athletes winning one of these medals is invaluable, representative of the commitment, sacrifice and dedication that goes into their training.  But that’s the symbolic value. Let’s take a closer look at the true monetary value of these medals.

THE MEDALS AND THEIR INTRINSIC VALUE:

This year, The Mint of Brazil produced a total of 2,488 medals for the 2016 Rio Olympics – 812 gold, 812 silver and 864 bronze.  Each of these medals will weigh a total of 500 grams, which is the heaviest these medals have ever been.

Based on the current metal market values as of August 23 of this year (obtained from Kitco.com) here is a breakdown of the composition and value of each of the 3 medals given:

 

THE GOLD MEDAL:

Gold Content: 6 grams

Silver Content: 494 grams

(6g x £32.50/g) + (494g x £0.46/g) = £195 + £227.24 = £422.24

 

THE SILVER MEDAL:

Silver Content: 500 grams

500g x £0.46/g = £230.00

 

THE BRONZE MEDAL

Copper Content: 475 grams

Zinc Content: 25 grams

(475g x £.05/g) + (25g x £.02/g) = £23.75 + £.50 = £24.25

When you add it all up, the total intrinsic value of all 2,488 medals based on today’s metal market prices is approximately £550,000.  Though as a collective this seems like a large sum of money, individually the numbers seem quite small compared to what they represent to the athletes who earned one.

THE MEDALS AND THEIR MARKET VALUE:

©Heritage Auctions
©Heritage Auctions

It turns out you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to own an Olympic medal.  Today, you can find Olympic medals from years past come up regularly in worldwide auctions. All you have to do get one is outbid your competitors. The prices realized for these medals run the gamut. In general, a typical auction estimate for a common Olympic bronze, silver and gold medal are between £3,500 and £7,500 depending on condition, sport, athlete, and medal won.  There are instances, however, where extreme premiums are paid for certain Olympic medals.  One example of this is was Mark Wells’ gold medal from the USA’s 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice” hockey team. The medal was initially sold by Wells in 2012 to a private buyer for £30,000, and resold in 2010 at auction for £235,000 – almost 8 times the previous sale price.

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Another example (and possibly the most notable) is 1 of 4 gold medals won by Jesse Owens, the African American track and field athlete who dominated in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, during Hitler’s reign. This achievement, as one could imagine, was a particularly significant moment in history. The medal was auctioned off in 2013 and sold for £1,107,722, which is the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

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About the Author:

Karina is the Director of the Jewelry Department at Borro Private Finance.