A lot of people are asking me how much gold is there in an Olympic Games gold medal and how much are they worth? The first part of this question is easy to answer, so we will deal with this first.
Well, the first point is that Olympic gold medals are not actually made from pure gold – they are silver with a covering of gold. Thus, the Olympic gold medals weigh in at 494 grams of silver (over 15 ounces) and 6 grams of gold. – giving them a bullion value of approx. $587 at current market prices. These medals are 85mm in diameter – huge when compared to some of the older Olympic medals.
The last time Olympic medals were made of pure gold was during the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Only 90 solid Gold Medals were struck for the Games by Stockholm’s “C.C. Sporrong & Co.” mint. These medals were 33mm is diameter and weighed 24 grams (or, less than an ounce).
The second part of the question is how much are they worth? This is a tricky one since monetary value depends upon a lot of different metrics. The minimum value is easy – it is the bullion value – so the current Olympic gold medals are worth approx. $587 at current market prices.
A premium is usually attached for rarity – so the current Olympics will issue approx. 5,000 gold medals whereas the Stockholm Olympics only issued 90 – hence the gold medals from the 1912 Stockholm Games are rarer.
On top of the rarity value comes a hefty premium for “who” won the medal and a further premium is attached to the notoriety or fame of the recipient. For example, the gold medals won by Jesse Owens in 1936 would have a significant historical value. Every Olympic gold is special and every country in the world adores their medal-winning Olympians of the past. Put simply, every time an Olympic medal (gold, silver or bronze) is sold at auction, the price usually beats the pre-sale estimate.
At an auction in held in Boston, USA (2014), 13 of the 14 winners’ medals went for thousands of dollars above their estimates. The prices surprised everyone!
- A 1908 London silver medal for rackets, in its original box, fetched $11,250,
- A gold medal from 1912 Stockholm brought $11,875.
- Silver and bronze 1924 Paris medals won by R. Earl Johnson, a U.S. distance runner, fetched $11,250 apiece.
- A 1936 bronze medal from Garmisch-Partenkirchen went for $22,500. The estimate, not including the buyer’s premium, was $18,000-$20,000
- The 1972 Munich bronze won by shooter Lajos Papp of Hungary brought $12,500. It had been estimated at $4,000-$6,000, which was in line with previous sales of bronze medals.
- A 1976 Innsbruck gold medal for biathlon relay won by Nikolai Kruglov of the Soviet Union went for $28,750, which includes the 25% buyer’s premium. The estimate was $7,000-$8,000.
- The 1980 bronze medal won by Sweden’s Bo Berglund brought $16,250, more than double its estimate of $7,000-$8,000.
Of course, to the recipients, they are worth a lot more … possibly a meal ticket for life.
In monetary terms, you only have to look at the endorsements of top Olympians to realise that all sports are not equal … and all sports people within each sport are also far from equal.
But, that is an argument for another day !