One of the biggest achievements any athlete can make is winning an Olympic gold medal. If you have watched these sportspeople show off their gold medals, you may have wondered, “Are these medals actually made of gold, and if that’s true, just how much does an Olympic gold medal cost?”
Read on to find the answers to these questions and more information about Olympic gold medals and how their prices differ from one game to another.
Are Olympic Gold Medals Made of Pure Gold?
While this is what the name of the medals seems to imply, Olympic gold medals aren’t made of 100% gold. This is not only because gold is too soft to produce medals that are pure gold but also because it is very expensive.
The first time Olympic champions received gold medals was in 1904. Before this, gold was considered a big budget. The winner would, therefore, be awarded a silver medal instead and the runner-up would receive a bronze. No medal was given for third place.
Over the years, gold medals have been crafted mostly from silver, plated with a small amount of gold. This means that the silver medals made for the second place contain less silver than the gold medal. When it comes to the third-place medal, however, bronze is not mixed with other metals; the medal is usually 100% bronze.
The specific design and composition of the Olympic medals will vary based on the game and the organizing committee of the hosting city. But there are some standards that all gold medals must meet. For instance, they must:
- Be coated with at least 6 grams of pure gold.
- Contain at least 92.5% silver.
- Be at least 2.36 inches (60 mm) in diameter and 0.12 inches (3 mm) thick.
Different Olympic Games and the Estimated Cost of Each Gold Medal
The cost of an Olympic gold medal varies based on its composition and this, as mentioned, is determined by the organizers of the specific game. This price will also be influenced by the cost and availability of gold at the time of designing the medal.
Below is the estimated cost of the gold medals issued in some of the previous Olympic games to help you understand better how much gold medals are worth today.
|Olympics Name/Place Held||Medal Composition in Grams||Total Weight in Grams||Diameter in millimeters||Cost in USD|
|PyeongChang 2018||580 g||6 g||586 g||92.5 mm||$ 570|
|Rio 2016||494 g||6 g||500 g||85 mm||$ 564|
|Sochi 2014||525 g||6 g||531 g||100 mm||$ 566|
|London 2012||381 g||6 g||412 g||85 mm||$ 708|
As you can see, the cost of Olympic gold medals is different each year based on a number of factors that may include the weight and size of the medal as well as the price of gold and silver at the time of production.
If a 500 grams gold medal was to be produced today, for instance, the price would be as follows:
|Metal||Cost Per Gram in USD||Total Number of Grams||Total Cost in USD|
|Gold||$ 60.01||6 g||$ 360.06|
|Silver||$ 0.90||494 g||$ 444.6|
|Total Cost of Gold and Silver||$ 804.66|
The total cost of gold and silver required to produce a 500 g gold medal in 2021 without including the production fee is approximately $ 804.66. A similar medal would cost around $ 564 in 2016, which is a much lower value.
So, why has this value gotten higher and what determines the value of gold and silver in the market? Keep reading!
Factors Influencing Gold and Silver Prices
Demand and Supply
As with all traded commodities, the price of gold and silver can be determined by the demand and supply of these two products in the market.
You see, unlike oil, gold and silver are not consumable products. This means that all the gold and silver that has ever been produced or mined is still being held by people.
Also, the amount of gold or silver mined every year is not that high. As such, whenever there is an increase in demand for gold or silver, the price goes up because there is a relatively low supply.
So, basically, if Olympic gold medals were produced when there is high demand for gold or silver, they will cost much more than when there is a surplus supply of these metals in the market.
Gold and silver prices have a reverse relationship with interest rates. When there is a decrease in interest rates, there usually are poor returns on deposits. Thus, most people break their deposits and invest in gold and silver instead, which results in an upsurge in demand and price.
Conversely, when the rates go high, people sell their gold and silver and make deposits so they can get better returns. This causes a decline in demand and price.
An Olympic gold medal produced when there are high interest rates will tend to be cheaper than one bought when there are low interest rates and therefore high demand for gold and silver.
The value of the currency in which the gold or silver is bought will also determine the cost of these two metals. Strong currency helps keep the prices of the metals lower and more controlled.
When the currency is weaker, there will likely be an increase in the number of people buying gold and silver, which will drive the cost of the metals higher. This hiked demand will also skyrocket the cost of production of Olympic gold medals.
Industrial and Commercial Uses
About half of the gold and silver produced in the world is used in jewelry. When there is a high demand for jewelry, the supply of these metals becomes limited, which automatically raises their price. The opposite is true when there is a lower demand for gold and silver.
Gold on its own has also been found to contain amazing electrical and thermal conductivity properties and this makes it an important metal in various industries. In addition, owing to its resistance to bacteria colonization, gold is one of the most commonly used metals in the medical field.
If there is an increased demand for gold and silver due to an upsurge in the production of jewelry or any commercial usage, the price of the metals will also go up and so is that of Olympic gold medals.
When all is said and done, the price of gold and silver will primarily depend on the demand and supply of the metals in the market. Ideally, when there is enough supply of these metals, producing Olympic gold medals will be less costly and vise versa.
Are Winter Olympic Gold Medals More Costly Than Summer Olympic Gold Medals?
Winter Olympic gold medals tend to be heavier and larger in size than their summer counterparts and this also means they cost more. Take PyeongChang and Rio gold medals, for instance. PyeongChang hosted winter Olympic games and the gold medal weighed 586 g.
Rio, on the other hand, hosted summer Olympics and the gold medal weighed 500 g. Based on Table 1 provided earlier on this page, the size of the medals differs too, with PyeongChang medals being 92.5 mm and Rio medals being 85 mm in diameter.
You can also see that the price of each gold medal in both events is different, with PyeongChang medals costing more than Rio medals.
One of the reasons the price of gold medals goes high in winter Olympics is the size and weight of the medals. Larger and heavier medals mean that more silver (or gold) is used, which means the cost of producing a single medal is also high.
The difference in price could also be due to other factors such as the effect of demand and supply of gold and silver in the market at the time of production, like in the case of Sochi and London Olympics.
While the gold medals in Sochi winter Olympics were still larger and heavier than those in London summer Olympics, Sochi gold medals were somehow cheaper than London’s. They weighed 531 g and were worth $ 566 each while London medals weighed 431 g and cost $ 708.
Economists and financial experts attributed the increased price of London Olympics gold medals to high inflation rates. With more people investing in gold and silver at the time, there was high demand for these metals, which resulted in the gold medals being more expensive.
Olympic Gold Medals Are Worth More At Auction
At the podium, an Olympic gold medal may be worth between $ 500 and $ 700, but at auction, it will cost way more.
According to insidethegames.com, an Olympic gold medal can sell for more than $ 50, 000 at auction. The Cuban Olympic gold medals granted to shooter Leuris Pupo and long jumper Ivan Pedroso sold for over $ 70, 000 at an online auction.
And that was nowhere close to one of the gold medals won by Jesse Owens during the Berlin Olympics in 1936 that sold for $ 600, 000. Hey, do you know another of Owen’s Berlin gold medals sold for a whopping $ 1, 466, 574? It is the highest an Olympic memorabilia item has ever sold.
Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Olympic Gold Medals
Biting gold medals has been going on for years
Have you seen Olympic gold medal winners photographed biting their medals and asked yourself why? Well, it’s a practice that goes way back to the days when Olympic medals were made of pure gold.
Traditionally, a bite was used to determine whether the gold was real and was also an attempt to put a tooth mark on the gold.
These days, with gold medals containing only 6 grams of gold, biting is considered more of an iconic symbol of the sports than it is a way of testing for gold purity, and medalists do this mostly to satisfy photographers.
Olympic gold medals are taxed
You may not know this but game medals are considered income. Olympic winners, therefore, must pay taxes on each of the medals they win, at a rate of 40%. The rates will differ from country to country.
Winter Olympic games have a motto engraved on medals
Olympic winter games have had an official motto since 1924 that is emblazoned on the gold medals. The writings read, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for Faster, Higher, Stronger.
Olympic gold medals don’t carry the winners’ names
Contrary to what some Olympics viewers think, medals are not inscribed with the name of the winner. The back of the medal usually features the name of the event and discipline as well as the logo or symbol of the Olympics.
Nothing else is inscribed here but medalists can do whatever they please with their prizes once they have returned home.
Medals for different Olympics have different designs
Olympics organizers come up with unique designs for each event. The medals for Sochi games, for instance, portrayed the magnificent landscape of Sochi, with the golden rays of the sun reflecting through the snowy mountain tops onto the beautiful Black Sea Coast.
Rio Olympic medals have something totally different. They include an engraving of the traditional laurel leaf and Nike, the Greek goddess believed to bring victory.
Sochi Olympic gold medals have materials from the space
By now we know that Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver and gold. But some of those issued in Sochi games were a little different. It is reported that ten of them actually contained remains of a meteor that had fallen over Russia in the previous year.
How much an Olympic gold medal costs varies from event to event. Hopefully, by reading this post, you are able to understand some of the factors influencing the price of gold medals. If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.