What's In an Olympic Gold Medal? - Gainesville Coins News
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What's In an Olympic Gold Medal?

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What's In an Olympic Gold Medal?

It's a bit of a misnomer that there is a significant amount of pure gold in an Olympic gold medal.

1952 Oslo Olympic Winter Games, Gold Medal, Dick Button, Figure skating [ Flickr]

In fact, you may surprised to find out how little actual gold each of these iconic medals contains.

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games just about to start to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it's an appropriate time to take a closer look at these universally recognized symbols of athletic excellence and achievement.

Olympic Gold Medal: Actually Silver!

The last time that there was truly an Olympic gold medal made from solid gold was at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Oddly enough, for over 100 years, these top prizes have been more symbolic than substantive.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) no longer finds it economical to place so much pure gold in its medals, given the vast number of competitions and medals being awarded. This year in Rio, more than 800 gold medals will be awarded.

That's not to say that there is no gold in these medals. The IOC stipulates that each Olympic gold medal must contain 6 grams of gold. Nearly all of the rest of the alloy is made up by silver—which is not a bad consolation considering that the medal is still composed of precious metal.

gold-medal-memeThe gold medals must be at least sterling silver in purity, meaning a minimum of 92.5% pure silver. Typically, they are closer to 95% silver with a small balance of other metals. In total, each Olympic gold medal contains 525 grams of actual silver weight (ASW).

This means that each gold medal has a melt value of roughly $550. However, if they were indeed composed of pure gold, they would actually be worth $21,000 each!

More Interesting Facts

Source: BBC Source: BBC

Luckily, despite the lack of significant gold content in the medals, many countries reward their gold-medal-winning Olympians with generous cash prizes: the U.S. pays $25,000 each while many European nations pay six figures to their winners. Sadly, the U.K. offers zero compensation to its competitors who win gold.

When it comes to bragging rights, the United States has earned far and away the most gold medals. Its athletes have garnered 976 gold medals while the second-highest total is just 395 for Russia (including those won by the former Soviet Union). 75 different countries that have competed in the Olympics have yet to secure a single gold medal.

You can find these neat facts and more in this Olympic gold medal infographic, courtesy of Karus Chains (via CoinWeek).


The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.

About the Author

Everett Millman

Everett Millman

Analyst, Commodities and Finance
Managing Editor

Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.

In addition to blogging, Everett's work has been featured in CoinWeek, Advisor Perspectives, Wealth Management, Activist Post, and has been referenced by the Washington Post.

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