How Much Are Michael Phelps’ Gold Medals Actually Worth?

Photo: nagarjun

With each day that passes in the 2012 Summer Olympics, we watch superior athletes accept gold medals for beating their opponents in their chosen sports. For these athletes, there’s nothing more amazing than winning the gold medal because, if for no other reason, it’s highly valuable, right? Well, not exactly.

The reality of gold medals awarded in the Olympics is that they aren’t 100 percent gold. As a result, they don’t hold the actual value that some may assume.

How Are Gold Medals Made?

One misconception that people have of coveted gold medals is that they are made from pure gold. They were indeed made from pure gold in the early years of the Olympics, but this standard was eliminated after 1912.

In current years, organizing committees in cities that host each Olympics have been given a great deal of creative control over the Olympic medals they present. They are allowed to design them and choose metal composition when creating them, as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • Gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold
  • Gold medals and silver medals must contain 92.5 percent silver
  • All Olympic medals must be at least 3 mm thick and at least 60 mm in diameter

According to recent reports, medals for the 2012 Olympics did meet the above criteria. They were mined by Olympic Partner sponsor Rio Tinto at Kennecott Utah Copper Mine near Salt Lake City, Utah, made at the Royal Mint headquarters in Llanstisant, South Wales and housed in the vaults of the Tower of London.

What Is the Actual Olympic Gold Medal Value?

Knowing that gold medals aren’t made from pure gold, one has to wonder just what the actual Olympic gold medal value is. Since they are made out of precious and transition metals with investment values that change from day to day, Olympic gold medal values fluctuate as well.

Reports show that the weight of this year’s gold medal is estimated at 412 grams. It is made of 1.34 percent gold, 92.5 percent silver and 6.16 percent copper — and is 85 mm in diameter with a thickness of 8-10 mm.

To determine how much Olympic medals are worth, according to average August 2012 composite prices, take a look at the following table:

2012 Olympic Gold Medal

(Estimated Value)

Precious/Transition Metals Used in Gold Medal

Percentage (%) of Metal in Gold Medal


Grams / Ounces

Avg. Price of Metal Per Ounce ($)

(August, 2012)

Metal Portion Value ($)



5.5 g / 0.19 oz.





381.1 g / 13.4 oz.





25.4 g / 0.89 oz.



Olympic Gold Medal Worth


As noted previously, metal prices change regularly, so the worth of gold medals could fluctuate daily, but this gives an idea of their worth.

The Olympic gold medal value wouldn’t add much to an athlete’s savings in comparison to the a pure gold medal, which at today’s prices would land at roughly $23,000.

The good news is this year’s Olympic gold medalists receive cash prizes of $25,000 per medal, which more than makes up for the loss in the medal’s value. Further, having the opportunity to stand proudly on the Olympic podium as one of the world’s best athletes probably equals — or tops — the financial gain received in the process.