Going for Gold at the Olympics – is a gold medal cracked up to be all that it claims to be

Everyone has been watching the 202 Olympics. Every four years, athletes around the world congregate to compete so the best in the world can be awarded medals for their achievements. The 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, were postponed and but they finally got underway on the 23rd of July and will end on the 8t August 2021. There’s always some drama surrounding the Olympics, this year everything was about Covid-19. However, the pandemic could not stop the games from being hosted and so far, Australia has been doing particularly well. Australia has been raking in gold medals in swimming, rowing, men’s one-person dinghy, and BMX Freestyle (a new event in the Olympics). The games have given Australians something to rally behind and be positive about. But did you know that the majority of these gold medalists are just going home with more silver than with gold?

Gold medals aren’t made with gold. Olympic gold medals are mostly made of silver and very little gold. Olympic gold medals are actually made from silver medals that are plated with about 6 grams of gold.  So, for all practical purposes, the gold medal is just a matter of prestige. These gold medalists cannot turn around and sell their gold for a sizeable amount of gold. The metal in an Olympic gold medal weighing 556-grams is a little bit more than $800. That’s nothing to scoff at. If the Olympic gold medal was made entirely of gold, it would be worth $35,000. That is a lot of money and a lot of gold which is why gold medals are only made from gold-plated silver. The last time Olympic medals were made from pure gold was during the 1908 London Olympic games. However, the price of gold back then was lower than it is now.

Although Olympic medals are only valuable for sentimental reasons – that does not mean that athletes have not tried to sell their medals during times of hardship. The value of Olympic medals will depend on the history of the medals or the games. You may buy real Olympic medals at auction. For instance, A silver medal for shooting at the 1900 Paris Olympics sold for just $1,283. The most expensive Olympic medal ever sold was the first-place medal from the Athens Olympics in 1896. According to the London-based auction house of RR Auction, the medal sold for $180,111 which is significant considering that first-place winners got silver medals and not gold.

Olympic gold medals have sentimental value as well as historical value. For athletes, these medals may be priceless but when life happens, some people might find themselves having to sell their gold medals at pawn shops and at auctions. Olympic medals are regarded as niche collectibles. In 2019, a collector paid $1.5 million paid for one of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Summer Games in Germany. The fact that Owens, a black American track and field athlete dominated the Germans right in front of Hitler made the achievements and the gold won that more special and historically significant.

The Olympic committee that planned the 2020 games made the medals with recycled metals. 9,000 pounds of silver were reclaimed, 6,000 pounds of silver, and just 67 pounds of gold mostly from mobile phones.  A typical mobile contains 36mg gold, about 90 mg of silver, 6 grams of copper, and about 0.7grams of tin.

The fact that these important medals were made from recycled precious metals like gold and silver shows how important these metals are. They are immutable. The fact that the Olympic committee in Japan managed to pull off extracting gold and silver from e-waste is a testament of the indestructibility of gold and silver.

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