The Exchange : Rarity, not metal content, make Olympic Medals special collector items

Rarity, not metal content, make Olympic Medals special collector items

The winter and summer Olympic games captures the world's attention unlike any other sporting event. Nations come together to cheer on those who wear their nation's colors in hope that their athletes will achieve Olympic glory.  For years Olympic athletes train at a grueling pace and make sacrifices with the hope that they will have a gold, silver or bronze medal placed around their necks before the Olympic closing ceremony.


Surprisingly, the highly sought after Olympic gold medal is not pure gold. Nearly a century ago the last pure gold medal was earned in the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, Sweden. According to Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine, the gold medal typically is composed of 92.5 percent silver and coated with a minimum of 6 grams of gold.  The designs and composition of the medals are decided by the host country, yet there are specific minimum standards that must be met for the medals, including:


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


Typically, the medals' content is not what is important to the athletes. I had an opportunity to speak with Kelci Bryant, the 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist for Team USA Diving. I asked Bryant what it meant to her to have such a valuable medal hanging around her neck. She replied, "The metallic value really doesn't change what it means to me; the worth of the medal is a lot like an analogy."


I also asked Bryant if she had any long-term plans for the medal or if she has ever thought about selling her medal? Bryant had no plans for selling the medal, sorry medal collectors. For now she said, "I do a lot of public speaking and I like to take the medal with me to show it to people in hopes that it will inspire them."

1896 Olympic Participation Medal  

(1896 Olympic Participation Medal)

Even though Bryant's medal will not be on the market any time soon, medal collectors should beware of what they purchase, as with any collector item there are plenty of fakes. The best way to identify a fake is to weigh and measure the medals. Click here to compare authentic Olympic medals with counterfeit and reproduced medals.


If you are interested in learning more about Olympic medals, the ANA Summer Seminar is offering an exciting new mini-seminar titled, "U.S. Olympic Committee Medal Designs and Tour of the Olympic Training Center," which will give students an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of Olympic medals and tour the United States Olympic Training Center. Additionally, the students will enjoy a meal in the same cafeteria that Olympic icons such as Michael Phelps, Andre Ward, Apollo Anton Ohno, and Rulon Gardner dinned in as they prepared for their moment in the Olympic spotlight. To register for the mini-seminar go to


 OTC Crop

 (USA Olympic Training Center - Colorado Springs)


Written by Brandon Ortega at 00:00



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