Olympic medals' monetary value may shock you

U.S. Bronze medalist Brendan Hansen (Getty)
U.S. Bronze medalist Brendan Hansen (Getty)

LONDON – The value of an Olympic medal, for many the crowning achievement of a lifetime’s work, is of course priceless – an irreplaceable memento to outstanding athletic achievement.

Yet in real terms, at least for the third place finishers at London 2012, the actual monetary value of medals is astonishingly low.

The bronze medals awarded at these games have been valued at just £3 ($4.71).

[ Photos: U.S. medal winners ]

Those that occupy the bottom rung of the podium are given prizes that are made up of 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin, which according to London’s Daily Mail newspaper makes them worth £3 at current prices.

“Copper is not a particularly valuable metal,” jewelry expert Dan Cohen said in a telephone interview with Yahoo! Sports. Cohen is director of Bellore, a leading store in Hatton Garden, the famous jewelry quarter of central London. “Copper prices have gone up recently though, so much so that people have been stealing brass cables and so on. One and two pence pieces in the United Kingdom are no longer made of copper, because they would be more valuable if they were melted down.”

London 2012 medals weigh just under one pound and at three inches across are the biggest ever awarded at a Summer Olympics. They were designed by artist David Watkins and 4,700 of them will be handed out over the course of the event.

The gold and silver medals, naturally, have a greater actual value. A gold is worth $644, yet is only one percent gold, with the rest made up of silver and copper. The silvers replace the gold element with extra copper, and are worth about half as much.

[ Photos: Netherlands Women's Field Hockey team ]

Such prices are effectively irrelevant though, as any Olympic medal that comes on the collectors market can command huge sums from memorabilia hoarders.

Related Olympic video from the Yahoo! Sports network:

More London Olympics content on Yahoo! Sports:
Actor James Caan has a special reason to root for U.S. boxer
Will Welsh soccer fans boo 'God Save The Queen'?
Embracing the Olympic spirit of sports betting