What’s a gold medal worth?

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While it’s true you can’t put a price on Olympic glory, what about the gold medal?

In 2010, the gold medal won by Mark Wells, member of the 1980 Olympic U.S. men’s hockey team “Miracle on Ice,” fetched $310,700 at auction, even though the actual value of the medal is far less because it contains only a minimal amount of gold.

The solid-gold Olympic medal was introduced in the 1904 St. Louis games and was crafted from the precious metal for seven more years, until 1912. Today, the gold medal is made of mostly silver (92.5 percent, to be exact), with 1.34 percent gold and the remainder copper. The silver medal is 92.5 percent silver, with the remainder copper and the bronze medal is 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin.

If it was still solid gold, the medal would be worth a lot. The price of a troy ounce of gold has soared, from $300 a decade ago to nearly six times that much in July, according to Terry Hanlon, president of Dillon Gage Metals in Dallas, Texas. Friday’s price was just above $1,600. That compares to the price of silver at $27 an ounce. This year’s medals weigh between 375 and 412 grams, depending on the alloy. A medal weighing 400 grams would contain close to 13 troy ounces of gold if it were solid.

Medals are unique to each Olympics. This year, British artist David Watkins’ design depicts Nike, Greek goddess of victory, emerging from the Parthenon. Made by Royal Mint, the 2,300 medals for this year’s games are under guard at the Tower of London.

Which athletes are you hoping will bring home the gold during the 2012 London Olympics?

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