How Much Are Michael Phelps Medals Worth?

By: Wayne Duggan

With three more gold medals in the opening days of the Rio Olympics, the seemingly ageless Michael Phelps continues to add to his record total for Olympic medals. But just how much are Phelps’ medals worth? Here’s a look at the numbers.

Not Worth Their Weight In Gold?

Obviously, the historical and sentimental value of Phelps’ medals makes them far more valuable than their melt value. However, with 21 career Olympic gold medals under his belt at this point, Phelps has accumulated quite a gold reserve.

Unfortunately for Phelps and the other Olympic athletes, gold medals haven’t been pure gold since 1912. Instead, the Rio Olympic gold metals are plated with six grams of 99.9% pure gold. The remaining 494 grams is 92.5% pure silver.

At today’s gold spot price of $1347.00/oz and silver spot price of $20.29/oz, each one of Phelps’ gold medals is worth roughly $564. About half of that value comes from the six grams of gold. If the entire 500 grams were pure gold, each of Phelps’ medals would be worth nearly $22,000.

Not Everything Michael Phelps Touches Turns To Gold

In addition to his 21 (and counting) career gold medals, Phelps also grabbed two silver medals at the London Olympics in 2012 and two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics in 2004 at the age of 19.

Silver Olympic medals are 500 grams of 92.5% pure silver. After converting to oz, that comes out to 16.3 oz of pure silver. At today’s spot price, that’s roughly $331 per silver medal.

The bronze medal is 97 percent copper. At today’s copper spot price of $2.18/lb, the bronze medal contains roughly $2.33 in copper.

Olympic medal sizes vary from event to event, but a rough estimate of Phelps’ medal collection using these numbers would put its melt value at around $12,500. Of course that value pales in comparison to Phelps’ prize money and endorsement deals.

Which Medals Make The Best Investment?

Olympic medals are earned, not bought. But which Olympic medal would make the best theoretical investment?

In the past decade, gold and silver have been excellent investments, while copper has lagged severely. In fact, the SPDR Gold Trust (ETF) (NYSE: GLD) is up 97.2% in the past 10 years and the iShares Silver Trust (ETF) (NYSE: SLV) is up 64.6%. Both the gold and silver ETFs have outperformed the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY)’s 50.5% gain in that time.

The iPath Bloomberg Copper Subindex Total Return Sub-Index ETN (NYSE: JJC), on the other hand, is down 50.1 percent in the past decade.

So far in 2016, it’s the SLV that has led the precious metal charge, climbing an impressive 45.4 percent. While the GLD may have the better longer-term track record, clearly silver has the momentum in the short-term.

Disclosure: the author holds no position in the stocks mentioned.

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