Olympic Medals: Interesting Things You Might Not Know

Updated on August 22, 2016

Lots of gold, silver and bronze medals are hanging around the necks of winners who competed in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. There are some interesting questions surrounding the 306 sets of medals handed out to the winners. Let's answer some of those questions.

Winter Games Medals Have A Motto

Since 1924, the Olympic Winter Games have had a motto. The official motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” is on the medals. It means “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” However, there is no motto on the Summer Games medals.

Winter Games Medals Are Heavier

Olympic medal designs have changed a great deal over the years. However, one thing remains the same. The Winter Games medals are heavier. The Summer Games medals are not as thick as the Winter Games medals which have a more freestyle layout. The Summer Games medals are of a classical and lighter design.

You cannot tell the difference in weights just by seeing the winners wearing them. Both the Winter and Summer medals are heavy, but the Winter Games medals just happen to be heavier.

The Rio gold medals weigh 500 grams. This is the heaviest they have ever weighed for the Olympic Summer Games.

Why Do Winners Bite Their Medals?

If you have seen the athletes accepting their medals on the podium, you have probably noticed that they all either bite their medals or hold them close to their mouths. Why is that?

This is done at the photographer's request for the photo. The custom of biting one's medal, especially the gold ones, goes back to an ancient practice of biting into gold to find out if it is real gold. The irony of this is that the gold medal the top winner receives is not real gold.

Michael Phelps biting his gold medal
Michael Phelps biting his gold medal | Source

Gold Medals Aren't Really Gold

The gold medal given out at the Summer Olympic Games hasn't been real gold since gold medals were handed out at the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm. Gold medals aren't required to be 100 percent gold. Traditionally, Olympic gold medals are required to be made with at least 92.5 percent silver and must contain a minimum of only six grams of gold. Who knew?

The gold medals awarded more than a hundred years later are actually silver with gold plating. Of course, that doesn't matter too much to the athletes who are honored to be in first place.

Who Designs the Medals

The host city's organizing committee is responsible for designing the Olympic medals. That's why all the medals don't look the same. However, there are some requirements that must be taken into consideration when the medals are designed.

Each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver. The gold medal must be covered in six grams of gold. In actuality, the gold medal is more silver than gold. The bronze and silver medals contain 30% of recycled materials.

Because we see the medals hanging around the athletes' neck, many of us don't know that athletes are given a wooden box to house their medals when they are not wearing or displaying them.

Taxes On Medals

Tax Rate
Gold Medal
Silver Medal
Bronze Medal

Olympic Medals Are Taxed

Many people don't know this, but the winners must pay taxes on the medals they earn as well as on the money they receive for coming in first, second, and third place. Athletes from other countries don't have to pay taxes like United States citizens. Uncle Sam has been watching and calculating how many medals Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and others from the United States have won. Phelps stands to pay $55,000 for his five golds and one silver. Taxes have to be paid on the medals and cash awards because they are considered income.

Cash Collected By Winners

Medal Winners
Cash Received

Value of Medals

Gold Medal
Silver Medal
Bronze Medal

Medals Not Very Valuable

The medals are not very valuable in themselves, but it is the honor of getting one that counts. Look at the chart and you might be surprised how much the medals are really worth. Even though that are not worth much, they can be sold and gotten much more on the open market. They can be sold easily from $10,000 to $1 million or more.

Can Athletes Sell Their Medals?

The short answer is "Yes, Olympic medals can be sold." The price depends on whether the medal is gold, silver or bronze. Also, and most importantly, the medal is worth more depending on the athlete who won it. Michael Phelps’ medals are worth at least $100,000 each. They could be worth more if they were won from a noteworthy competition.

A single medal from a not so well-known athlete could be worth about $30,000. Mark Wells, from the 1980 hockey team, sold his gold medal in 2002 for $40,000. Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko sold his 1994 medal for $1 million in 2012. Jesse Owens sold his gold medal he won in the Berlin Olympics in 1936 for a whopping $1.4 million in 2013. Notice the difference in prices.

Did you watch the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games?

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    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, MsDora, for reading my article and commenting!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 17 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great trivia good-to-know article. Thanks for compiling the information. I learned plenty and will look at some of your other articles too.

    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      WOW! What a delight to know my hub kept you interested from start to finish. Some of the information about the Olympic medals I did not know until I did research. I assume you watched the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in your country.

    • alikhan3 profile image

      StormsHalted 17 months ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      Interesting info you have collected ...... I had to read all the way from start to finish !

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