Olympic Medals: Myths and Fun Facts

Updated on March 26, 2020
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.


Every Olympic Games, top-finishing athletes step up to the podium to accept their gold, silver, or bronze medal. How much do you know about the medals themselves? There are many interesting questions to consider.

Winter Games Have a Motto

Since 1924, the Olympic Winter Games have had an official motto, which is emblazoned on the medals. The motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

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.

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. The custom of biting one's medal, especially the gold ones, goes back to an ancient practice of biting into gold to determine if it is real. 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.
Simone Biles biting her gold medal.
Simone Biles biting her gold medal.

Are Gold Medals 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 the 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.

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, or 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 had to pay $55,000 on his five golds and one silver. Taxes have to be paid on the medals and cash awards because they are considered income.

Taxes on Medals

Tax Rate
Gold Medal
Silver Medal
Bronze Medal

Cash Collected by Winners

Medal Winners
Cash Received

How Valuable Are Medals?

The medals are not very valuable in themselves, but it is the honor of getting one that counts. Look at the chart below, and you might be surprised how much the medals are really worth.

Even though they are not worth much, they can be sold for much more on the open market. They can be sold easily from $10,000 to $1 million or more.

Value of Medals

Gold Medal
Silver Medal
Bronze Medal

Can Athletes Sell Their Medals?

The short answer is yes. The price depends on whether the medal is gold, silver, or bronze. Also, and more importantly, the medal's worth depends 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 the sale prices.

Did You Watch the 2018 Winter Olympics?

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Did You Watch the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games?

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© 2016 Margaret Minnicks


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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, MsDora, for reading my article and commenting!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      3 years 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


      3 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

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


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