Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are set to award at least 339 medals to its participants this year. While many consider the medals priceless, some have sold their medals to get out of financial woes.
The design of the Olympic medals changes for each game. For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, each of the gold, silver, and bronze medals is designed by Junichi Kawanishi, the director of the Japan Sign Design Association and USD-O.
How Much Are Olympic Medals Worth?
According to the regulations of the International Olympic Committee, the medals should feature Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the official name of the Games, and the Olympic five rings symbol.
For this year, each of the gold, silver and bronze medals measure 85 millimeters in diameter, with a thickness of 7.7 mm to 12.1 mm.
The gold medal, which is made from gold-plated pure silver, weighs 556 grams. If melted down, participants can net at least $800. The silver medal, which weighs 550 grams, can be worth about $450. The bronze medal, weighing approximately 450 grams, may be sold for about $5, according to CNN.
Many Olympic medals are now finding their way to pawn shops and auction houses. Some Olympians have cited financial hardships as the reason for selling while others say they were selling their medals to help raise money for charity.
In 1984, Greg Louganis captured a double Olympic goal after sweeping the diving events in consecutive Games. His feat earned him a place as one of the greatest divers in history, according to the New York Post.
However, in 2012, Louganis approached Ingrid O'Neil, who ran an eponymous auction house in California, to sell some of his medals due to a dire financial situation that saw him facing foreclosure on his Malibu home.
Selling Olympic Medals
"He wanted $100,000 for each medal," O'Neil said, according to Fox News. "I told him I didn't think I could sell them for that amount. Nowadays, though, I think it would be possible."
Mark Wells was part of the legendary USA hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union in 1980. He later became a restaurant manager in Michigan but was injured while unloading crates. During an 11-hour surgery, doctors discovered he had a rare degenerative spinal disease, forcing him to sell his gold medal to a private collector for $40,000, who later sold it at an auction for $310,700.
"It killed me to sell the medal . . . [but] I was going to lose my home. I needed to sell it to have surgery and to live," Wells said in 2010, according to Fox News. "I had no choice."
Bill Russell, former captain of the Boston Celtics, has put his 1956 Olympics gold medal for sale, along with his NBA championship rings, a warm-up jacket and other items, to help MENTOR-a charity that promotes youth mentorship opportunities.
The highest price a gold Olympic medal has fetched in history was Jesse Owen's medal from the 1936 Berlin Games, which the auction house nearly $1.5 million.