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What's A Gold Medal Really Worth?

Weighing 400 grams, the Olympic gold medals that are being doled out at the London 2012 Summer Games are the heaviest ever, according to reports. But that doesn't mean they're the most valuable: at an estimated $620.82, they're nearly $590 short of the $1,207.86 value held by a gold medal from the Stockholm Games of 1912.

The discrepancy stems from the fact that the 2012 gold medals contain only 6 grams of gold; the rest is silver and copper. In fact, the London bling contains more copper than gold, which is only used to coat the medals with a plating layer.

Those are the findings of Lear Capital, a precious metals firm that put its data about the gold medal into a handy graphical chart. For its calculations, the company used metal prices on a single day, July 11, 2012.

Of course, if an Olympic medal is ever sold or auctioned, they can fetch far more than the value of their component metals. That's because they have extrinsic value. And for some athletes, that extrinsic value translates into actual hard cash when they win.

That's the gist of a BBC story out today, about Kazakh gold medalist Zulfiya Chinshanlo, 19, who earned herself a $250,000 bonus when she won the women's 53kg weightlifting event. To put that figure in perspective the BBC notes that it's "10 times the amount a U.S. athlete would get if he or she captures top spot."

The BBC spoke to Chinshanlo after she'd gotten off the phone with President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"I won't tell you how much money he will give me," she said. "I am afraid I will be robbed."

But the bonus isn't a secret, says the BBC, which listed other nations' bounties, to prove it:

  • Kyrgyzstan: $200,000
  • Uzbekistan: $150,000
  • Tajikistan: $63,000

As for the other medals, CBS reports that the silver, which contains more copper, is worth around $330, with the bronze — containing 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin — is only worth about $4.70.

If you're not an athlete, but want an Olympic medal of your own, you can always turn to eBay, as ABC recently reported.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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