2020 Tokyo Olympics: How Much Do Olympic Medals Typically Sell For?

by Jonathan Howard

Have you always dreamed of having an Olympic medal around your neck, but never excelled at anything at an Olympic level? Well, you could just buy a medal. There is getting to be quite the market on Olympic medals. Depending on the year, the sport, and other factors such as whether it is a gold, silver, or bronze, an Olympic medal can fetch upwards of over a million dollars at auction.

There are medals that are more affordable for those looking to get into collecting on a budget. If you have a few hundred dollars or more to spend on a collectible, perhaps a non-descript bronze medal is more in your wheelhouse. Collectors can find medals without inscriptions or the original ribbons if they want to go low-budget.

An Olympic medal is going to have more value as a sentimental piece for an athlete than any market can fetch. However, that doesn’t mean that athletes won’t and haven’t parted with their awards for different reasons. Some donate to charity. Others need financial help from the sale, and there are plenty of personal reasons for selling an Olympic medal.

There has been a slew of recent sales of Olympic medals from a variety of Olympic Games. A silver medal from the 1900 Paris Olympics sold for $1,283 recently, but a bronze medal from the 1956 Winter Games sold for $3,750. There are so many factors that go into the price of a medal, which can and will fluctuate with time.

Rare and Expensive Olympic Medals

Rarity and oddity can put a lot of value into any collector’s item. That applies to Olympic medals as well. If we go back to the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens, Greece in 1896, these first games didn’t have gold medals. Instead of gold, winners were awarded silver medals and runners-up were awarded copper medals. Third place received no medal.

Since the games have changed to a three-place podium with gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded, those medals have been retroactively given to the athletes from the past games. One of those first-place, silver medals sold for $180,111 from a Boston-based auction house. The auction house also handled the 1900 silver medal and the 1956 bronze medal previously mentioned.

With the popularity of collecting medals growing, a record was broken in 2019. One of Jesse Owens’ four gold medals from the 1936 Berlin Games went up for auction. The sale price, $1.5 million, is a record for any piece of Olympic memorabilia. Owens is one of the most legendary Olympic athletes in the history of the modern games.

While there is some gold in an Olympic gold medal, it is mostly just made of silver. The silver medals are made of pure silver and the bronze medals are made up of red brass. The composition of red brass is 95% copper and 5% zinc. There are cases and specific displays that must go with each medal, according to IOC specifications.