Going for Gold… Or 92.5% Silver
The Olympics, an event that has spanned empires, continents and generations is something that we have all grown up with and participated in one way or another.
The London 2012 Games have left much of the city divided, and brought up many questions around the UK’s ability to manage such a global event. Ultimately, however, everyone’s eyes are on the prize – the 4,700 medals available for first, second and third place of each event.
Win the ‘gold’
Of course, what everyone competing and watching would really like is for themselves, or their fellow athletes, to win gold. And whilst it will do nothing to dampen the prestige of such a win, the sad truth is that the medals are no longer real gold bullion.
The last time Olympic gold medals were made from solid gold bullion was in 1912 for the Stockholm Olympics. They weighed 24g and at the time were worth $17.48. Today they would be worth $1,221.54.
Gold medals, today, are effectively silver medals dipped in gold. Regulations state they must be at least 92.5% silver and plated with a minimum of 6g of gold. Weighing nearly 400g in total this year’s medals are the heaviest yet and, for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the silver content of the medals will be worth more than their gold content (based on current gold prices and silver prices).
The reason for abandoning pure gold medals is unclear. But it may well be down to cost. The problem is, the longer loose monetary policies continue, the more expensive gold and silver bullion will appear to be. Will we see this reflected in the gold content percentage for medals at future Games?
From the gold standard to silver medals
There are some timely parallels to be drawn with the date of the last gold medal and the change in the economic system. A mere two years after the last pure gold medal was won, the Classical Gold Standard came to end. Although gold medals have lost some of their market value, it is thrown into perspective when compared with what has happened to many sovereign currencies.
Since the end of the Classical Gold Standard, both the US Dollar and the British pound have lost over 90% of their value. In contrast, both gold and silver have reached record highs and are likely to continue to climb in price as the devaluation of our paper money continues.
A year after the last gold medal was awarded, the US Congress enacted the Federal Reserve Act and in 1914, Britain found themselves in what became World War I. As a result of both of these factors, each government implemented money supply policies with greater elasticity and in turn excessive debt creation and money debasement.
As a result of WWI, the 1916 Olympic Games were also cancelled.
Accordingly, as the Olympic Games were revived and continue to this day with great levels of success and development, the gold standard in its various forms has been abandoned.
Weight in gold bullion
What we must not forget is the true value of these medals far out shines their actual weight in gold. In 2004 a medal won by Polish swimmer, Otylia Jedrzejczak, was auctioned for charity and sold for $82,999. Gold may be the ultimate form of wealth preservation and fiat, but nothing can make you feel quite as wealthy as winning the most historical and highest accolade in the sporting world.
The Real Asset Company would like to wish the all the Olympic athletes the best of luck for London 2012.
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