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Olympic Gold Medal Worth $650 Melted Down

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Front and back view of the gold medals being handed out at the London Olympics -- to the winners, of course.
Front and back view of the gold medals being handed out at the London Olympics -- to the winners, of course.

Olympic gold medals aren't what they used to be. Sure, they still represent a lifetime of sweat and sacrifice. It's just that the medals themselves have gone a little, um, chintzy.

The gold medals being awarded at the London Olympics, starting Friday, are made of 93 percent silver and just 1.34 percent gold. The rest is copper. That adds up to $650 in meltdown value, reports CNN.

The silver medals (93 percent silver, 7 percent copper) are worth about $335 and the bronze (mostly copper) less than $5. That means finishing in third can't even buy you a cheeseburger in most places.

At least the latest batch beats the 2000 Sydney Games in metal exchange value. Those gold medals were worth just $80, the Wall Street Journal reported, because they were small and gold and silver prices were way down. Better to have won at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. At today's prices, those bullion-blended golds would be worth $1,000, according to the Journal.

Athletes who win a gold medal in London may want to hang on to it, no matter how many valuable metals are in there.
EBay is rife with hard-luck stories about gold medalists looking to reap big bucks and falling short.

But if winners want to go the auction route, they could do it for a good cause like swimmer Anthony Ervin. He shared the gold in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Olympics. Instead of pocketing the profits when he put his gold on the block on eBay in 2005, he donated the $17,100 winning bid to a disaster relief fund.