The Real Cost of Being an Olympic Swimmer

By Lewis Braham - 2012-07-31T21:51:06Z

Photograph by Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

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Gold Medals

If you were to melt an Olympic gold medal down, it wouldn't be worth much. The medals haven't been made of pure gold since 1912 and are now comprised of 93 percent silver and 6 percent copper -- worth $650 as raw materials, according to CNN Money. That means Phelps's eight golds are worth $5,200 as scrap metal. The historical provenance changes that equation, of course. A gold medal worn by Mark Wells, a member of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. men's hockey team, garnered $310,700 at an auction two years ago. Given Phelps's legendary status, who knows what one of his medals could fetch -- especially No. 19?