Precious Metal Value of the 23 Gold Medals Michael Phelps Wears on the Cover of SI Will Surprise You

For the first time ever, swimming icon Michael Phelps graces the cover of Sport Illustrated wearing every one of his 23 Olympic gold medals. That's nearly 14.5 pounds of precious metal, but what is it really worth?

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The size of gold medals have varied over Phelps' four Olympic appearances. In 2004, the medals of the Athens Games weighed 135 grams. Four years later, the Beijing medals grew to 200 grams. In 2012, the London Games awarded 412-gram gold medals, and in 2016, the Rio de Janeiro medals weighed a whopping 500 grams (1.1 pounds).

If each of Phelps' medals were made of pure gold — as they were back in 1912 — the entire gold cache would tally $239,235.

But, alas, starting in 1916, gold medals were made mostly of silver. The International Olympic Committee mandated that gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of 24-karat gold over 96% pure silver.

As we do the math, we find that the gold content in each Phelps medal is worth about $219. The total gold value of the 23 medals is an unspectacular $5,034. The silver value of the complete group is $3,274.

The combined value of all the gold and silver in the gold medals is $8,308, less than the price of Phelps' round-trip, first-class airfare from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro.

While the most decorated Olympic athlete won't get rich by melting down his Olympic hardware, he has already amassed a fortune in multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals with high profile companies, such as Speedo, Visa, Omega watches, Subway, Kellogg, Under Armour, Head and Shoulders, Louis Vuitton, Procter & Gamble, Hilton hotels, HP and Powerbar. Coupled with the prize money earned at competitions, Phelps' net worth is estimated at $55 million.

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In the Sports Illustrated article, the 31-year-old Phelps didn't offer much hope to fans wishing to see him competing in the Olympic pool at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“If I do get the desire to come back, great,” Phelps told SI. “Right now, I just don’t see it.”

Phelps' wife, Nicole, believes that the person who may be able to convince the vaunted swimmer to compete again is his son, Boomer. It's going to take a little while before Boomer can communicate that message to his dad. He's only seven months old.

Overall, Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals — 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.

The December 22nd issue marks the 12th time Phelps has appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover. The record is held by basketball star Michael Jordan, who has enjoyed the honor 50 times.

Credit: Michael Phelps cover by Sports Illustrated.

BlogNicole Cohen