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Mettle more valuable than metal for bronze winners

Canada's Mark Oldershaw celebrates his bronze medal win at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Canadian Olympians leaving London with bronze medals hanging from their necks should place a huge value on their accomplishments – just not their bling.

Gold and silver Olympic medals, were they melted down and priced accordingly, are more valuable than ever, but even the high price of copper is not enough to spare third-place athletes embarrassment should they visit a jeweller with their winnings.

The difference in value is surprising.

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Based on Friday's prices for metal futures, the gold medal that Rosannagh MacLennan won in the women's trampoline event would fetch about $655.

The nine silver medals awarded to Team Canada for placing second in men's eight rowing – eight medals for the rowers and one for coxswain Brian Price – are worth approximately $3,006, or $334 apiece.

But the combined value of the 20 bronze medals awarded to Team Canada for their third-place women's soccer win is less than $60.

At roughly $2.92 a medal, each is worth less than the price of a tall latte at Starbucks.

By the end of the competition on Friday, Canadian athletes had placed on the podium in 17 events, winning gold once, silver five times, and bronze 11 times.

In total, 56 medals have been awarded to Canadian individual and team athletes during the London Games, for a combined total of $7,771.

Canada's 34 bronze medals contribute to less than 2 per cent of that total value.

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With gold and silver prices at higher levels now than they have been during any previous summer Olympics, first- and second-place medals are valuable in both relative and real terms.

But for bronze medalists in London, prices for copper have not improved much since the Beijing Games.

According to Canada Revenue Agency, the value of Olympic medals are not taxed. Gold and silver medalists will be pleased to hear that, but by now, bronze medalists probably will have stopped reading.

Of course, the true financial benefit for Olympic performance comes not from the metals in the medals but from cash prizes and endorsements.

The Canadian Olympic Committee awards with cash all Canadian athletes who make it to the podium.

Gold medalists get $20,000, silver medalists receive $15,000, and bronze winners finally get their dues with a $10,000 award.

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Still, not all will be theirs to take home.

According to the CRA, the government takes a cut by taxing all prizes and endorsements for amateur sport.

As a final silver lining for winning athletes, although their medals need to be declared at the border on returning to Canada, their value does not count against their $800 tax-and-duty-free allowance.

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