In the days following World War II, army surplus yards opened in many parts of the country, selling all kinds of items that had been manufactured for the U.S. war effort. All sorts of items showed up – hats, coats, uniforms, tarpaulins, tents, and even some decommissioned “souvenir” hand grenades. There were even opportunities to buy electronic devices like field radios that contained small amounts of gold.Read More
When a medal sold for $1.47 million last year, lots of people started to dust off their medals and look at them with renewed interest. Granted, that medal was something unbelievably special. It was one of the four gold medals won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. (Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?)
If you own a commemorative medal – or maybe a quantity of them - how much value do you have in hand? It depends, because the value of medals depends on several factors.
The Collectable Worth
The value of a commemorative medal is affected by a number of factors that include age, country of origin, rarity, and the history of the person or event honored by the medal. (This could be harder to determine, especially if you obtained the medals at an estate sale, garage sale or antique dealer.) How can you research those variables? Here are resources to use . . .
- Contact an independent appraiser or expert. These organizations can help you connect with one: The American Numismatic Society; the American Numismatic Association; the Token and Medal Society. Note that it is wisest not to get your medals appraised by a dealer who then buys them; if dishonest, he or she could be lowballing you and stealing dollars right out of your pocket.
- Research the sales of similar or identical medals at auctions. You can start out by checking previous or current sales of similar medals on eBay. Another option is to visit the websites of auction houses that regularly hold auctions of medals and medallic art. They include: Bonhams; Christies; and Spink.
The Value of the Metals that Your Medals Contain
If your medal(s) do not have high collectable value, your next step is to determine the metals that they are made of.
How can you tell? Sometimes it is easy. Jesse Owens’s gold medal was made of real gold, of course. And silver and bronze medals are often (but not always) made of those metals too. Sometimes, commemorative medals will come with documentation that spells out exactly which metals they contain, especially if they are military medals.
Short of such clear signals, it can be difficult to know the makeup of the medals that you own. There are variables, including country of origin and age. In general, newer commemoratives – especially those manufactured in large quantities over the last few years – are apt to contain lower quantities of precious metals than are older medals that were issued in small editions.
If you are trying to determine the value of the metals in a batch of commemorative medals, your wisest strategy is to contact a qualified precious metals recycler or refiner, like Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners.
To Summarize Your Steps . . .
To sum up the advice in today’s post, your first step is to establish the collectible value of your medals. Then, if they do not have high value to collectors, you should determine the value of the precious metals that they contain. For that, you need the services of a top precious metals refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners. Call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more.
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