By Jason Notte
The Street

A gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics is valued in the hours, effort and money spent to obtain it, but all that glitters isn't gold.

The price of gold has soared from roughly $1,000 an ounce during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to $1,584 an ounce by mid-July of this year. That's a pretty steep discount on 5 a.m. practices every day since age 5 or a national sports governing body's annual budget, but it gets even steeper when you consider the medal's true makeup.

If an Olympian or the average Joe tried to cash in a medal from this year's games by means other than an auction or a sports memorabilia dealer, they'd be parting with 92.5 percent silver, 6.16 percent copper and 1.34 percent gold. International Olympic Committee rules dictate that gold medals need to contain at least 550 grams of silver and at least six grams of pure gold coating. That adds up to a medal worth roughly $800 for "gold" medal winners in London, which is a huge discount from a medal worth its weight in gold.

While the medals have become weightier over time, it's been weight without the heft of much gold. In fact, the last Olympics to offer 100 percent gold medals was the 1912 games (the year before the Federal Reserve Act was enacted, incidentally.)

Given the current price of gold, if this year's medal was 100 percent gold, you could buy a decent new car with it. We took a look at the Olympic gold medals awarded throughout history and, by weight and by the $1,584-an-ounce market value set in mid-July, came up with the gold-equivalent value of the largest "gold" medals ever awarded. While some would be worth as much as the Hyundai Accent or the down payment on a modest home, the biggest medals of the bunch could put more than a pound of gold in a lucky athlete's pocket:

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