While there’s no way to calculate the exact number of soccer fans worldwide, one can point to the unrivaled draw of the World Cup as an indication of what is by far the most popular sport on the planet. Every four years, the World Cup brings soccer fans together and generates around four to five billion dollars of revenue for the host nation, while the FIFA governing body rakes in about one billion dollars of their own in ad revenue. Those who win immortal glory for their birthplaces are awarded the coveted World Cup trophy, famous for its golden composition (in comparison, the NHL’s 35-pound Stanley Cup is made of just ordinary silver). Just how much gold lies in the trophy?
The Man, The Model, The Statue
The first trophy awarded to World Cup champs wasn’t the image of men holding up the world but rather the Greek goddess Nike (victory), and wasn’t pure gold but rather sterling silver plated with gold. In 1966, a thief absconded with the original trophy, which has yet to be found. The new trophy highlights two men holding up the planet, representing the team. While some mistakenly think the orb of the trophy represents a soccer ball itself, a closer look reveals the individual continents that come together to play out the beautiful game every four years. The base of the trophy is malachite, which, at around fifty dollars per pound, is about the same value as iron and far removed from the value of gold.
At 37 centimeters and 6 kilograms, it’s tempting to think that the trophy is solid gold, which would make it worth about a quarter of a million dollars. If it were pure gold, however, it would be impossible to pick up by the victors with one hand, as a trophy that size made of solid gold is estimated to weigh about 150 pounds, making it difficult for famous photo-ops. Instead, players get an 18-carat gold-plated replica that’s worth only a fraction of the cost of a solid gold statue. If the trophy were made of solid gold, it might not be as purely valuable to some professional soccer players as you may think. An elite player like Lionel Messi, for instance, takes home a $60 million paycheck each year, meaning that even a pure-gold statue would be worth less than two day’s pay. Indeed, Messi’s wristwatch endorsement 1 of choice, the Audemars Pigue, can cost twice as much as such a large sum of gold, while his Maserati MC Stradale costs three to four times as much.
So how much is the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy worth? As the price of gold fluctuates, the melt value of the statue also fluctuates. For example, the melt value of the gold in the trophy was worth around $96,000 in 2006 and nearly $188,000 in 2010. However, the statue is worth much more than just melt value. Created in 1971 for about $50,000, today it is worth around $10 million. Still, the true value of the trophy for soccer fans is symbolic and certainly outweighs even the cup’s formidable price tag.
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