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Fort Knox Gold Vaults

fort knox gold vault
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EDITOR'S NOTE: It’s estimated that the US has around $292.7 billion worth of gold bullion stored in Fort Knox (and that’s in today’s money). It’s there “just in case we need it,” as former Fed Maestro Alan Greenspan once said. The area is so well-secured that no American president besides FDR has ever set foot in the gold vaults. The problem is that its history of audits has all been sketchy. An audit on the 1950s was never completed. Audit reports from 1974 to 1986 are missing. Continuing audits were discontinued in 1986 while numerous re-audits were done in the years leading up to its discontinuation. You can read more about it here. In short, how much gold does the US really have and to what extent can we trust the Federal Reserve’s figures?

While those of us who served there in the military may have seen the secure and secret building that houses gold, many Americans are not aware of the precious metal residing in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The Fort Knox gold vaults are sometimes called the “bullion bunker.”

Operated by the U.S. Treasury, the amount of gold stored there is almost beyond comprehension. Currently, the total is 147.3 million ounces of gold. That equates to 4,603 tons, much of it in 27-pound bars. The remainder consists of gold coins. The book value — the fixed price set in 1973 — is $6.22 billion. But based on the price of gold as this is written, the market value is a whopping $292.7 billion.

The original reason for having the gold at Fort Knox goes back to the days when the United States was on the gold standard. Gold provided backing for the currency, and dollars could be converted into gold. The nation went off the gold standard in 1971, and some wonder why the bullion is still kept there. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said it is there “just in case we need it.”

Commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt — the only president to set foot inside the gold vaults — the depository was constructed in 1936 on land transferred to the Treasury from the Army. Its purpose was to house gold previously stored in New York City and Philadelphia. The gold was moved to an area considered less vulnerable to foreign military attack. A large portion of the nation’s gold reserve resides there — approximately 56.3 percent.

The vaults served as a depository for other valuable items during World War II. They included originals of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. and drafts of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Also residing in the vaults were a Gutenberg Bible and a copy of the Magna Carta. In 1944, the items were returned to Washington, D.C.

Interestingly, opium and morphine were placed in the gold depository in 1955 to ensure the nation had adequate supplies in case of war or supply disruptions. The stockpile (68,269 pounds) was sufficient to meet the needs of the entire nation for one year. As the cold war ended, concerns about supply disruptions abated. And in 1993, the remaining opium reserves were converted into morphine sulfate to extend the life of the stock. Morphine has a longer shelf life than opium.

Wayne Curtis, former superintendent of Alabama banks, is a retired Troy University business school dean. Email him at wccurtis39 @gmail.com.

Originally published on South Alabamanian.

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