Gold has been hoarded by governments and individuals for longer than history remembers because the precious metal is so valuable. There are an estimated 244 thousand metric tons of gold in the world, which if gathered together would total a giant cube measuring 28 meters on each side. But where is all this gold? Around half of all gold in use by humans today exists in the form of jewelry, but this only accounts for around 93 thousand tons. Another 53 thousand is unrecovered underground reserves of gold, which leaves approximately 78 thousand tons of gold unaccounted for.
The United States government holds a large reserve of solid gold, like many other nations around the world. In this article, we’ll break down exactly how much of the global gold supply is sitting in underground vaults beneath US soil. We’re also going to explain why it is that so many different countries have a gold reserve, and how vital these stores are to the economy. In addition, we’ll go over the other global nations holding a significant amount of physical gold. Read on to discover why gold reserves are important.
What Is a Gold Reserve?
A gold reserve is the stock of physical gold held by a national central bank. The purpose of this reserve is generally to back-up the currency of the bank, and ascribe value to paper money. Gold held in central banks serves as a guarantee for people who deposit money in the bank and support the value of the national currency. In 2010, central banks all the world around stopped being the primary sellers of gold and started being the biggest customer instead. This increase in the buying of gold by global governments is a sure sign that investors need to do the same.
The significance of a nation’s gold reserve has changed over time, as it used to have a key role in wartime. Historically, gold reserves were a major prize of war and the most important financial asset of the country, which made protection during wartime a vital effort. For example, during the second world war, the nation of Belgium held about 70 million GBP in gold. As Germany threatened to invade, the reserves were transferred to other countries in order to prevent the attacking nation from gaining such an advantage.
Just under one-third of Belgium’s supply was transferred to France, while the rest was safely transported to the UK, US, and Canada. When war broke out, Belgium wished for the reserves in France to be sent to America, but they were sent instead to Senegal. When Germany took France and therefore the French colonial empire of Senegal, they acquired 198 tons of Belgian gold. This was then used to purchase commodities and munitions to help with the war effort, a big loss for the allies. While France has since repaid the central bank of Belgium to compensate for their loss, this example underlines the importance of gold in wartime.
About half of the Treasury’s stored gold, as well as valuables of other federal agencies, is kept at Fort Knox.
Why Does The U.S. Have a Gold Reserve?
There are two primary reasons why the United States has a federal reserve of gold, and it’s the same for any country. Firstly, the credibility of fiat money must be protected. Value is ascribed to paper currency far beyond the value of the materials, so something of true worth must back up the claim. The gold standard is no longer an official statement of value, but it’s still the most universally agreed-upon measure.
During periods of economic or political instability, the value of a nation’s currency can be threatened. In these situations, gold reserves back up the value of fiat money so that it doesn’t drop to nothing. If the United States didn’t have a federal reserve of gold, there would be no substance to the claim that a $20 note is worth $20. The amount of gold ascribed to that banknote is the only thing giving it true value. National gold reserves exist to reinforce and stabilize the value of fiat currency.
Central banks must also hold gold to balance their portfolios, to spread the wealth of the nation among several different assets. If banks held only large quantities of their own currency, there would be no back up if the value of the dollar fell. Gold tends to rise in value as the dollar falls, so by balancing a reserve of gold with paper money, they ensure that the bank can stay open.
How Much Gold Does The U.S. Government Have?
The United States has the largest reserve of gold in the world, at 8134 metric tons. This is equal to more than 261 million fine troy ounces. The book value of the U.S. federal reserve is just over 11 billion dollars. Most of America’s gold is gold bullion, but a small percentage is also made up of gold coins, blanks, and miscellaneous items. The majority of this gold is held across three different secure locations, with only a tiny quantity classed as working stock.
Fort Knox, which is the United States Bullion Depository, holds more than half of the country's gold supply. There is an excess of 147 million troy ounces of gold at Fort Knox in Kentucky or roughly four and a half thousand metric tons of gold. The book value of the reserve is 6.2 billion, but the market value is closer to 230 billion dollars. Fort Knox holds a total of 56% of the U.S. Treasury’s gold.
The United States Mint in Denver, Colorado has in storage 43 million troy ounces, while West Point in New York totals a further 54 million. That brings the grand total of deep storage American gold to an impressive 245 million fine troy ounces, with a book value of 10 billion dollars. However, that isn’t all the gold the U.S. government has. There is also a working stock of mint-held treasury gold, as well as a federal reserve held by banks.
Just over 11% of the United States' gold is working stock, which can be coins, blanks, and miscellaneous gold held by mints. This totals over 2.7 million troy ounces and has a book value of $117.5 million. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stores more than 13 million troy ounces of fine gold bullion in its vaults, while on display above ground are nearly 2000. An additional 73 thousand troy ounces of gold coins are also stored by the federal reserve. This brings the total of bank-held gold in the United States to nearly 13.5 million troy ounces, with a book value of 568 million US dollars.
So, the United States has a lot of gold, and they’re smart enough not to keep all their eggs in one basket. Including the Federal Reserve in New York, the working stock held in mints, and a gargantuan supply of deep storage gold, America’s government gold reserve equals no less than 261 million troy ounces. You might be surprised to hear that previous to World War II, supplies were more than double the current store.
More than 8 million kilograms of gold is owned by the United States Government, to back up their currency and give banks a reliable store of value. The global supply is estimated to be around 221 million kilos, meaning that the US owns about 3.6% of all gold in the world. While this might not seem like much, the US has the largest gold reserve in the world by a large margin. In fact, you could combine the total reserves of the next three closest countries and still not top this figure.
The book value of these supplies is calculated by the Department of Treasury and is put at about $42 per troy ounce. This means on paper, US gold is worth just over 11 billion dollars. However, the market value of gold is much higher. It’s worth noting that in 2019 the USA’s gold reserves were valued at $388.4 billion, a figure which will have increased in the time since. As well as having the highest gold stores of any individual nation, the US has the highest gold allocation at 79% of foreign reserves.
How Much Gold Does The United States Really Have?
There is much speculation about how truthful the official gold reserve figures actually are, as there has never been a third-party audit of UC gold conducted. Many people believe the true amount of gold in the US could be much lower, and official figures are inflated to keep faith in the fiat money system. Regardless of the skepticism towards the U.S. Federal Reserve, it’s an American coin that leads the world in gold.
The American Gold Eagle is regarded by the majority of industry experts as the very best gold coin for investment. More than 20 million ounces of gold have been sold to investors all over the world in American Eagle coins, and it remains the most popular bullion purchase by a significant margin. While critics may say that the United States is deceptive in the reporting of their supplies, it’s impossible to deny that the bullion business is booming.
The United States holds the number one spot with over 8,000 tonnes of gold in its vaults – nearly as much as the next three countries combined.
Which Countries Have the Highest Gold Reserves?
Following the United States, there are six other nations as well as an independent fund holding a significant amount (more than 1000 metric tons) of gold. America leads by a margin of more than 4000 tons, so don’t expect them to be overtaken any time soon. Gold holdings from the top 10 countries equal 23,708.5 tons. That’s just under 10% of the entire global supply sitting in the bank vaults of just 10 nations.
After America, Germany has the next highest gold stockpile. They have 1.8% of the world’s yellow precious metal weighing in at 3363.6 metric tons. Following the second world war, Germany had not a gram of gold to their name, but have since managed to accumulate the second-largest hoard in the world. Germany recently made the decision to repatriate 374 tons of gold back from France where it was stored to protect it from the Soviet Union. Germany now holds 50.6% of their own gold in Frankfurt, while the rest is still kept in New York and London. In the event of a financial crisis affecting the Euro, Germany will be able to quickly and easily purchase dollars or pounds using gold.
Italy is the nation with the next largest gold holdings, but there’s another location with a bigger stash. The International Monetary Fund is a 74-year-old financial institution created to promote global monetary cooperation and financial stability. The IMF plays a key role in the balance of payments difficulties and international financial crises. Only to be beaten by Germany and the USA, the International Money Fund boasts a 2814 ton supply of fine gold. It’s valued at more than 4 billion, and at market prices, this reserve is worth nearly 140 billion USD.
Closely following the IMF, Italy has a reserve of 2451.8 tons of gold. Like the US and Germany, this supply represents a high percentage of foreign reserves at 71.3%. Italy’s 78.8 million troy ounces of gold plays an important role in stabilizing the country, protecting against fluctuations between the Euro and dollar and giving the country a safety reserve of valuables. The second world war had a serious effect on the finances of many nations, and when it began it reduced the Italian gold reserves to just 106 tons. By 1944, confiscations and loans had further reduced the supply to a measly 22 tons. Luckily, Italy has strategically and successfully rebuilt its gold reserves to the third largest national supply.
France is next on the list with 2436 tons of fine gold. Foreign reserves represent 65.5%, but some political powers in France are trying to change that. The president of France’s far-right party wishes to repatriate all French gold from foreign bank vaults, but we know the disadvantages of this. Without any foreign reserves, France would have no stabilizing factor in the event of an economic crash. They would not be able to make fast foreign currency purchases and could suffer huge losses in the Euro.
The Russian Central Bank has been buying up gold for years and overtook China in 2018 in gold reserves. They have 2299.9 tonnes of gold, only 23% of which is held in foreign reserves. In 2017, Russia sold a huge portion of its U.S. Treasuries to buy 224 tons of bullion. They did this to diversify away from the US dollar, one action out of many which adds to the growing dissent between Russia and the US. Russia is now pulling back on the gold purchases, but they’re number three in world production. This means we could still see Russia’s reserves continue to skyrocket, with an annual production of 297 tons and an estimated underground reserve of more than five thousand. Read more about where gold is found on earth to understand which countries have unmined gold.
China recently overtook South Africa in global gold production, adding to its reputation as a precious metal superpower. Chinese gold reserves measure 1948.3 tons of metal, with only 3.4% in foreign reserves. As well as being the leading producer of gold, China is one of the yellow metal’s biggest customers, buying more than 100 tones in the last two years. Like Russia, we only expect to see China continue to fill their gold vaults. Luckily, the US maintains a healthy lead of more than 6000 tonnes of gold.
The United States has the world’s largest gold reserve at more than 8 thousand metric tons. Over half is stored in Fort Knox, while the rest is distributed between several U.S. mints and the New York Federal Reserve. The 261 million troy ounces of fine gold has a book value of around 11 billion dollars, but the market price puts this gold hoard at a whopping $388.4 billion. The US has the largest stash of gold coins, bars, and ingots in the world, more than double that of any other nation.
America’s gold reserve is vital to a stable economy; the U.S. holds gold for the same reasons as any investor would. Physical precious metals are necessary to back up the value of fiat money, as the dollar only exists as a placeholder for gold. Paper currency has no real value, so it is only the gold reserves of the issuing nation which give monetary power to banknotes. If a government has no gold, it has no protection from financial crises which could cripple the national currency. A gold reserve stands to prop up the economy in the event of financial collapse. Considering that the US has the largest (reported) gold reserve in the world, it stands to reason they are the best equipped to handle any potential economic issues.