12 November 2009


The Treasury Department has 261.5 million ounces of gold in its reserves, representing about a third of the gold stockpiles held by governments around the world. At $1,100 per oz, Uncle Sam is sitting on $288 billion worth of gold. Treasury's gold sits in vaults across the country. There are about 25,000 bars held five floors down, 80 feet below street level, in the New York Federal Reserve in Manhattan. The majority of the nation's gold reserves is in Ft. Knox in Kentucky.

The vault underneath the New York Federal Reserve once held over one quarter of the world's monetized gold. Today, it holds about 500,000 gold bars, 95% of which is owned by foreign nations. This photo, taken in 1968, shows a "sitter" counting gold.

"Gold is gold," said Nathan Lewis, author of Gold: The Once and Future Money. "There's no real change in gold's value. Only the value of paper currency declines."
Gold has come in and out of fashion with investors over the years. In times of economic instability or inflation, gold demand and prices have trended higher. Despite wild price fluctuations over the years, gold has maintained its purchasing power for about the past 750 years.
From the mid-14th century until now, you can draw a relative straight line in the purchasing power of gold, and every central banker in their heart knows that. Gold is universally recognized as a store of value. That's important because it denotes price stability.
Gold had been the standard currency for international trade for centuries. In fact, the Federal Reserve vault in New York has compartments for different countries. When one country would trade with another, a "sitter" would simply move bars from one compartment to another.

Governments' dependence on gold has waned over the years, but they still hold 848 million ounces of it, down 29% from the 1965 peak of 1.2 billion ounces, and just 10% from the 942 million ounces they held 50 years ago, according to the World Gold Council.

Treasury still values its gold at $42.22 per ounce. Congress reached that figure in 1973, two years after the the post-World War II Bretton Woods gold standard, which had valued gold at $35 an ounce, was scrapped.

Many gold experts and economists agreed that even though the gold standard has been abandoned for nearly 40 years, the world is still cleaving to its gold because it is a tangible asset.

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