Fort Knox gold

Fort Knox, officially titled “The United States Bullion Depository”, stores much of the United States’ gold reserves. It is part of the US Mint, and thought to hold 2.3% of all the gold ever refined in the world. US Mint figures for January 2018 put the total gold held in Fort Knox at 4581.5 tonnes. By today’s gold prices that would make the gold in Fort Knox worth over €246,606,201,380!

Fort Knox Gold Deposit, Kentucky
The bullion depository is located near to the city of Radcliff, in Kentucky. It is next to the Fort Knox military base which dates back to 1918, and it is from this the popular name is derived. It is the largest US Mint storage facility, but other bullion deposits can be found in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC and West Point.

US gold deposit figures

A common misconception is that Fort Knox is the largest gold deposit in the world, but this title is actually held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, located at 33 Liberty Street, New York City. The building is estimated to hold an impressive 6,350 tons of gold, worth $203.3 billion. The majority of this does not belong to the US though; over 95% of this bullion is stored for governments and international investors.

Fort Knox history

The depository was built following U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, controversial 1933 legislation – Executive Order 6102 – which outlawed the private ownership of gold bullion. US citizens were required to sell their gold bullion – bars and coins – back to the State. Between 1933 and 1937, this increased the US reserves, with gold worth around $8 billion.

In 1936, Fort Knox military base was chosen as the site to build a bullion depository to store this gold. The Fort Knox facility was opened within the year, and took its first shipment of gold in 1937.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed legislation outlawing private ownership of gold, and gave instruction to build the depository at Fort Knox. Image courtesy of Flikr under the Creative Commons.

The vaults and building

The Fort Knox depository building is made of concrete-lined granite, and is reinforced by steel. The door into the vault is made of steel and concrete, and weighs more than 20 tonnes. Additional security is provided by minefields, barbed wire, electric fences, armed guards plus unmarked Apache helicopter gunships. Unsurprisingly given its value, Fort Knox's gold is kept incredibly secure.

How much gold is in Fort Knox?

All the 4581.5 tonnes of gold in Fort Knox is entirely owned by The U.S. Department of the Treasury. Much of it is stored in standard bars measuring around 180 x 92 x 44mm each, similar to a standard house brick, and weighing 12.5kg. It is held simply as a reserve and a store of wealth; as former Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Alan Greenspan said, the reserves were held '...just in case we need it.'

Fort Knox gold quote

Officially, only gold samples have been removed since the facility was last audited in 1953. There have though, been many rumours that the vaults have been depleted, or may even be empty. To disprove these claims there have been two inspections by civilian delegations, in 1974 and 2017, but doubts still remain. Before these two visits, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1943, was the only person, other than depository personnel, to access the vaults. We reported in 2019 that US Congressman Alex Mooney is seeking a full audit of the United States’ gold reserves.

During the Second World War the vaults were also used to protect the original US Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as copies of The British Magna Carta, and the Hungarian Crown Jewels. Strangely, amid fears of Cold War escalation, the vaults were also used to store medicines during the 1950s, including tonnes of opium; these were disposed of in 1993.

Today, Fort Knox Bullion Depository is one of the world’s most secure buildings. Despite this, in December 2018, work began on a new state administered precious metals depository in Texas. The rival facility will have room for up to $350 billion in precious metals. This will be more than that held currently in Fort Knox.