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Fort Knox

Updated on September 19, 2014

Fort Knox, Gold Bullion Depository

The United States Bullion Depository, commonly called Fort Knox, is a fortified vault building located near Fort Knox, Kentucky which is used to store a large portion of United States official gold reserves, as well as from time to time, other precious items belonging to, or entrusted to, the United States of America.

The United States Bullion Depository holds about 4,603 tons of gold bullion (147.399 million ounces). It is second in the United States only to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's underground vault in Manhattan, which holds about 5,000 metric tons of gold in trust for many foreign nations, central banks and official international organizations.

Creative Commons photo courtesy Wikipedia/Agnico-Eagle

The United States Bullion Depository at Ft. Knox, Kentucky.

Photo courtesy davidpride.com

Fort Knox History

Before the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, gold coins had circulated freely in the United States as legal money, and gold bullion was owned by banks and other private entities. In early 1933, as part of the New Deal, the U.S. Congress enacted a package of laws which removed gold from circulation as money, and which made private ownership of gold in the U.S. (except for coins in collections or jewelry such as wedding rings) illegal. All gold in circulation was seized by the government in exchange for dollars at the fixed rate of $20.67 per ounce. Owners of gold bullion in the U.S. were also required to trade it for other forms of money. All of this left the government of the United States with a large amount of gold metal, and no place to store it.

Seal of the U.S. MintIn 1936, the U.S. Treasury Department began construction of the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on land transferred from the military. The Gold Vault was completed in December 1936 at a cost of $560,000, or about $7.5 million in 2007 dollars. The site is located on what is now Bullion Boulevard at the intersection of Gold Vault Road.

The first gold shipments were made from January to July 1937. The majority of the United States' gold reserves were gradually shipped to the site, including old bullion and more newly made bars made from melted gold coins. Some intact coins were stored, as well. The transfer needed 500 rail cars and was sent by registered mail, protected by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

During World War II, the repository held the original U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. It also held the reserves of several European countries and several key documents from Western history; for example, it held the Crown of St. Stephen, part of the Hungarian crown jewels given to American soldiers to prevent them from falling into Soviet hands. The repository also held one of four known copies (exemplifications) of Magna Carta, which had been sent for display at the 1939 New York World Fair, and when war broke out, was kept in America for the duration.

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Holdings

Gold holdings peaked during World War II at 649.6 million troy ounces (20,205 metric tons). Current holdings are around 147.3 million ounces (4,570 t) in around 368,000 standard 400 troy ounce (12.4 kg or 27.4 lb avoirdupois) gold bars. At April 2008 rates of $913 an ounce it is worth roughly $134 billion, while the World War II total of 649.6 million troy ounces would be worth approximately $593 billion.

The depository also holds monetary gold coins. It also holds several specimens of Sacagawea Dollar coins made out of 22kt (91.6% pure) gold from blanks that are used to strike the $25 half-ounce American Gold Eagle bullion pieces made for an unknown project. The 1933 Double Eagle was also a temporary resident after transfer from 7 WTC in July 2001, until its sale in July 2002 for $7.59 million. Sometime in 2004, 10 additional allegedly stolen 1933 Double Eagles were transported to Fort Knox for safekeeping and high security ].

Not all the gold bars held in the depository are of exactly the same composition. The mint gold bars are nearly pure gold. Bars made from melted gold coins, however, called "coin bars," are the same composition as the original coins. Unlike many .999 fine gold bullion coins minted in modern times for holding-purposes today, the coin alloy for pre-1932 U.S. coins, which were intended for circulation, was a much tougher and wear-resistant .900 fine alloy (balance copper) derived historically from 22-carat crown gold (a similar alloy consisting of .917 gold, .030 silver, .053 copper is still used in modern U.S. American Gold Eagle bullion coins).

All of the gold in the depository, if pure, could form a cube 19.7 feet (6 m) on a side - a volume of 216 m³. In comparison, all the gold ever mined in the world would form a cube 64.3 feet (19.6 m) on a side, with a volume of approximately 7500 m³.

The United States holds more gold bullion than any other country, with about 2.37 times that of the next leading country, Germany.

Additional Fort Facts

***The only gold removed has been very small quantities used to test the purity of gold during regularly scheduled audits. Except for these samples, no gold has been transferred to or from the Depository for many years.

***The gold is held as an asset of the United States at book value of $42.22 per ounce.

***The Depository opened in 1937; the first gold was moved to the depository in January that year.

Highest gold holdings this century: 649.6 million ounces (December 31, 1941).

***Size of a standard gold bar: 7 inches x 3 and 5/8 inches x 1 and 3/4 inches.

***Weight of a standard gold bar: approximately 400 ounces or 27.5 pounds.

***Building materials used included 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforcing steel, and 670 tons of structural steel.

***The cost of construction was $560,000 and the building was completed in December 1936.

***In the past, the Depository has stored the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, Lincoln's Gettysburg address, three volumes of the Gutenberg Bible, and Lincoln's second inaugural address.

***In addition to gold bullion, the Mint has stored valuable items for other government agencies. The Magna Carta was once stored there. The crown, sword, scepter, orb, and cape of St. Stephen, King of Hungary also were stored at the Depository, before being returned to the government of Hungary in 1978.

***The Depository is a classified facility. No visitors are permitted, and no exceptions are made.

Any Thoughts on Fort Knox? - Feel free to leave a comment here. Thanks for visiting.

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    • LaurenAmy LM profile image

      LaurenAmy LM 4 years ago

      Fascinated by Fort Knox as of late, great lens

    • senditondown profile image

      Senditondown 5 years ago from US

      The age old question, "Is there still gold at Fort Knox"? Nice lens.

    • profile image

      akrause2112 6 years ago

      Fabulous lens on a unique subject! I love anything history!! Too good of lens to be left behind....it has received a Squid Angel blessing!