Gold reserve

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For the gold mining company, see Gold Reserve.
World Gold Reserves from 1845 to 2013, in tonnes (also known as metric tons in the United States)

A gold reserve is the gold held by a national central bank, intended as a store of value and as a guarantee to redeem promises to pay depositors, note holders (e.g. paper money), or trading peers, or to secure a currency.

It has been estimated that all the gold mined by the end of 2011 totalled 171,300 tonnes.[1] At a price of US$1,500 per troy ounce, reached on 12 April 2013, one tonne of gold has a value of approximately US$48.2 million. The total value of all gold ever mined would exceed US$8.2 trillion at that valuation.[note 1]

However, there are varying estimates of the total amount of gold mined to date, mainly because gold has been mined for thousands of years around the world. Another reason is that some countries are not particularly open about how much gold it is mining. In addition, it is difficult to account for gold output in illegal mining activities.[2]

Gold reserves and their relevance in wartime (Example from World War II)[edit]

During most of history, a nation's gold reserves were considered its key financial asset and a major prize of war. A typical view was expressed in a secret memorandum by the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff from October 1939, at the beginning of World War II. The British Military and the British Secret Service laid out “measures to be taken in the event of an invasion of Holland and Belgium by Germany” and presented them to the War Cabinet:

“It will be for the Treasury in collaboration with the Bank of England, and the Foreign Office, to examine the possible means of getting the bullion and negotiable securities into the same place of safety. The transport of many hundreds of tons of bullion presents a difficult problem and the loading would take a long time. The ideal would of course be to have the gold transferred to this country or to the United States of America. [...] The gold reserves of Belgium and Holland amount to about £ 70 million and £ 110 million respectively. [Foot]Note: H. M. Treasury has particularly requested that this information, which is highly confidential should in no circumstances be divulged. The total weight of this bullion amounts to about 1800 tons and its evacuation would be a matter of the utmost importance would present a considerable problem if it had to be undertaken in a hurry when transport facilities were disorganised. At present this gold is believed to be stored at Brussels and The Hague respectively, neither of which is very well placed for its rapid evacuation in an emergency.”[3]

The Belgian government rushed to ship the gold to a safe place: Dakar, Senegal. After the Germans occupied Belgium and France in 1940, they demanded the Belgian gold reserve back. In 1941, Vichy French officials arranged the transport of almost 5,000 boxes with 221 tons of gold[4] to officials of the German Reichsbank.

IMF gold holdings[edit]

As of June 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held 3,217 tonnes (103.4 million troy ounces) of gold,[5] which had been constant for several years. In the third quarter of 2009, the IMF announced that it will sell one eighth of its holdings, a maximum of 403.3 tonnes, based on a new income model agreed upon in April 2008, and subsequently announced the sale of 200 tonnes to India, 10 tonnes to Sri Lanka,[6] a further 10 tonnes of gold were also sold to Bangladesh Bank in September 2010 and 2 tonnes to the Bank of Mauritius.[7] These gold sales were conducted in stages at prevailing market prices.

The IMF maintains an internal book value of its gold that is far below market value. In 2000, this book value was XDR 35, or about US$47 per troy ounce.[8] An attempt to revalue the gold reserve to today's value has met resistance for different reasons.

Officially reported gold holdings[edit]

Gold reserves per capita
Official U.S. gold reserve since 1900

The IMF regularly maintains statistics of national assets as reported by various countries.[9] These data are used by the World Gold Council to periodically rank and report the gold holdings of countries and official organizations.

Changes in Central Bank Gold Reserves by Country 1993-2014

The gold listed for each of the countries in the table may not be physically stored in the country listed, as central banks generally have not allowed independent audits of their reserves. Gold leasing by central banks could place into doubt the reported gold holdings in the table below.[10]

As at January 2015 (Top 40 based on World Gold Council data)[11][12][13]
Rank Country/Organization Gold holdings
(in tonnes)
Gold's share of
forex reserves
1  United States 8,133.5 71.6%
2  Germany 3,384.2 66.4%
3 International Monetary Fund logo.svg International Monetary Fund 2,814.0 N.A.
4  Italy 2,451.8 65.8%
5  France 2,435.4 65.3%
6  Russia 1,206.8 12.0%
7  China 1,054.1 1.0%
8   Switzerland 1,040.0 7.5%
9  Japan 765.2 2.3%
10  Netherlands 612.5 53.9%
11  India 557.7 6.6%
12  Turkey 533.0 15.2%
13 Logo European Central Bank.svg European Central Bank 503.2 26.8%
14  Republic of China (Taiwan) 423.6 3.8%
15  Portugal 382.5 78.1%
16  Venezuela 367.6 68.9%
17  Saudi Arabia 322.9 1.6%
18  United Kingdom 310.3 10.8%
19  Lebanon 286.8 21.2%
20  Spain 281.6 21.8%
21  Austria 280.0 40.7%
22  Belgium 227.4 33.8%
23  Philippines 195.0 9.3%
24  Kazakhstan 187.6 24.9%
25  Algeria 173.6 3.4%
26  Thailand 152.4 3.7%
27  Singapore 127.4 1.8%
28  Sweden 125.7 7.6%
29  South Africa 125.2 9.8%
30  Mexico 122.8 2.4%
31  Libya 116.6 4.5%
32  Greece 112.4 69.4%
33 BIS-logo.PNG Bank for International Settlements 111.0 N.A.
34  South Korea 104.4 1.1%
35  Romania 103.7 9.1%
36  Poland 102.9 3.9%
37  Iraq 89.8 4.9%
38  Australia 79.9 5.8%
39  Kuwait 79.0 8.2%
40  Indonesia 78.1 2.7%

Privately held gold[edit]

Privately held gold (May 2011)[14]
Rank Name Type Gold (Tonnes)
1 SPDR Gold Shares ETF 1,239
2 ETF Securities Gold Funds ETF 259.79
3 ZKB Physical Gold ETF 195.53
4 COMEX Gold Trust ETF 137.61
5 Julius Baer Physical Gold Fund ETF 93.50
6 Central Fund of Canada CEF 52.71[15]
7 NewGold ETF ETF 47.75
8 Bullionvault Bailment 32.8[16]
9 Sprott Physical Gold Trust CEF 32.27
10 ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares ETF 27.97
12 GoldMoney Bailment 19.55[17]
12 Central GoldTrust CEF 18.81[18]

World gold holdings[edit]

World gold holdings (2011)
(Source: United States Geological Survey)[1][19]
Location Gold holdings
(in tonnes)
Share of total
world gold holdings
Total 171,300 100%
Jewellery 84,300 49.2%
Investment (bars, coins) 33,000 19.26%
Central banks 29,500 17.2%
Industrial 20,800 12.14%
Unaccounted 3,700 2.2%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ One tonne is equal to approximately 32,150.75 troy ounces.


  1. ^ a b on page 2 of the pdf file; last paragraph just before the "Production" section on that page
  2. ^ "BBC News - How much gold is there in the world?". BBC News. 
  3. ^ Memorandum by War Cabinet Secretary E. E. Bridges from October 6, 1939, Secret: Holland and Belgium: Measures to be taken in the event of an invasion by Germany. P. 1 and 4. National Archives
  4. ^ Other sources report only 41 tons.
  5. ^ "Gold in the IMF". International Monetary Fund. 2009-09-18. 
  6. ^ "Press Release: IMF Announces Sale of 10 Metric Tons of Gold to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  7. ^ "Press Release: IMF Announces Sale of 2 Metric Tons of Gold to the Bank of Mauritius". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  8. ^ "IMF completes off-market gold sales". 2000-04-07. 
  9. ^ "Data Template on International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity -- Reporting Countries". 
  10. ^ "- Sprott Global Resource Investments Ltd.". 
  11. ^ Marcus Grubb (13 November 2014). "Gold Demand Trends". 
  12. ^ "Latest World Official Gold Reserves". 
  13. ^ "Top 40 reported official gold holdings (as at January 2015)" is on the first page of the pdf file.
  14. ^ "FACTBOX-Precious metals holdings of exchange-traded products | News by Country | Reuters". 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  15. ^ "Central Fund's Net Asset Value". 2000-03-16. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  16. ^ "Daily Audit - Allocated Gold Bar Lists and Bank Statements". 2015-02-20. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  17. ^ "Total Gold, Silver, Platinum, Palladium and Currencies in GoldMoney". 2011-12-30. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  18. ^ "GoldTrust's Net Asset Value". 2000-03-16. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  19. ^ "DollarDaze Economic Commentary Blog - Gold, Oil, Stocks, Investments, Currencies, and the Federal Reserve: Two Methods for Estimating the Price of Gold by Mike Hewitt". Retrieved 2012-01-08.