Gold Vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Reserve Bank Image

Gold has captivated the human race for most of our recorded history. Kings and queens have fought wars over it, European explorers searched new worlds for it, and 49ers left family and friends for a chance to get their share of it.

The Power of Gold

The World Gold Council estimated that by the end of 2009, about 5.3 billion troy ounces of gold had been mined throughout human history. In spite of the famous gold rushes of the 19th century, over half of that gold was mined since 1950. A significant portion of that gold is currently stored within the United States, but it’s not where most people think it is.

When we Americans think of gold, the first place that comes to mind is the United States Bullion Depository known as Fort Knox. It is here that the largest portion of our official gold reserves is stored. But there is one place in the U.S. that stores even more gold than Fort Knox. That place is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Reserve Bank Image

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds only a small fraction of the United States gold reserves, but it does hold the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world. Over 200 million troy ounces of gold, much of it belonging to foreign countries, are currently being held at the bank.

When the main vault at the bank first opened, the Secret Service used 45 armored cars to move the initial deposits of gold through the streets of New York. 150 policemen lined the streets and stood guard at strategic points as the armored cars drove by. Secret Service agents were everywhere and riflemen watched from the rooftops above. They hauled over 700 tons of gold, silver, and paper currency to the bank.

The Main Gold Vault

Opened in 1924, there is no other vault in the world quite like it, and it’s located right in the center of busy lower Manhattan. The main gold vault lies some 80 feet below the surrounding streets. The vault was actually excavated before the building was built around it. It is situated on the island’s bedrock which was considered stable enough to support the weight of all the gold that was to be stored inside.

And the main vault has no doors.

Federal Reserve Bank Image

The only way into the vault is through a 10-foot long tunnel that is cut into a 90-ton steel cylinder that revolves in a 140-ton steel and concrete frame. In order to gain access into the vault, the cylinder has to be rotated 90 degrees after first unlocking a series of time and combination locks.

You can view an artist’s rendering of how the vault works in the March 1931 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine (page 459).

The Gold Bars

The gold at the New York Fed is stored in the vault in the form of bars, each weighing 400 troy ounces or just over 27 pounds apiece. The value of each bar at recent prices would be approximately $640,000.

However, each bar is not the same. Gold bars cast more than 20 years ago tend to be in the shape of bricks, while more recent bars are trapezoidal.

In addition to the large bars, there are smaller bars that are also stored in the vault. These bars vary in size and are created using the gold that’s left over from the casting process, but is not enough to create a normal bar. These bars are sometimes referred to as "Hershey Bars."

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