Countries That Control the World’s Gold

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Central banks and finance ministries currently hold more than 33,000 tons of gold worth about $1.4 trillion, at today’s prices. These authorities are among the world’s largest holders of gold.

While the United States, like in many economic and financial measures, leads the pack with the most gold of any nation, at more than 8,100 tons of the precious metal, other countries with the most gold may be less obvious.

In addition to holding its own gold, nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom have been repositories for other nations’ gold. That is not surprising given America’s position as a secure bastion after World War II and the Bank of England’s reputation for security.

In recent years, however, nations such as the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Belgium have begun repatriating their sovereign gold. Part of the reason is the changing monetary policy of central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Of the top 20 gold-holding nations, five have added to their stores of the precious metal over the last 10 years — Turkey, Kazakhstan, India, China, and Russia. They are doing so as a way to diversify their reserves away from dollar-denominated securities. Germany and France have reduced their gold inventory, while the remaining countries on the top 20 list have left their reserve total virtually unchanged.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the countries that control the world’s gold. Many nations on this list rank among the wealthiest countries in the world. We reviewed data from the World Gold Council, as well as mining and engineering websites, national mint sources, and media reports about stories pertaining to gold. 24/7 Wall St. also considered information from the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks accountability, transparency and efficiency in financial markets around the world.

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20. Turkey
> Gold reserves in USD as of Q4 2018: $10.4 billion
> Gold reserves in metric tonnes as of Q4 2018: 254
> Gold as % of total reserves: 12.7%
> GDP: $2.0 trillion ($25,135 per capita)
> Population: 80.7 million

Given its geographical importance, gold has played a key role in Turkey’s history. Merchants traded gold coins in ancient Lydia, and Turks have historically used gold as a hedge against inflation and weak currency. Turkey has been buying gold from Venezuela at a rapid pace recently. The struggling South American country is seeking cash because revenue from its petroleum reserves has declined. The United States is concerned that some of the gold may go to Iran through Turkey, a violation of American sanctions against Iran. Turkey has boosted its metric tonnage of gold by more than 118% to 254 tons over the last 10 years.

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19. Austria
> Gold reserves in USD as of Q4 2018: $11.5 billion
> Gold reserves in metric tonnes as of Q4 2018: 280
> Gold as % of total reserves: 49.7%
> GDP: $400.3 billion ($45,437 per capita)
> Population: 8.8 million

Gold was first mined in Austria 2,000 years ago, primarily in the Rauris and Gastein Valleys. Gold extraction has fallen since, but mining activity continues in the country. Austria is home to the Austrian Mint, which dates from medieval times and is one of Europe’s oldest mints. It is renowned for its minting expertise and coin production.

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18. Spain
> Gold reserves in USD as of Q4 2018: $11.6 billion
> Gold reserves in metric tonnes as of Q4 2018: 282
> Gold as % of total reserves: 16.4%
> GDP: $1.6 trillion ($34,272 per capita)
> Population: 46.6 million

Spain gained gold wealth from extracting the precious metal from mines in areas where the Incas lived in South America in the 16th century. The Spanish used gold to pay off debts and bankroll the religious wars in subsequent centuries. An interesting economic theory suggests that the influx of gold led to Spain’s decline as a great power because the Spanish had so much gold they could buy goods instead of investing in means of production to produce those goods.

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17. Lebanon
> Gold reserves in USD as of Q4 2018: $11.8 billion
> Gold reserves in metric tonnes as of Q4 2018: 287
> Gold as % of total reserves: 22.5%
> GDP: $80.2 billion ($13,191 per capita)
> Population: 6.1 million

Lebanon, the least populous nation on the list with just over 6 million people, has the world’s second largest reserves of gold per capita of any nation. Gold has been a big part of Lebanon’s history because of its maritime tradition. Lebanon controls 287 metric tons of gold, unchanged over the last 10 years.

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16. United Kingdom
> Gold reserves in USD as of Q4 2018: $12.8 billion
> Gold reserves in metric tonnes as of Q4 2018: 310
> Gold as % of total reserves: 7.4%
> GDP: $2.6 trillion ($39,753 per capita)
> Population: 66.0 million

Given its colonial history, the United Kingdom has accumulated gold over hundreds of years from the countries where it held sway. The U.K. currently has no operating gold mines. The Bank of England has a well-earned reputation for safety and security, and many nations store their gold reserves there. It has the second largest vault in the world after the New York Federal Reserve.