Just how much gold exists today?

With secrecy and illegal mining blurring the numbers, estimates of the world's stores range from a tennis-court-size pile to one as large as a skyscraper.

By Jason Notte Apr 9, 2013 7:23AM
Gold Bars (copyright Stockbyte/SuperStock)OK, America, here's a quick hypothetical for you: Would you rather have a tennis court filled with gold or a pile of gold the size of a high-rise apartment building?


Depending on the source, one of those options is the actual visual representation of the amount of mined gold that exists on the planet. The other is a steaming pile of fiction fabricated by feeble-minded twits who need to be reminded to breathe.


It's kind of tough to determine who's correct, as folks who have massive stores of gold and aren't publicly accountable nation states usually don't like to advertise. However, as reported by The BBC, the Thompson Reuters (TRI) GFMS just released its annual gold survey and estimated that roughly 171,300 metric tons of mined gold are on the planet, which would measure roughly 314,000 cubic feet. That's just a bit more than Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A BRK.B) Chief Executive Warren Buffett's estimate of 300,000 cubic feet, but well short of what gold industry group the Gold Standard Institute says is the real amount of yellow metal circulating around the globe.


The Institute insists that 2.5 million metric tons are kicking around -- or roughly 4.5 million cubic feet. Just for comparison's sake, the Thompson Reuters figure would cover Centre Court at Wimbledon and stack 32 feet above it. The Gold Standard Institute's figure could still use Centre Court as its footprint, but would stack 469 feet high. That's roughly the size of Smith Tower in Seattle.


How do you get such a huge discrepancy? Mostly because gold has piling up for a long time. The first gold coins were minted in about 550 BC, and Thompson Reuters estimates that by 1492, 12,780 metric tons had been extracted. James Turk, the founder of Gold Money, believes that's a drastic overestimate. He maintains that crude mining techniques would have yielded just 297 metric tons of gold by 1492 at best.


Turk's figure is only about 10% lower than the Thompson Reuters number, but that's a $950 billion disparity at current prices. That has already prompted critics to snipe that Turk's figure is a viable alternative to existing numbers "in the same way that Jedi is an alternative to Christianity."


Given the uncertainty of the gold market, the Gold Standard Institute thinks both estimates are way off. Its numbers take into account that China hasn't exactly been open about how much gold it's extracting, while countries like Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been rife with illegal gold mining.


The U.S. Geological Survey says 52,000 metric tons of gold are still in the ground, but the way we're using it now means supplies won't remain fixed for long. While the overwhelming majority of the world's above-ground gold has been recycled for the last few millennia or so, gold's use in tech products is making it far more difficult to recycle. The incredibly small amounts used in some gadgets are nearly impossible to extract, but the British Geological Society says those tiny pieces add up to 12% of the world's existing gold.


If those gold estimates end up shading more to the tennis court side of the debate than the golden skyscraper theory, that pile might drop to net level just a few tech generations from now.


More on moneyNOW

52Comments
Apr 9, 2013 2:14PM
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It doesn't matter. CONgress has already spent it.  How can one bunch spend more money than the entire country can make?  I used to ask "why do 300 million people allow 535 clowns in Washington to wreck the entire country?"  Then, the answer came to me!!! CONgress is best at CON.  To have a greater percentage of Americans on the freeloader list is INSHAWANCE to be re-elected.  Currently, 47% pay the taxes and 53% do not.  That is guranteed re-election!!! The freeloaders will be at the polls! They aren't working, so they can go at any time of the day.  They hauls others there.  The working people have to run to the polls before or after work, sometimes at lunch.  It will never work.  Too many freeloaders.  However, if all working people suddenly QUIT, the freeloaders would have to work, work more, or go hungry.  Either of these would cause them to throw CONgress out and we could start anew.
Apr 9, 2013 7:13PM
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"Just how much gold exists today?"

The same amount that existed a million years ago. The original stockpile doesn't increase or decrease; it only changes hands.

Apr 9, 2013 4:02PM
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According to Thompson Reuters GFMS annual gold survey, there are 171,300 metric tons of gold that  have ever been mined and currently exist anywhere on the planet.  171,300 metric tons * 2204.62 pounds per metric ton * 10 troy oz per pound = 3,776,514,060 troy oz.  At $1550/oz that is $5.853 trillion.

 

All the gold in the world:

That is about 1/3 of the size of US National Debt.

That is slightly more than the additional debt incurred during the Obama presidency, so far.

That is about the amount of the addtional debt incurred during the 10 years prior to Obama. 

That is the amount spent by the US Federal government in just the last 21 months.

 

Think about that.

Apr 9, 2013 7:35PM
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Thee opposite of progress  = congress
Apr 9, 2013 4:04PM
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Also just twice the new dollars created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve since 2008.
Apr 9, 2013 3:38PM
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The idea that tech has used up 12% of the worlds supply of gold is completely absurd.  0.0012% would be more like it.  We're talking microns of film here, not millimeters.
Apr 9, 2013 3:41PM
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Reading this article was a total waste of two minutes of my life... as was posting this comment.

Apr 9, 2013 8:00PM
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The gold at Fort Knox is all gone.....
Apr 9, 2013 5:15PM
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replace the word "gold" with "poop" and this story becomes very entertaining.
Apr 9, 2013 5:24PM
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I'd like to point out that seawater contains gold, and there's a whole lot of seawater. It wouldn't be profitable to extract that gold, but that gold is still there. LOTS of it.
Apr 9, 2013 11:27PM
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how much longer are we gonna have to put up with him???????------he is the goat leading the sheep to slaughter.  US
Apr 9, 2013 4:25PM
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Which weighs more? A pound of gold or a pound of feathers.  duh

Who gives a crap unless it's yours.

Apr 10, 2013 2:12AM
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One thing is certain: The United States has the world's biggest stash of morons, and most of the posters so far fall into that stash...
Apr 10, 2013 2:16AM
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Hard to say. What's that big gold Swedegon pagoda place in Yangon, Myanmar? People talk it has thick plates of gold and is over 300 feet tall. Or the 10 ton solid bold buddha in Wat Traimit located in Bangkok's china town discovered by accident when what was thought to be a giant stone buddha was dropped revealing a golden one of epic proportion.  The treasures of Tutankhamun are tiny compared to what exists in Asia. 

I'd say India has the most with China in 2nd. No longer is the US gold central unless you are the Goldman with Sachs of gold. We were sold out which the East bought it up. I no longer believe US dollars are truly backed by gold either... I'd also have to believe this Ft. Knox place is still full of gold as our country was sold out on many levels big time...
Apr 9, 2013 5:48PM
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I'm wondering... when they mine more gold, isn't that similar to printing more money?  If the value of gold is tied to its scarcity, then when you produce more gold it is that much less scarce.  Sounds like another artificial value bubble, just like printed currency.
Apr 10, 2013 8:05AM
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If I went to the 7-11 today, and tried to pay with gold for my coffee and doughnut -  how well would it go?
Apr 10, 2013 1:48PM
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Gold, not a problem, God said that the earth is mine and the fulness thereof. As having accepted Jesus as my savior, I am joint heirs with Christ, through the covenant of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Being the heir, looks like gold to me is not a problem. My Heavenly Father owns the whole shebang and what is his is mine. And He said He would supply all my needs from his riches in Glory in Christ Jesus, just remember when Israel left egypt they didn't leave broke. He will and is doing it again. Praise you Lord.
Apr 10, 2013 1:42PM
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PS. Almost forgot, Art.1 Sec. 10 says that no state shall make anything but gold and silver coin in payment of debt. That being the case, how can I pay taxes, fines, unconstitutuonal licenses (if I am not doing commerce under Art. ! Sec. 8) with a debt instrument, I.E. a federal reserve note, which is not a note in the first place. Sounds to me like we are down the slippery slope quite a ways. It probably won't change till the paper money fails, the diesals quit delivery, and we the people get hungry. Then we will learn again as the founders did, what and how to dig up Statesmen, and just sort of put all the lying politicians out to graze. Getting long winded here, BY
Apr 10, 2013 1:34PM
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Sounds like I am setting pretty good. God said the earth is mine and the fullness thereof. Jesus is my Savior, God is my heavenly father, I am joint heirs in Christ Jesus through the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Seeing as I am the heir, looks like my future is pretty good to say the least. Praise His Holy Name.
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