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Cost of gold the year you were born

  • 1930: Trouble in the U.K.

    - Average close price: $20.65 (+0.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $318.35 (+2.5%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 66.5 metric tons (10.3% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: 3 metric tons (114 tons exported and 111 tons imported)

    In 1930, the Great Depression threw fuel onto an already chaotic political climate in Great Britain that pitted a series of political parties and ministers against each other under. In the last recorded direct political intervention by a British monarch, King George V suggested forming a national government. The coalition that emerged would have radical new ideas about the role of gold in the country’s financial system, and its actions had consequences still felt today.

  • 1931: Great Britain drops gold standard

    - Average close price: $17.06 (-17.4% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $288.96 (-9.2%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 69.2 metric tons (10.0% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: 282 metric tons (581 tons exported and 299 tons imported)

    By 1931, it was clear that the global financial crisis was no passing hiccup—drastic measures had to be taken. Since the gold standard forbade governments from increasing their money supplies to stimulate the economy, Great Britain became the first nation to abandon the gold standard altogether. Many others would soon follow.

  • 1932: Twilight of the gold coin era

    - Average close price: $20.69 (+21.3% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $388.81 (+34.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 72.5 metric tons (9.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: 672 metric tons (1,080 tons exported and 408 tons imported)

    Breaking with thousands of years of tradition, 1932 was the last year that most global societies used gold coins as money, as most would soon be confiscated and melted down. Those coins that dodged the smelter’s pot would go on to become worth far more than their weight in gold. In 1933, the U.S. Mint produced about half a million Double Eagle $20 coins, but melted them all down shortly after—all but 10, that is, which were stolen before they could be destroyed. In 2015, the thief’s descendants won a legal battle with the government to keep the 10 contraband coins, which by that time had an estimated value of $80 million.

  • 1933: U.S. drops gold standard

    - Average close price: $26.33 (+27.3% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $521.44 (+34.1%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 71.7 metric tons (9.0% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -92 metric tons (127 tons exported and 219 tons imported)

    Many historians and economists believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s failure to drop the gold standard earlier contributed to the Great Depression. Two years after Great Britain, America followed suit in abandoning precious metal as a physical backing to U.S. currency. That same year, FDR signed Executive Order 6102, which made it a crime for U.S. citizens to own or trade gold anywhere in the world. All Americans were required to exchange gold or gold certificates with the Federal Reserve for cash.

  • 1934: Roosevelt signs Gold Reserve Act

    - Average close price: $34.69 (+31.8% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $666.49 (+27.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 86.4 metric tons (10.3% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,003 metric tons (47 tons exported and 1,050 tons imported)

    The Gold Reserve Act, the culmination of FDR’s controversial gold policy, transferred all gold holdings from the Federal Reserve to the U.S. Treasury. It also dramatically raised the price the government would pay for gold from $20.67 per ounce to $35, which incentivized reluctant Americans to turn in their gold and spurred foreign holders to sell their gold to the U.S. government. This injected massive amounts of cash into the struggling American economy.

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  • 1935: Supreme Court upholds Gold Clause Cases

    - Average close price: $34.84 (+0.4% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $654.72 (-1.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 101 metric tons (10.9% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,468 metric tons (2 tons exported and 1,470 tons imported)

    One year later, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld FDR’s actions through a series of decisions known as the Gold Clause Cases. With some exceptions, like dentists, jewelers, and other professionals who depended on gold as an industrial product, it was the law of the land that owning gold was an illegal criminal act for all American citizens. It was also illegal for people or businesses to write contracts that allowed gold as repayment.

  • 1936: Congress establishes bullion depository

    - Average close price: $34.87 (+0.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $645.85 (-1.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 118 metric tons (11.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -986 metric tons (25 tons exported and 1,010 tons imported)

    With the U.S. government now in possession of massive stores of gold—and the Great Mint Robbery fresh in the minds of authorities—Congress established the U.S. Bullion Depository in 1936. America’s gold would now be safeguarded at Fort Knox in Kentucky, one of the most secure and secretive facilities in recorded history.

  • 1937: First gold arrives at Fort Knox

    - Average close price: $34.79 (-0.2% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $622.00 (-3.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 128 metric tons (11.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,409 metric tons (41 tons exported and 1,450 tons imported)

    One year later, the first shipments of gold began arriving at Fort Knox. Although the facility represents the embodiment of physical security to this day, the first deliveries were surprisingly—perhaps even recklessly—unsecured. Since large shipments of gold were too heavy to travel by plane, huge quantities of gold were delivered by train via the U.S. Postal Service.

  • 1938: West Point Bullion Depository opens

    - Average close price: $34.85 (+0.2% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $636.33 (+2.3%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 161 metric tons (13.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,735 metric tons (5 tons exported and 1,740 tons imported)

    On four acres near the famous military academy of the same name, the West Point Bullion Depository opened in 1938. It began producing gold medals in 1980 and became a mint in 1988. Today, it’s second only to Fort Knox in terms of gold holdings.

  • 1939: The end of the Great Depression

    - Average close price: $34.42 (-1.2% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $637.52 (+0.2%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 145 metric tons (11.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -3,170 metric tons (0 tons exported and 3,170 tons imported)

    Although the global financial calamity that began a decade earlier had improved in fits and starts beginning in 1933, 1939 signaled the end of the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl drought had passed, the economy expanded, public works projects reduced unemployment, and the government began massive spending to prepare for a looming war.

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