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Cost of gold the year you were born

  • 1940: Operation Fish

    - Average close price: $33.85 (-1.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $622.48 (-2.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 151 metric tons (11.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -3,759 metric tons (1 tons exported and 3,760 tons imported)

    By 1940, it was clear that Adolf Hitler intended to finance the enormous war effort he had launched by looting massive stores of gold from the countries his armies conquered and occupied. In the biggest gold heist in history, Hitler stole $600 million worth of gold—billions today—from the vaults and central banks of Poland, Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands, along with countless millions more in artwork, diamonds, platinum, and other assets. Expecting a Nazi invasion and a new looting spree, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered Operation Fish, which involved shipping an astonishing 1,500 metric tons of gold—worth $160 billion today—across the Atlantic to Canada’s central bank.

  • 1941: Fort Knox holdings reach peak

    - Average close price: $33.85 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $592.84 (-4.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 148 metric tons (13.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -872 metric tons (0 tons exported and 872 tons imported)

    On Dec. 31, 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, Fort Knox reached its highest historic gold holdings. That day, nearly 650 million ounces of gold were kept in the facility. By comparison, present-day holdings are about 147 million ounces.

  • 1942: Gold mining comes to a halt

    - Average close price: $33.85 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $534.65 (-9.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 108 metric tons (9.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -280 metric tons (0 tons exported and 280 tons imported)

    In 1942, the War Production Board ordered a stop to gold mining in the United States, as gold was not essential to the war effort. Instead, their operations were repurposed for mining essential metals like copper, iron, and other substances used in the production of ships, tanks, bullets, and other war necessities.

  • 1943: U.S. Treasury reacts to Nazi looting

    - Average close price: $33.85 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $503.74 (-5.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 42.4 metric tons (4.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -69 metric tons (21 tons exported and 90 tons imported)

    In 1943, the U.S. Treasury announced that it was doing its “utmost to defeat the methods of dispossession” routinely practiced by Hitler’s war machine. In short, the U.S. was working to ensure that no looted Nazi gold found its way into U.S. business, government coffers, or the pockets of private citizens—and that it expected allied nations to follow suit.

  • 1944: The Bretton Woods Agreement

    - Average close price: $33.85 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $495.16 (-1.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 31.1 metric tons (3.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: 764 metric tons (853 tons exported and 89 tons imported)

    In 1944, leaders from the major world powers signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, which eliminated the worldwide gold standard, positioned the United States as the dominant global economic power, and set the stage for decades of global economic restructuring. The U.S. possessed three-quarters of the world’s gold, which meant no other country had enough to back its currency. The participants agreed to redeem their currency not for gold, but for U.S. dollars at a rate of 1/35 of an ounce per dollar. The U.S. dollar now replaced gold as the global economic standard.

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  • 1945: Gold mining resumes

    - Average close price: $34.71 (+2.5% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $496.45 (+0.3%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 29.7 metric tons (3.9% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: 93 metric tons (176 tons exported and 83 tons imported)

    At the end of World War II, the government allowed gold mining to resume, but for many in the industry, the damage had already been done. Many mines, particularly in California, were flooded, caved in, or in such a state of disrepair that bringing them back into operation was no longer financially feasible.

  • 1946: 49ers play inaugural season

    - Average close price: $34.71 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $458.26 (-7.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 49 metric tons (5.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -143 metric tons (197 tons exported and 340 tons imported)

    Tony Morabito had been pushing for the development of West Coast football—San Francisco football, specifically—since 1942. Before that, the NFL had no teams west of Chicago. In 1946, Morabito realized his dream when the San Francisco 49ers played their first game as part of a national league. The team was named in honor of the 1849 gold rush that flooded the state with adventurous new settlers in search of fortune.

  • 1947: Materials Act

    - Average close price: $34.71 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $400.72 (-12.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 65.6 metric tons (7.3% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,563 metric tons (157 tons exported and 1,720 tons imported)

    The Materials Act of 1947 addressed useful byproducts that came from mining operations on public lands. The act allowed mines to sell, lease, or give away to the public certain common materials like sand and gravel.

  • 1948: ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’

    - Average close price: $34.71 (0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $370.79 (-7.5%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 62.7 metric tons (6.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -1,554 metric tons (166 tons exported and 1,720 tons imported)

    1948’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” starring Humphrey Bogart, won three Oscars. The movie portrayed a pair of Americans on an adventurous hunt for gold in the mountains of Mexico. In the prosperous and modern post-war boom years, the movie stoked a renewed and romanticized interest in the gold rush days that were by then well in the past.

  • 1949: The end of golden legend

    - Average close price: $31.69 (-8.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $342.80 (-7.5%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 62 metric tons (6.4% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: data not available
    - U.S. gold net exports: -619 metric tons (68 tons exported and 686 tons imported)

    Well-known as a global “safe haven” investment, Swiss Helvetia 20 Franc gold coins were first minted in 1897. Smaller and easier to carry than comparable coins, 20 Franc gold Helvetias stopped being produced in 1949.

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