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Cost of gold the year you were born

  • 1970: Clean Air Act

    - Average close price: $35.94 (-12.5% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $238.47 (-17.3%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 54.2 metric tons (3.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 26.4 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -131 metric tons (3 tons exported and 134 tons imported)

    The Clean Air Act (CAA) authorized regulations on harmful airborne pollutants and the operations that cause them. Typical CAA mining regulations include rules regarding dust emissions, emissions from smelters and other processing facilities, and emissions from heavy mining vehicles.

  • 1971: Nixon ends dollar/gold convertibility

    - Average close price: $40.80 (+13.5% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $259.36 (+8.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 46.5 metric tons (3.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 28.9 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -156 metric tons (40 tons exported and 196 tons imported)

    By 1971, skyrocketing inflation and an endless global run on gold forced President Nixon’s hand. He responded by ending the policy of international convertibility—the world’s stores of U.S. dollars could no longer be converted to gold. The policy temporarily slowed runaway inflation and signaled the death knell of the Bretton Woods international monetary policy.

  • 1972: U.S. devalues dollar

    - Average close price: $68.16 (+67.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $419.81 (+61.9%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 45.1 metric tons (3.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 27.7 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -167 metric tons (24 tons exported and 191 tons imported)

    By 1972, the once-mighty U.S. dollar that anchored the post-war global economy had lost buying power to more valuable foreign currencies. To even things out, either they had to make their money more expensive, or the U.S. had to make its money cheaper. The world refused to budge, and President Nixon responded with another bold move—devaluing the U.S. dollar by about 11% to $38 per ounce of gold in history’s first realignment of currency exchange rates.

  • 1973: Floating exchange rate system prevails

    - Average close price: $97.32 (+42.8% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $564.31 (+34.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 36.6 metric tons (2.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 23.4 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -101 metric tons (19 tons exported and 120 tons imported)

    One year later, the U.S. further devalued the dollar to $42.22 per ounce of gold, but by then, most of the world had abandoned the fixed exchange rate for a floating exchange rate. In this new post-gold monetary system, the price of a nation’s currency was based not on governmental determinations, but on supply and demand relative to other currencies on the foreign exchange market.

  • 1974: Journalists visit Fort Knox vault

    - Average close price: $159.26 (+63.6% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $831.68 (+47.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 35.1 metric tons (2.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 25.3 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -65 metric tons (18 tons exported and 83 tons imported)

    From the time Fort Knox was established as a bullion depository, not a single non-essential visitor had ever been allowed to see the vault. In 1974, however, wild rumors that all the gold had been removed from the vault compelled officials to allow a small group of journalists to see it for themselves. Again in 2017, the vault opened to a small delegation that included Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who compared witnessing the massive mounds of gold to “seeing a leprechaun on a unicorn.”

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  • 1975: Gold ownership made legal again

    - Average close price: $161.02 (+1.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $770.54 (-7.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 32.7 metric tons (2.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 34.9 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 1 metric tons (84 tons exported and 83 tons imported)

    In August 1974, President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 93-373, which removed virtually all restrictions on private gold ownership in the United States. The law went into effect on Dec. 31, and when America woke up on New Year’s Day in 1975, it was no longer a criminal act to buy, trade, or own gold for the first time in four decades.

  • 1976: Alcohol desorption method

    - Average close price: $124.84 (-22.5% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $564.85 (-26.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 32.6 metric tons (2.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 33.2 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 7 metric tons (90 tons exported and 83 tons imported)

    Many new methods and technologies emerged in the 1970s that allowed miners to extract more gold from less material. Among them were the alcohol desorption method, which decreased the time it took to strip gold from carbon. Like so many of the new methods that emerged in the 1950s, however, massive amounts of toxic chemicals were involved, and the environmental impact of “new mining” was becoming hard to ignore.

  • 1977: Ford legalizes gold contracts

    - Average close price: $147.71 (+18.3% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $627.53 (+11.1%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 34.2 metric tons (2.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 32.3 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 79 metric tons (218 tons exported and 139 tons imported)

    In 1977, Congress removed the president’s authority to regulate gold transactions during times of crisis, except during wartime. Also that year, President Ford removed the contract clause, making it legal again for contracts to be written with gold as an accepted form of repayment.

  • 1978: The world sees King Tut’s gold

    - Average close price: $193.22 (+30.8% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $762.96 (+21.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 31.1 metric tons (2.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 43 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 25 metric tons (171 tons exported and 146 tons imported)

    In the late 1970s, the world saw King Tut’s treasures up close when the “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibit went on display in six cities. Between 1977 and 1979, the exhibit attracted 6 million visitors eager to see some of the oldest and most significant gold artifacts in the world.

  • 1979: Canada introduces Maple Leaf coin

    - Average close price: $306.68 (+58.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,087.54 (+42.5%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 30 metric tons (2.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 52.1 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 369 metric tons (513 tons exported and 144 tons imported)

    In 1979, Canada released its own national gold coin—the Canadian Maple Leaf. With a fineness of .9999—or .99999, in some cases—they were among the purest gold coins in the world. Although it was relatively obscure in 1979, a decade later, global politics would send the Maple Leaf into a golden age, both figuratively and literally.

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