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Cost of gold the year you were born

  • 1980: Silver Thursday

    - Average close price: $612.56 (+99.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,913.89 (+76.0%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 30.2 metric tons (2.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 67.9 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 49 metric tons (190 tons exported and 141 tons imported)

    In 1980, the commodities market changed forever when two oil heirs named Herbert and Nelson Hunt cornered the silver market, buying billions of dollars worth of silver and silver futures in the belief that rising inflation would send the price of precious metals skyward. By the time they were done, two men controlled all but one-third of the world’s silver. As a result, the price of the metal soared and people around the world pawned whatever silver they had before the U.S. government stepped in and put a stop to it. The Hunt brothers’ credit dried up, they missed their first margin call, and on March 27, known as “Silver Thursday,” the price of silver plunged from $48.70 to $11. It took nearly a decade for the Hunt brothers to offload their silver holdings and satisfy their creditors.

  • 1981: CERCLA

    - Average close price: $460.03 (-24.9% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,302.92 (-31.9%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 42.9 metric tons (3.4% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 50.1 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 55 metric tons (200 tons exported and 145 tons imported)

    The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), first enacted in 1980, created a federal Superfund to manage and restore massively polluted areas, like those frequently left behind by mining operations. It also gave the EPA the right to track down those responsible for abandoning or releasing hazardous waste, force them to aid in the cleanup, and pursue them for financial damages.

  • 1982: China joins the coin market

    - Average close price: $375.67 (-18.3% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,002.25 (-23.1%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 45.6 metric tons (3.4% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 55.5 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -61 metric tons (92 tons exported and 153 tons imported)

    In 1982, China introduced its own national gold coin, the Gold Panda. Their elaborate and beautiful minted designs, brilliant mirror finish, and 99.9% purity made them an instant hit—China was now in the global bullion game.

  • 1983: Gold in the PC age

    - Average close price: $424.35 (+13.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,096.88 (+9.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 62.3 metric tons (4.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 55.5 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -45 metric tons (98 tons exported and 143 tons imported)

    The late 1970s saw a flurry of activity at the dawn of the personal computer age, most notably the founding of Apple by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The PC era came into its own in 1981 when IBM introduced the first true personal computer for the masses. By 1983, the PC craze was transforming offices, homes, schools, and government agencies across America. It was also a lucrative new market for suppliers of the gold found in circuit boards and other critical computer components.

  • 1984: EPCRA

    - Average close price: $360.48 (-15.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $893.23 (-18.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 64.9 metric tons (4.4% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 55 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -90 metric tons (155 tons exported and 245 tons imported)

    By 1984, the public was demanding action on the longstanding habit of mining companies pulling whatever they could from the ground and, when the mine was no longer profitable, leaving behind a toxic wasteland. Two years later in 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which requires states to plan and budget for large-scale cleanup efforts that local communities can’t finance and manage on their own, and to keep the public informed along the way.

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  • 1985 Reagan signs Gold Bullion Coin Act

    - Average close price: $317.26 (-12.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $759.10 (-15.0%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 75.5 metric tons (4.9% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 49.8 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -133 metric tons (123 tons exported and 256 tons imported)

    In 1985, President Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Act, which commanded the U.S. Treasury to mint a family of bullion coins unique to the United States, all minted from gold mined in the United States. Perhaps more importantly, it banned the import of South African Krugerrands in response to the country’s brutal Apartheid policies. Until then, the Krugerrand remained the most popular and heavily traded coin in the world, and the United States had been its biggest market by far.

  • 1986: Krugerrand dethroned

    - Average close price: $367.66 (+15.9% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $863.64 (+13.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 116 metric tons (7.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 47.3 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: -335 metric tons (155 tons exported and 490 tons imported)

    Reagan’s 1985 policy on South African gold, joined by virtually every other major nation in the world, sent Krugerrand sales into free fall. That year, the Canadian Maple Leaf took the Krugerrand’s place as the world’s most popular gold coin—but it wouldn’t hold the throne for long.

  • 1987: American Gold Eagle soars

    - Average close price: $446.46 (+21.4% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $1,011.81 (+17.2%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 154 metric tons (9.3% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 63.8 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 0 metric tons (120 tons exported and 120 tons imported)

    In 1986, the U.S. Mint released the first American Gold Eagle, the official gold coin of the United States. It quickly became the most popular gold coin in the world, inheriting the throne from the Maple Leaf. As recently as 1984, the Krugerrand had commanded two-thirds of the global gold coin bullion market.

  • 1988: Another California gold rush

    - Average close price: $436.94 (-2.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $950.89 (-6.0%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 201 metric tons (10.7% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 61.4 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 236 metric tons (328 tons exported and 93 tons imported)

    In 1988, California’s gold production topped $320 million, most of which came from just 15 open-pit mines. They were located not in the Golden State’s traditional Sierra gold counties, but in Lake, Napa, and Yolo counties north of San Francisco, which had long been mined for mercury.

  • 1989: Ghana enacts Small-Scale Gold Mining Act

    - Average close price: $381.44 (-12.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $791.95 (-16.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 266 metric tons (13.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 51.9 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 58 metric tons (211 tons exported and 153 tons imported)

    Illegal gold mining operations in Ghana are currently threatening global chocolate supplies. A large amount of the world’s cocoa is grown there; however, much of that land has been contaminated with toxic waste from an endless patchwork of illegal small-scale gold mines. Some havoc can be traced to the country’s 1989 Small-Scale Gold Mining Act, which was originally an effort to get tiny illegal local mining operations to come out of the shadows. Instead, the result was a massive influx of gold-hungry foreign prospectors, including many from China, who destroyed the habitat in establishing one of the most over-mined places on Earth.

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