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Cost of gold the year you were born

  • 1990: Pollution Prevention Act

    - Average close price: $383.51 (+0.5% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $755.43 (-4.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 294 metric tons (13.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 44 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 144 metric tons (241 tons exported and 98 tons imported)

    As its name implies, the Pollution Prevention Act requires commercial operations like gold mines to prevent pollution at the source which is much different than after-the-fact waste management or pollution control. It encourages cost-effective changes in raw material use, operation, and production.

  • 1991: India offloads its gold

    - Average close price: $362.11 (-5.6% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $684.48 (-9.4%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 294 metric tons (13.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 48.1 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 131 metric tons (310 tons exported and 179 tons imported)

    In 1991, India sold 20 tons of gold on the open market to raise $234 million to deal with a foreign exchange crisis. This proved to be part of a pattern—central banks around the world and in the years to come would make headlines by auctioning off national stores of gold to fill budget gaps.

  • 1992: A union of nations

    - Average close price: $343.82 (-5.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $630.91 (-7.8%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 330 metric tons (14.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 53.4 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 215 metric tons (389 tons exported and 174 tons imported)

    For nearly half a century since the end of World War II, major European nations sought to pool their wealth and clout and combine into a single conglomerate of nations while still retaining individual national identities and governments. By 1992, thousands of years of European history were funneled into a new and modern European idea. In 1993, the European Union (EU) was officially born—and the fledgling union would soon have its own currency.

  • 1993: Stock Raising Homestead Act amendment

    - Average close price: $359.77 (+4.6% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $640.99 (+1.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 331 metric tons (14.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 66 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 617 metric tons (786 tons exported and 169 tons imported)

    The 1916 SRHA allowed ranchers to privatize public lands originally deemed to have no value beyond livestock grazing and the growing of forage. The homesteaders could privatize the surface of those public lands, but the government held the mineral rights to anything underground—including gold. Since the government can lease public land for mining, mining operations may enter any leased land, turn it into a mine, and take whatever they find, even if people live there. The 1993 amendment didn’t change that controversial provision, it only required miners to notify residents before entering.

  • 1994: An era ends in California

    - Average close price: $384.00 (+6.7% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $667.08 (+4.1%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 327 metric tons (14.5% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 75 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 333 metric tons (469 tons exported and 136 tons imported)

    In 1994, the falling price of gold, new environmental laws, and the ever-increasing cost of exploration and extraction forced the Sonora Mining Company to close. This essentially signaled the end of mining operations in California’s Tuolumne County and the Southern Mines.

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  • 1995: E-Gold

    - Average close price: $384.17 (+0.0% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $648.98 (-2.7%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 317 metric tons (14.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 43 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 259 metric tons (399 tons exported and 140 tons imported)

    In 1995, during the largely unpoliced beginning of the internet, oncologist Douglas Jackson came up to create a new digital currency backed entirely by gold—not unlike a new gold standard. He sold his medical practice and drained his savings to create E-Gold, which by 2001 had hundreds of thousands of accounts doing millions of dollars worth of transactions. Auditing and regulation problems, attacks by hackers, server overloads, and a mountain of other headaches proved too much for the bank (which was not a bank), and in 2005, the Justice Department shut down E-Gold as the internet entered the modern age.

  • 1996: Blood diamonds surge

    - Average close price: $387.77 (+0.9% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $636.28 (-2.0%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 326 metric tons (14.2% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 44 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 312 metric tons (471 tons exported and 159 tons imported)

    In the 1990s, the United Nations waged a successful campaign against so-called “blood diamonds”—stones mined in diamond-rich areas of Africa controlled by rebel groups waging bloody civil wars against governments. The campaign put sourcing at the forefront of the diamond trade and sent blood diamond sales plummeting. It would become the model for similar “blood gold” campaigns that took off in the 21st century which often dealt with the same countries and sometimes even targeted the same groups.

  • 1997: Bre-X

    - Average close price: $330.98 (-14.6% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $530.91 (-16.6%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 362 metric tons (14.8% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 49 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 267 metric tons (476 tons exported and 209 tons imported)

    Formed in 1989, Canadian conglomerate Bre-X Minerals announced in 1995 that it had found a massive deposit of gold in Borneo, sending its value soaring from penny stock status to $286.50 per share one year later in 1996. The problem was that there was no gold—Bre-X prospector Michael de Guzman had been “salting” regular rocks with gold shavings—first from his own wedding ring then with gold he bought to trick authenticators. In 1997, the $6 billion fraud came crashing down, the stock collapsed, and Bre-X went down as the biggest mining scandal of all time.

  • 1998: The euro

    - Average close price: $294.24 (-11.1% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $464.74 (-12.5%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 366 metric tons (14.6% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 86.3 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 249 metric tons (522 tons exported and 273 tons imported)

    After five years of existence, it was clear in 1998 that the EU needed its own universal currency, if nothing else, to make inter-Union travel and commerce easier for the member states. The coins and bills that emerged would become a powerhouse of global economics, and one of the world’s primary benchmark currencies. On New Year’s Day 1999, the European Union introduced the world’s newest currency: the euro.

  • 1999: Wild fluctuations

    - Average close price: $278.88 (-5.2% compared to previous year)
    --- Inflation adjusted: $430.96 (-7.3%)
    - U.S. primary gold production: 341 metric tons (13.3% of world total)
    - U.S. secondary gold production: 77.2 metric tons
    - U.S. gold net exports: 303 metric tons (523 tons exported and 220 tons imported)

    In the last year of the 20th century, concerns about reduced bullion reserves in central banks sunk the price of gold to less than $252 per ounce in August. Just two months later in October, gold reached a two-year high of $338 after European central banks reached an agreement that soothed nervous investors.

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