United States Bullion Depository

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Coordinates: 37°53′00″N 85°57′55″W / 37.8832°N 85.96525°W / 37.8832; -85.96525

US Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky
U.S. Bullion Depository.jpg
The United States Bullion Depository
United States Bullion Depository is located in Kentucky
United States Bullion Depository
United States Bullion Depository is located in the United States
United States Bullion Depository
LocationGold Vault Rd. and Bullion Blvd., Fort Knox, Kentucky
Area42 acres (17 ha)
Built byGreat Lakes Construction Co.
ArchitectLouis A. Simon
Architectural styleArt Deco
NRHP reference #88000056[1]
Added to NRHPFebruary 18, 1988

The United States Bullion Depository, often known as Fort Knox, is a fortified vault building located adjacent to the United States Army post of Fort Knox, Kentucky. The vault is used to store a large portion of United States official gold reserves and occasionally other precious items belonging or entrusted to the federal government, it is estimated to hold roughly 2.3% of all the gold ever refined throughout human history.[2]


Seal of the U.S. Mint
US Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky, Gold Vault Rd. and Bullion Boulevard Fort Knox

In 1933, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, which outlawed the private ownership of gold coins, gold bullion, and gold certificates by U.S. citizens, forcing them to sell these to the Federal Reserve. As a result, the value of the gold held by the Federal Reserve increased from $4 billion to $12 billion between 1933 and 1937;[3] this left the federal government with a large gold reserve and no place to store it. In 1936, the U.S. Treasury Department began construction of the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on land transferred from the military. The Gold Vault was completed in December 1936 for US $560,000; the site is located on what is now Bullion Boulevard at the intersection of Gold Vault Road. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, in recognition of its significance in the economic history of the United States and its status as a well-known landmark,[4] it is constructed of granite quarried at the North Carolina Granite Corporation Quarry Complex.[5]

The first gold shipments were made from January to July 1937; the majority of the United States' gold reserves were gradually shipped to the site, including old bullion and newly made bars made from melted gold coins. Some intact coins were stored; the transfer used a special nine car train manned by machine gunners and transferred to U.S. Army trucks protected by a U.S. Cavalry brigade.[6] In 1974, a Washington attorney named Peter David Beter circulated a theory that the gold in the Depository had been secretly removed by elites, and that the vaults were empty. A group of reporters was allowed inside in order to refute the theory, which had gained traction thanks to coverage in tabloid newspapers and on the radio. Other than this 1974 event, no member of the public has been allowed inside.[7]

During World War II, the depository held the original U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. It held the reserves of European countries and key documents from Western history. For example, it held the Crown of St. Stephen, part of the Hungarian crown jewels, given to U.S. soldiers to prevent them from falling into Soviet hands. The repository held one of four copies (exemplifications) of Magna Carta, which had been sent for display at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and when war broke out, was kept in the U.S. for the duration.

During World War II and into the Cold War, until the invention of different types of synthetic painkillers, a supply of processed morphine and opium was kept in the Depository as a hedge against the US being isolated from the sources of raw opium.[8]

Construction and security[edit]

Below the fortress-like structure lies the gold vault lined with granite walls and protected by a blast-proof door weighing 20 tons. Members of the Depository staff must dial separate combinations known only to them.[9] Beyond the main vault door, smaller compartments provide further protection.[10] According to a Mosler Safe Company brochure:

The most famous, if not the largest, vault door order came from the Federal government in 1935 for the newly constructed gold depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Both the vault door and emergency door were 21-inches thick and made of the latest torch- and drill-resistant material; the main vault door weighed 20 tons and the vault casing was 25-inches thick.[11]

The facility is ringed with fences and is guarded by the United States Mint Police.

There is an escape tunnel from the lower level of the vault to be used by someone who has been accidentally locked in.[7]

For security reasons, no visitors are allowed inside the depository grounds; this policy has been enforced ever since the vault opened, with only two exceptions. The first was an inspection by members of the United States Congress and the news media on September 23, 1974 led by then Director of the United States Mint, Mary Brooks;[7] the second was a similar inspection made by Kentucky Congressmen on August 21, 2017, led by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.[12]


As of September 2018, U.S. Government Gold Reserves are 8,965 metric tons (261.5 million oz. troy), with a market value of over $310.5 billion (of which 56.35% is held at Fort Knox).[13] In contrast, the GDP of the United States was $19.4 trillion as of April 2017.[14]

Not all the gold bars held in the depository are of exactly the same composition; the mint gold bars are nearly pure gold. Bars made from melted gold coins, called "coin bars", are the same composition as the original coins, which is 90% gold. Unlike many .999 fine gold bullion coins minted in modern times for holding today, the coin alloy for pre-1933 US coins, which were intended for circulation, was a tougher and wear-resistant .900 fine alloy (balance copper) used for all US gold coins since 1837. (See crown gold for further gold coin alloy history.)

As of 2014, the U.S. held more gold than any other country, with about 2.4 times that of the next leading country, Germany (which in 2014 owned 3,387.1 metric tons).[15]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Depository figures prominently as the focus of the villain's plot in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger. Auric Goldfinger's goal is to break into the Depository and plant an atomic device; when it explodes, the entire U.S. gold supply will be irradiated for decades to come and the worth of Goldfinger's own personal gold supply will skyrocket, making Goldfinger richer.
  • In the television series Star Trek: Voyager, the fifth season episode "Dark Frontier", the crew hatches a plan to steal a transwarp coil from the Borg, referring to this as Operation Fort Knox. This episode mentions that the depository had become a museum, due to a New World Economy taking shape in the late 22nd century.
  • The depository was also featured in the television series Ben 10, in the episode "Ben 10 vs. the Negative 10: Part 1”.
  • The depository was also featured in the 2014 animation Penguins of Madagascar, with the protagonist penguins infiltrating it to find a discontinued snack called "Cheezy Dibbles".
  • The depository is featured twice in the film Battlefield Earth in 2000. With the head Psychlo, played by John Travolta, standing in a cage among all of the gold bars; the remaining humans, from the year c. 3000, learned about Fort Knox from the Library of Congress and used the gold bars to pretend that they were actually mining gold, while secretly planning a way to win back the planet against the Psychlo invasion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ 4,176 tones / 183,600 tones = 2.3%
  3. ^ Ahamed, Liaquat (2009). Lords of Finance: The Bankers who Broke the World. London: Penguin Books. p. 474. ISBN 978-1-59420-182-0.
  4. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form: U.S. Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, Kentucky". October 20, 1987. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  5. ^ David W. Parham and Jim Sumner (November 1979). "North Carolina Granite Corporation Quarry Complex" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
  6. ^ CONSTANCE GUSTKE. "Is There Gold in Fort Knox?". CBS Interactive, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "Gold all there when Ft. Knox opened doors". Numismatic News. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  8. ^ "Fort Knox: Secrets Revealed". H2 History Channel. 2007.
  9. ^ Day, Teresa (January 30, 2005). Fun With the Family Kentucky: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids. Globe Pequot. p. 30. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  10. ^ "Currency & Coins: Fort Knox Bullion Depository". www.treasury.gov. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  11. ^ A History of Mosler. Mosler, Inc., Form 9983-5M-1099. 1999.
  12. ^ Beam, Adam (August 21, 2017). "After 40 years, Fort Knox opens famed vault to civilians". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-08-26.
  13. ^ Bureau of the Fiscal Service (September 30, 2018). "Status Report of U.S. Treasury-Owned Gold". US Department of the Treasury.
  14. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects:United States". IMF. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  15. ^ "Top 10 nations stockpiling gold". Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  16. ^ Hubert Nguyen (February 25, 2013). "Samsung KNOX Provides Privacy To BYODUsers". UberGizmo. Retrieved 21 April 2013.

External links[edit]