The Largest Gold Reserves
The United States holds the world’s largest stockpile of gold reserves by a considerable margin. In fact, the U.S. government has almost as many reserves as the next three largest gold-holding countries combined (Germany, Italy, and France). Russia rounds out the top five.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is one of the top gold reserve holders with 2,814.10 metric tons (3,102.01 standard tons)—almost as much as Germany.
- Governments today no longer require that all of their money be backed by gold. However, they still store vast amounts of bullion to protect against hyperinflation or other economic calamity.
- The United States holds the world’s largest stockpile of gold reserves by a considerable margin at over 8,100 tons.
- The U.S. government has almost as many reserves as the next three largest gold-holding countries combined (Germany, Italy, and France).
- Russia overtook China as the fifth-largest holder of gold in 2018.
How Gold Reserves Work
Gold has served as a means of exchange, to varying degrees, for thousands of years. For much of the 17th to 20th centuries, the paper money issued by national governments was denominated in terms of gold and acted as a legal claim to physical gold. International trade was conducted using gold. For this reason, countries needed to maintain a store of gold for both economic and political reasons.
Most countries stopped backing their currencies with gold in the mid-1900s. Switzerland was the last country to fully drop the gold standard in 1999. Nevertheless, governments still house huge stacks of bullion as a failsafe against hyperinflation or another economic calamity.
For businesses, gold represents a commodity asset that is used in medicine, jewelry, and electronics. For many investors, both institutional and retail, gold is a hedge against inflation or recessions.
Countries With the Largest Gold Reserves in the World
As of February 2024, these five countries have the largest gold reserves:
- United States: 8,133.46 tons. During the height of the Bretton Woods international exchange system, when the U.S. offered to house and protect other countries’ gold in exchange for dollars, it was reported that between 90% and 95% of the entire world’s gold reserves lay in American vaults. Decades later, the U.S. still holds the most. Gold makes up over 75% of its foreign reserves.
- Germany: 3,352.65 tons. Germany keeps its gold reserves in the Deutsche Bundesbank in Frankfurt am Main, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank branch in New York, and the Bank of England in London.
- Italy: 2,451.84 tons. The eurozone crisis led some to call for Italy’s government to sell some of its gold reserves to raise funds, but no such plans ever materialized.
- France: 2,436.97 tons. Former President of France Charles de Gaulle was partially responsible for the collapse of the Bretton Woods system when he called the U.S. bluff and began actually trading dollars in for gold from the Fort Knox reserves.
- Then-president Richard Nixon, who knew that the fixed rate of $35 per gold ounce was too low, eventually was forced to take the U.S. off the gold standard, ending the dollar’s automatic convertibility into gold.
- Russian Federation: 2,3332.74 tons. Russia overtook China as the fifth-largest holder of the yellow metal in 2018. Russia’s increase in its gold stores was seen as an attempt to diversify beyond American investments. Russia mainly sold U.S. Treasury bonds to buy the bullion.
The U.S. continues to safeguard gold belonging to other countries. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is the custodian of gold owned by foreign governments, central banks, and official international organizations.
Where Is the World’s Largest Known Stockpile of Gold?
In the U.S., within a vault at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It is known to contain the largest amount of gold in the world.
How Much Gold Does the U.S. Have in Reserve?
The U.S. has gold reserves of 8,133.5 tons. This amount ranks it first among countries with the largest gold reserves.
Which Countries Have the Largest Gold Reserves in the World?
As of Feb. 8, 2024, the holders of the largest gold reserves in the world are the U.S. (with 8,133.46 tons), Germany (with 3,352.65 tons), Italy (with 2,451.84 tons), France (with 2,436.97 tons), and Russia (with 2,332.74 tons).
The Bottom Line
Gold has long been viewed as one of the best stores of value. It is no longer used as a means to back national currencies. Understandably, governments feel the need to control it to ensure they have a backup if there is ever a widespread financial system failure.