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Who Owns Most of the World's Gold?

4% of the World Controls 12.6% of the Gold

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With gold prices getting ready to soar, we've decided to find out who owns the most bullion in the world.

It's no surprise that governments, central banks, and investment funds are the world's largest holders of gold reserves. These organizations know gold is the ultimate store of value that protects against inflation and offers a safe haven during times of economic and geopolitical turmoil.

To find out who owns the most gold in the world, we referred to data from the International Monetary Fund's International Financial Statistics Report.

The 10 Biggest Gold Owners in the World

 20090402_netherlands.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 10  Netherlands  612.5  61.4%

The Netherland central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank, oversees the Dutch national finances, including the country's 612.5 tonnes of gold reserves. The Dutch gold is currently worth over $20 billion and accounts for 61.4% of the country's foreign reserves.

 20090402_japan.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 9  Japan  765.2  2.1%

Although Japan is the ninth largest gold owner in the world, its 765.2 tonnes of the yellow metal account for just 2.1% of the island nation's total foreign reserves. Managed by the Bank of Japan, the country's gold reserves would fetch approximately $25.4 billion on the open market.

 20090402_switzerland.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 8  Switzerland  1040.1  37.1%

Conducting Switzerland's monetary policy is the Swiss National Bank, which oversees the country's 1,040.1 tonnes of gold. The gold is believed to be stored in huge underground vaults near the federal Parliament building in Berne, but the Swiss National Bank treats the location of the gold reserves as a secret. With the world's eighth largest reserve of the yellow metal, Switzerland's stockpile would fetch approximately $34.5 billion in today's gold market, accounting for 37.1% of the country's foreign reserves.

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 20090402_china.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 7  China  1054.0  1.8

The world's most populous country also has the world's seventh largest gold reserve. With a population of 1.33 billion, the country holds about $26 worth of gold per person, worth a total of almost $35 billion. The Chinese gold accounts for only 1.8% of the nation's total foreign reserves.

 20090402_spdr.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 6  SPDR Gold Shares ETF  1,120.6  n/a

Originally listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2004, SPDR Gold Shares has been one of the fastest growing ETFs in the world. SPDR Gold Shares now trade on the Singapore Stock Exchange as well as the Tokyo Stock Exchange. All of the Trust’s gold is held by the Custodian, HSBC Bank, in their London vault — except when the gold has been allocated in the vault of a sub-custodian.

 20090402_france.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 5  France  2,450.7  72.6%

The Banque De France is responsible for France's gold holdings, which have been reported at about 2,450.7 tonnes by the International Monetary Fund. With the fifth largest gold reserve in the world, France's amount to about $81.3 billion, accounting for 72.6% percent of the country's foreign reserves — the second highest percentage of gold in foreign reserves on our top ten list.

 20090402_italy.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 4  Italy  2,451.8  66.5%

The Italian National Bank, Banca D'Italia, manages the country's large gold holdings, which account for 66.5% of its foreign reserves. With approximately 2,451.8 tonnes of gold in reserve, Italy's holdings are very close to France's and are also worth approximately $81.3 billion at current prices.

 20090402_imf.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 3  International Monetary Fund
 3,217.3  n/a

The International Monetary Fund oversees the global financial system by following the macroeconomic policies of its 185 member countries. It is an organization formed to stabilize international exchange rates and facilitate development and offers highly leveraged loans, mainly to poorer countries.

The IMF's gold policies have changed in the last quarter century, but the reserves remain in place for use in stabilizing international markets and aiding national economies. The IMF's official policy on gold as it is stated on the organization's website is governed by the following principles:

  • As an undervalued asset held by the IMF, gold provides fundamental strength to its balance sheet. Any mobilization of IMF gold should avoid weakening its overall financial position.
  • The IMF should continue to hold a relatively large amount of gold among its assets, not only for prudential reasons, but also to meet unforeseen contingencies.
  • The IMF has a systemic responsibility to avoid causing disruptions to the functioning of the gold market.
  • Profits from any gold sales should be used whenever feasible to create an investment fund, of which only the income should be used.
 20090402_germany.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 2  Germany  3,412.6  69.5%

The Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, is the most influential member of the European System of Central Banks. With a hefty 3,412.6 tonnes of gold reserves valued at about $113.2 billion at current prices, Germany's gold accounts for almost 70% of the country's total foreign reserves.

 20090402_usa.jpg
 Rank  Owner  Tonnes  Share of Foreign Reserves
 1  United States
 8,133.5  78.3%

The United States holds the largest gold reserve in the world. With 8,133.5 tonnes, U.S. gold holdings are worth approximately $269.67 billion. This massive gold reserve represents about .9436 an ounce for every person living in the country.

The majority of the American gold is reported to be held in the world-famous United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky, although there is some controversy that suggests otherwise. The remainder of the U.S. reserves are held at the Philadelphia Mint, the Denver Mint, the West Point Bullion Depository, and the San Francisco Assay Office.

The top ten largest owners of gold in the world are reported to control a total of 24,258.3 tonnes, or over 855 million ounces. At current spot prices, this gold would be worth approximately $804.35 billion and represents about 15.4% of all the gold ever mined.

We continue to urge all Gold World readers to buy and hold both gold and silver in anticipation of significantly higher precious metal prices.

Good Investing,

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Luke Burgess


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