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Top-Drawer Gold Storage

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Gold bars: Each bar weighs just over 12 kilograms (27 pounds).

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds the world's largest accumulation of monetary gold. Only a small portion belongs to the U.S. government. The bank serves as guardian for it, as well as the gold monetary reserves of approximately 60 foreign governments, central banks and international organizations.

The vault is 25 meters (80 feet) beneath the street and holds $147 billion worth of gold bullion. The bedrock of Manhattan was one of the few foundations strong enough to support the weight of the vault, its door and the gold inside.

Before 1986, bars cast in the U.S. generally were rectangular bricks. Since then, most have been trapezoid-shaped. Gold bars feature three pieces of information that give specific characteristics of the bar: registration or melt number, purity level and the name of assayer or refinery.

London Good Delivery Bar
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© AMNH / Craig Chesek, Courtesy of Johnson Matthey, Inc.

London Good Delivery Bar.

The standard bar used in physical transactions within the London gold market, the London Good Delivery (LGD) bar, also called a "400-ounce" bar, is at least 99.5 percent pure and 350-430 troy ounces in weight. Most newly mined gold enters the international market in this form, and 61 manufacturers worldwide produce more than 100,000 bars annually. Most of the 2.5 million LGD bars in circulation are held as part of some nations' gold reserves.

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© AMNH / Rod Mickens

Safe Deposit Box.

Portable Safe Deposit

Until the late 1860s, gold dust, gold bars, gold coins, legal papers, checks and drafts traveled in green treasure boxes, stored under the stagecoach driver's seat. Loaded with bullion, they could weigh 45-68 kilograms (100-150 pounds), "about as much as one likes to shoulder to and from the stages," wrote Wells Fargo agent John Q. Jackson in an 1854 letter. Holding the most valuable assets of the West, these sturdy boxes of ponderosa pine, oak and iron were prized by highway bandits. Slightly more than 2,000 double eagles would fill this box to the 68-kilogram maximum weight that an agent "would like to shoulder."

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