Most modern economists have little good to say about gold, naming it as a ‘barbarous relic’ . Funnily enough, although the economist John Maynard Keynes is credited with this observation, his criticism was leveled at the gold standard of the day and not the metal itself . Whilst gold is shunned as a modern investment in the West (President Nixon cancelled the convertibility of dollars into gold aka ‘the gold standard’ in 1971), the yellow metal is still preferred by much of the rest of the world for international trade settlements and as a store of wealth, mostly thanks to local currencies that don’t keep their value. Despite all the negative connotations that surround gold in the mainstream media, the thought of finding a cache of the yellow metal makes my blood race and my heart beat like billy-o. I don’t know about you, but personally I can’t get enough of reality shows like Gold Rush, which feature big boys’ toys and hardy prospectors eking out a living from the land. The piles of gold they produce each week tap into the animal spirit in a way that paper money can’t. Gold has this ability to send people crazy with yellow fever and once they get that look in their eyes, there is simply no coming back.
It is no surprise that our nations’ nuclear secrets are highly classified, but it may come as a shock to discover that everything surrounding official gold holdings is highly classified too. Although figures for gold holdings in metric tonnes are relatively easy to obtain for every country in the world , once we start digging into what is really going on behind the scenes, we find that things become deliberately opaque. For instance, a nation may lease or swap its gold with another entity , without any official announcement, which means it is not possible to truly know who owns what. As to where our gold is stored and the numbers and types of bars held – funnily enough, this is a state secret too. What this means is that while most of the figures in 10 Gold Hoards are verifiable, others are guesstimates. When I began my research, I foolishly thought that all the quantities of gold under scrutiny would be stated in imperial tons (gold is weighed in troy ounces). No such luck. Some values are in $$$, correct at the date of publication, while other weights are in kilos, ounces or metric tonnes. I’ve converted all of the hoards into metric tonnes, as this is the figure which is used when stating international gold reserves. If a hoard is valued in $$$ and it contains silver, then the silver is discounted from the total.
For the record, the internationally recognized standard for gold bars is the 400oz good delivery bar. A tonne of such bars easily fits into a single drawer of a filing cabinet. As an infograph paints a thousand words, follow this link  for a representation of how much space various tonnages of gold take up.
Aztec Gold (<1 tonne)
I’d always assumed that the Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernán Cortés plundered massive quantities of gold from the Aztecs before killing most of them in a series of pitched battles. A quick dig and we soon find out that this is not the case. Although Mexico is home to some of the world’s largest silver mines, compared to Columbia, Ecuador and Peru it has very little gold. The hoard that King Montezuma II had accrued filled only a single room and this was gifted to the Spanish by Montezuma’s envoys in 1519 without the slightest hint of violence. For ease of transportation, the golden objects were melted down into 1kg ingots. The largest single treasure was a golden sun, the size of a cartwheel, valued at 10,000 pesos . Today this artifact would be priceless. Here, we run into trouble with our calculations, as Cortés valued the same piece at only 3,800 pesos. As 20%, or a Royal Fifth, of the 200 odd items that the conquistadors acquired were gifted to King Charles V of Spain, it wasn’t in Cortés’ interest to be accurate with his accounting.
In 1520, Cortés mounted a raid on Montezuma’s treasure stores within the city of Tenochtitlan, figuring that the Aztec king was lying about the true size of his hoard. Unfortunately there are no surviving records regarding what was taken, as soon afterwards the Spanish pushed the Aztecs too far and had to flee the city under cover of dark, losing most of their plunder in the process. The escape during La Noche Triste (the Night of Sorrows) was made all the more tricky by Cortés’ prior destruction of all the rope bridges into and out of the city.
As a good stack of Spanish gold was plundered by the English pirate Sir Francis Drake before it reached Spain, and yet more was lost in a series of shipwrecks, it is almost impossible for us to know how much gold the Spanish looted from the Aztecs. On paper, it appears to be less than a ton – but as with all things gold related, we’ll never know for sure.
Inca Gold (11+ tonnes)
In sharp contrast to the Aztecs, the Incas had bags and bags of gold. They’d been mining and refining for centuries when Francisco Pizarro and his band of around 160 seasoned warriors rocked up in northwest Peru in 1532, hell-bent on conquest. The Spaniards were mistaken for the god Viracocha and his entourage, which goes someway towards explaining why they weren’t immediately disemboweled. Pizarro had visited Peru on two previous occasions, but what he found this time was a country in turmoil from a combination of European smallpox and a civil war of succession. By the time the Inca emperor Atahualpa realized that the Spanish were evil thieves, it was too late. Two thousand of his unarmed Incas were massacred by Spanish gunfire and cavalry charges, and he found himself taken prisoner. In bargaining for his release, Atahualpa offered to fill a large room (22ft by 17ft by 8ft) with gold and twice over with silver.
Pizarro netted 13,000 pounds or 5.9 tonnes of 22 carat gold and 12 tons of silver, delivered as statues, cups, plates and jewellery. The entire hoard was melted down into ingots, destroying many priceless artifacts. Later, after Pizarro reneged on the deal and sentenced the emperor to death for treason, he headed off to the Inca city of Cuzco, where he was warmly welcomed by Atahualpa’s brother – the loser in the war of succession. The Spanish immediately set about sacking the city, accruing at least the same amount of gold and silver as the emperor’s ransom haul, the most prestigious item being a throne of gold. Most of the cultural relics were smelted into ingots .
News of Pizarro’s wealth spread far and wide and over the next 120 years many European explorers set sail for Peru, determined to seize their own slice of Inca gold. A rumor circulated that the Inca had escaped into the Amazon basin, making off with far more gold than Pizarro had accrued. Thus began the search for Eldorado, the fabled city of gold – a search that continues to this day.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple (380+ tonnes)
The citizens of India love their gold! While it is estimated that some 18,000 tonnes of the yellow metal is held in private hands across the whole Indian subcontinent , the largest hoards are to be found in the Hindu temples of southern India, where, over the centuries, rich devotees and royalty have deposited large amounts of precious metals and jewels. The Tirumala temple in eastern Andhra Pradesh state, for instance, is reported to have 4.5 tonnes of gold . This pales into insignificance when compared to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the richest in the world.
Any donation which is made to a temple becomes the property of the deity who resides within – in the case of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple this is Vishnu, the supreme Lord. The story of how the temple came to be audited under the instruction of the Supreme Court of India is rather convoluted ; suffice to say it began with a complete denial that any kallaras or treasure vaults existed underneath the temple, and ended on 30th June 2011 with the opening of Vault A and the discovery of approximately $22 billion in precious metals and gems. This valuation is by weight alone , and allowing for a gold price of $1,800 at the time of valuation, this gives us approx 380 tonnes of the yellow metal. It took 15 men 12 days to empty and inventory the vault, which many devotees said should not have been opened due to a curse . The items of interest, in summary are: 800Kg of gold coins dating to 200BC; 100,000+ gold coins from ancient Rome; a gold sheaf weighing 500Kg and 1 ton of rice trinkets. Some of the gold was sent to be melted down and purified, ending in a scandal when 266Kg went missing . Rumor has it upwards of another ton has been stolen, possibly through a secret passage .
Of the 8 vaults so far discovered, 3 have yet to be opened. When the assessors tried to open Vault B, they found one of the locks was jammed. A locksmith was called, but the attempt was abandoned when it was claimed in court that the spiritual integrity of the temple would be damaged . Later, a ritual was performed to ascertain the will of the Lord, which revealed that any attempts to open Vault B would cause divine displeasure. To this day, no further attempts have been made to enter. The entire wealth of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is recorded on a set of 10,000,000 leaves, which are yet to be audited , but based on what has been discovered so far, the contents of Vault B are estimated at $40 billion (approx 690 tonnes gold). This assumes that no further sub-vaults are discovered. Legend has it that beyond Vault B lies a chamber with walls made of solid gold, which contains the largest treasure vault in the history of the world .
King Solomon (500+ tonnes)
King Solomon was the third king of Israel and a key figure in the Old Testament, ruling between roughly 970 and 931 BCE. Under his leadership, the kingdom of Israel grew from little more than a city state to an empire that dominated the Middle East. Aside from being a wise and powerful ruler, Solomon also had a love of gold in all its forms. According to legend, he had drinking cups, candlesticks and tables made from pure gold, along with 300 shields of beaten gold, a gold and ivory throne and last but not least, the Ark of the Covenant. Technically speaking, gold is quite a soft metal, so it is likely that this was 22 carat gold (91.6% pure – the standard for jewellery and coins in circulation). Solomon had the First Temple in Jerusalem decorated with precious metals, copper and gems; it is estimated that by the end of his reign he’d accumulated over 500 tonnes of the yellow metal . In one year alone, he is alleged to have collected 666 talents of gold in tribute (1 talent = 67 pounds, so around 20 tonnes). When Solomon died, his kingdom split in two. The First Temple was later sacked and the riches stolen. Much of the gold most likely found its way to Egypt, taken away by King Shishak , although there are some who say it remained hidden until it was discovered by the Knights Templar.
One question which has perplexed archaeologists and historians for the last 4,000 years is where all this gold came from. Records tell us that one of King Solomon’s besties was King Hiram of Tyre, which is located in present day Lebanon. The pair dispatched expeditions of Phoenician sailors (the marine corps of their day) to the mysterious land of Ophir to gather all the gold they could find. No records survive regarding Ophir’s location, which is hardly surprising given the secretive nature of the gold industry. Nevertheless, treasure hunters have spent the last twenty-five centuries hunting down the legendary mine. The Victorian imagination was fired by the adventures of Allan Quatermain in Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel King Solomon’s Mines, which placed Ophir in central Africa. For a while, no self-respecting dinner party was complete without a new well-thought-out mine theory. As we now know, the Phoenicians were expert deep water sailors who navigated their way around the Cape of Africa. Modern day speculation places Ophir in West Africa, East Africa, Arabia, Asia and even South America! All we can say for certain is that if the location of Solomon’s mine has been discovered, those that found it remain very tight-lipped.
Nazi Gold (740+ tonnes)
When the Third Reich came to power in 1933, gold was still the means by which a nation’s financial clout was determined. It is pretty certain that Hitler had spent nearly all of the German gold (23 tonnes) by 1939, buying raw materials from abroad as part of his rearmament campaign. Handily, neither Austria nor Czechoslovakia complained when their gold reserves were annexed between 1938 and 1939, thus replenishing the coffers. During their march across Europe, the Nazis stole gold from the central banks of every country they occupied. Later they confiscated coins, jewellery and even teeth from hapless civilians. The requisitioned gold was estimated at $772 million  (gold was $36.20 a troy oz in 1940, therefore 740 tonnes). It was shipped off to Berlin, where it was smelted down into bars to help bolster Reichsmarshall Goering’s expense account.
By 1943, things had gone seriously wrong for Hitler, forcing the Berlin Reichsbank to ship its gold to branches throughout Germany. An estimated 91 tonnes was secretly moved to Switzerland, to be squirreled away by the Gnomes of Zurich. Only 3.6 tonnes of this was ever recovered. According to some sources, the Vatican got their mits on a fair chunk, although this is still denied with much wailing and shaking of heads. Neutral Portugal was a supplier of armaments to the Nazi regime and they demanded payment in gold, having previously been ripped off with forged currency. Generously, the Allies allowed them to keep it after the war. During the summer of 1945, the US Army began a serious hunt for what remained of Hitler’s gold. Approximately 230 tonnes was recovered from various Reichsbank vaults. The largest single hidden haul was discovered in Merkers Mine , 200 miles south of Berlin. It included: 8,198 one kilo bars; 55 boxes of crated gold bullion; hundreds of bags of gold items; over 1,300 bags of gold Reichsmarks, British gold pounds and French gold francs. After WWII, the Tripartite Gold Commission set up a gold pool to repatriate 10 million ounces (347 tonnes) to its rightful owners . Estimates of the total quantity of looted gold vary, with experts divided. It is generally agreed that over 700 tonnes was stolen, centralized and later dispersed , which is why Nazi gold hunters continue to comb continental Europe to this day in search of missing Nazi treasure .
The Roman Empire (1,650+ tonnes)
The Empire of Rome has a special place in the history of gold, for it was the Romans who first introduced the widespread use of a struck gold coin with a standard size, purity and weight. Although gold coins had been in use previously in Greece and Turkey, there was never enough gold to support an economy and hence silver was the monetary metal of choice throughout the region. As the Roman Empire expanded into Egypt, Spain and Romania, its access to gold increased. Indeed, the conquest of Syracuse alone yielded 2,700 pounds or 1.22 tonnes of gold. Once the Romans got up to speed, it is estimated that between the years 100 and 300 AD they mined around 10 tonnes a year , using mechanized production methods that remained unrivaled until the Industrial Revolution. Unlike other civilizations, rather than turn all that gold into jewellery, the Romans minted coins.
The standard Roman gold coin was the aureus, which was 22 carat and weighed 0.23 troy ounces. It was the standard pay for a legionnaire for a month, and in Britain would buy 29 gallons of cheap wine or 200 pounds of flour  – which is more than enough alcohol and pies until the next pay day. The gold hoards we’ve examined so far were static, as in gathered in one place. This is great if you’re a greedy monarch, but gold in storage is useless for an empire built on conquest and trade. Hence the Roman gold hoard was distributed around the empire, except for what remained on deposit at the central bank of Rome, which held around $30 million at 1927 valuations . Gold was roughly $30 a troy oz back then, so this equates to a million ounces, or 35 tonnes, which was a fraction of the estimated 1,650 plus tonnes that the Romans mined.
After the Roman Empire divided into the Eastern and Western Empires around 285 AD, gold supplies began to dwindle. This was accompanied by a debasement of the currency driven by rising costs, which saw both the gold aureus and the silver denarius became mostly cheap filler metal. We’ve seen a similar situation with the British money supply during the 20th century, as silver coins were gradually taken out of circulation and replaced with nickel and zinc discs with no intrinsic value, in order to finance wars (WWI & WWII). A lot of Roman gold found its way East, to India and China, as payment for luxury goods , a situation which is echoed today, as the gold vaults of the west are being systematically emptied by the Chinese and their insatiable appetite for gold .
The Persian Empire (2,500+ tonnes)
At its height, the Persian Empire extended from the Balkans to the Indus valley and included Egypt and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The Persian rulers had a liking for gold and silver, which they accrued in their ceremonial capital, Persepolis, which was founded in approx 518 BCE. Some thirty years earlier, the Persians overran the kingdom of Lydia, which lies in modern Greece, adopting the country’s coinage without changing the style or technology used in production. The Lydian Lion is recognized as the world’s earliest coin – it is cast from electrum, an alloy of silver and gold. Although the Persians used some of their silver and gold in coins, the majority of their gold was hoarded by the rulers.
How much gold did they have? Well, this is a tricky question to answer. They certainly took a large amount of the yellow metal from Egypt as a yearly tribute, which as we’ve already seen, originally came from King Solomon. During peak looting, the Persians took around 40,000 pounds (16.5 tonnes) a year, which was stashed away in the vaults. The biggest clue we have to the size of the Persian hoard comes from a combination of Plutarch (46-120 CE) and Diodorus Siculus (90-21 BCE), who both claim that during the sacking of Persepolis by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels were needed to carry off the loot, which included upwards of 2,500 tonnes of gold . Records indicate that 1,120 tonnes of gold was deposited in Susa, now in modern day Iran. Once fully sacked, Persepolis was raised to the ground as revenge for the destruction of Athens in 480 BCE.
Alexander turned the majority of the 12,200 tonnes of silver he stole into coinage, which he then used to pay his troops, persuading them to follow him all the way to India. Although Alexander introduced some gold into circulation, it doesn’t account for the 1,380 tonnes of gold which didn’t make it to Susa, which is presumably why the hills of Asia Minor are full of adventurers looking for buried treasure.
We’re now seven hoards down and ready to tackle the big three. One of the issues with researching modern gold stashes is that we have to verge outside of mainstream news sources to discover what’s happening. With a little basic maths the historical stuff was relatively easy to wrap our heads around. For what’s coming next we need to prep our tinfoil hats and remember to take everything we read with a pinch of salt and a dose of good old fashioned humor.
Fort Knox (4,582 tonnes)
The USA has the largest stated gold reserves of any modern country, weighing in at a hefty 8,133 tonnes . Of this, 4,582 tonnes are stored in Fort Knox, which is arguably the most famous bullion depository in the world. Given that it is located on a US Army base, it is also one of the most secure. According to mainstream sources , the bullion inside Fort Knox is a mix of ‘good delivery’ bars (400oz – as defined by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA)) and also coin-melt bars, which were created from bullion coins handed in by the public after President Roosevelt banned the public ownership of gold in 1933. As a result of Executive Order 6102, the Federal Reserve’s stash of gold increased from $4 billion to $12 billion, necessitating the construction of a secure depository in which to store the country’s gold reserves. Construction of the thirteen vaults was completed in 1936 and the gold was transported to its new home in 1937 using over 500 train cars. At the outbreak of WWII, many European nations shipped their gold reserves to the US for safekeeping; at its peak in December 1941, Fort Knox held 649 million ounces (22,200 tonnes) of gold .
But is the gold still there? Apart from a visit by Roosevelt in 1943 and a press visit in 1974 to allay fears that all the gold had vanished after Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971 , no member of the public has ever been inside the vaults. The gold was last physically audited in 1953 (only 5% of the gold was assayed by a non-independent source), with all modern audits only checking the vault seals and not their contents . Naturally, conspiracy enthusiasts have concluded that something is indeed awry with the nation’s gold. In true Doublespeak fashion, the claim that America’s gold is ‘held in deep storage’ is reinterpreted by some to mean that Fort Knox is empty and America’s gold is underground, waiting to be mined . According to one source, the vault seals were all replaced in 2010 , which coincides rather neatly with a story that began doing the rounds a year earlier concerning the discovery of 60 tonnes of good delivery gold bars in Hong Kong that were salted with tungsten . Tungsten is cheap and happens to be approximately the same density as gold, meaning that it can’t be detected by weight or x-rays. The only way to ascertain whether a gold bar is 99.99% pure is to either melt it down or drill it out.
Chinese officials later played detective and allegedly discovered that 1.5 million 400oz tungsten inserts were produced and plated with gold during the Clinton administration; 640,000 (8,900 tonnes) of which were shipped to Fort Knox and New York to replace the nation’s gold which various administrations had illegally stolen. The balance of the bars found their way onto the international market . As with all things that involve a tinfoil wrapper, it is impossible to know for sure how much of the story is true. Suffice to say that the Chinese amended their gold purchase strategy shortly afterwards so that gold bound for the Shanghai exchange is now melted down and recast before being added to the inventory.
Romanov Gold (4,600+ tonnes)
Following the death of Tsar Nicholas II In 1918, the New York Times reported that the Romanov family had been the wealthiest in the world, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion. Prior to the Russian Revolution, they governed an empire that covered over one sixth of the Earth’s surface and according to journals of the time had the largest strategic gold reserve in the world. Getting to the bottom of how much gold the Romanov’s had, where it was stored and where it went is a rather tricky business and it takes us a long way away from the traditional safe-spaces of the internet. What is certain is that everything they had was plundered by the Bolsheviks, who were assisted by the Western banks, and had vacated Russia by 1921.
I once heard an interview with Dr Jim Willie, in which he claimed that Baron Rothschild had approached Tsar Nicholas II with a deal to lease 12,000 – 15,000 tons of gold and, once Rothschild had the hoard, rather than repay the loan the Romanovs were murdered . If the entire $9 billion fortune of Russia’s Imperial family was held in gold, at 1918 prices ($20.67) this gives us around 15,168 tonnes, which fits the profile. However, according to the World Gold Council, the total quantity of gold that had been mined worldwide by 1920 was 30,000 tonnes, with only 11,000 tonnes held in reserve by central banks . As the $9 billion wealth fund likely included estates and land, we should be suspicious of the 15,000 tonne claim. We must, therefore piece together the size of the Romanov hoard from other disparate sources.
One figure which we can lock onto is the 1,600 tonnes of gold that were sent east under the guardianship of Admiral Kolchak prior to the Bolsheviks kicking off the Revolution. This was apparently 73% of the total gold reserves held in St Petersburg . This gives us 2,192 tonnes of gold held in the capital, with perhaps 100 tonnes held elsewhere. Kolchak’s gold later went missing, which has prompted many treasure hunters to search for it ever since, with the most likely site for its final resting place being the bottom of Lake Baikal  . According to other sources, once the Revolution started, the Tsar ordered $1 billion worth of gold to be shipped to Remington in the US to finance the purchase of weapons to quell the upstarts. At 1917 prices, this equates to 1,685 tonnes. Given that America lies to the east of Russia, I’m inclined to believe that this is the same gold shipment that Kolchak was entrusted to guard.
Another source  claims that Rothschild liberated $700 million in gold from Russia (1,180 tonnes), with US banks holding onto $900 million (1,492 tonnes) and European banks keeping safe a further $427 million (750 tonnes). As gold was the only real money in the early 20th century, it is likely that these bank deposits were initially made in gold, which may then have been used to purchase paper (stocks, shares & dollars/pounds/francs). This is backed up by a chart of US gold reserves, which shows a jump of 1,500 tonnes on deposit between 1900 and 1918 . This leads us to conclude that 2,300 tonnes of Romanov gold was held abroad. Baron Rothschild’s haul consisted of what remained in the St Petersburg vaults, along with an extra 600 tonnes pillaged from private citizens , probably taken out of the country on four ships stacked with bullion . In his book History’s Greatest Heist, historian Sean McMeekin outlines how the Bolsheviks went crazy for anything of value that wasn’t nailed down and sold it off to help pay for the revolution . Although the governments of the world initially refused to recognize Lenin and disallowed the sale of Russian gold on the open market, the Swedes were not so circumspect. Covertly, the Swedish mint smelted down revolutionary gold and stamped the bars with the Swedish hallmark , thus facilitating its sale on the global market.
A gold hoard of 4,600+ tonnes is certainly feasible. A quick flick through the history of Russian mining  reveals that at a conservative estimate 2,100 tonnes were mined in the pre-Soviet era, with an average of 200 tonnes a year produced today . Throw in Alexander the Great’s gold which went missing in Russian territory, along with gold captured in various military campaigns over 300 years of Romanov rule and it soon adds up.
Yamashita’s Gold (5,450+ tonnes)
The Yamashita of the title is Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was nicknamed The Tiger of Malaya. During the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia in late 1941 / early 1942, his job as commander of the Twenty-Fifth Army was to loot as much gold as possible from the captured territories and stash it all in Singapore, with a view to transferring the hoard to the Japanese mainland. The story goes that General Yamashita was assisted in his endeavor at the highest level by a secret task force assembled by Emperor Hirohito, which included in its ranks yakuza gangsters. The operation was codenamed Golden Lily and it was certainly a clandestine affair which is only paid lip service in serious history books. Those that do pick up the trail usually dismiss the story as a hoax. At best they’ll concede that General Yamashita had away perhaps a few tons of gold. However, Sterling and Penny Seagrave, who have authored a pair of books on the subject   argue differently.
What we can say for certain is that much like India, Southeast Asia has a lot of Hindu temples and those temples were loaded with gold before the Japanese invaded. By the end of the Second World War they were empty. The Emperor’s task force allegedly captured around 5,450 tonnes of gold from Nanjing during their assault on the Chinese mainland in 1937. Later on, once Southeast Asia fell, they plundered with abandon. Gold was assayed, melted down into ingots and sent to the Philippines on hospital ships. This came to an end in 1943, thanks to an outbreak of American submarines. According to the Seagraves, it was at this point that Golden Lily began stashing their loot in hidden underground locations such as bunkers and caves. In all, 175 imperial treasure sites were created and those who assisted with burying the loot were entombed with it. After WWII ended, a crack team of US investigators located 15 of the hoards by torturing Yamashita’s driver. They found piles of gold ingots higher than their heads . General MacArthur was informed of the finds and President Truman hushed everything up, intent on using the loot to fund off-the-books CIA activity. Ferdinand Marcos, later the ruler of the Philippines, got in on the act and recovered gold worth $6 billion from a sunken Japanese cruiser and $8 billion from a tunnel . Allegedly, Marcos discovered the whereabouts of five more sites and appropriated their contents. Like Goering before her, his wife Imelda spent the loot with abandon on a luxury lifestyle that included thousands of pairs of designer shoes. Later, a lawsuit was filed against Marcos by a treasure hunter who accused him of stealing $22 billion in gold at gunpoint. This was reduced to $13 million on appeal, with newspapers declaring that Yamashita’s gold had finally been found and this was an end to the matter.
Except of course it isn’t. If we spend a bit of time searching the internet for Yamashita’s gold, we soon discover a rabbit hole of immense proportions. Some sources claim that the Marcos’ fortune was nearer to $1 trillion and they had in their possession over 60,000 tonnes of gold from the Golden Lily hoard, which actually totaled a million tonnes . Given that the World Gold Council estimate that around 165,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in the whole of human history, of which the central banks store 33,000 tonnes , something is clearly not right. Is the World Gold Council mistaken? Has the US really got a secret stash of 170,000 tonnes of ‘recovered’ gold in Hawaii as a whistle-blower claims , or is this controlled misinformation to cover up the fact that Fort Knox is empty? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Meanwhile, let us raise a glass to the thousands of treasure hunters who descend on the Philippines every year in search of Yamashita’s gold. The best of luck to you all.
What have we learned from this waltz through the great gold hoards of history? If you stash all your gold in one place, someone will eventually come along and plunder it. Then, once the perpetrator thinks the hoard is safe, someone bigger still comes along and takes it again. Gold is the ultimate store of wealth and the ultimate recyclable. Every year hundreds of tons of jewellery and gold bars are melted down and recast. That gold coin your granddad left you, or perhaps your gold wedding ring might just contain a small part of an Inca hoard purloined by the Spanish conquistadors, or perhaps some of Alexander the Great’s loot stolen from Persia, which in turn came from ancient Egypt as a tribute, but originated in King Solomon’s mines, wherever they may be.
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 Tenny Frank “An economic history of Rome” sec. edition 1927.
 The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan’s Imperial Family (2000).
 Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (2003).