When it comes to its gold, the U.S. government has always been very secretive.
This is an understandable impulse (for the most part). Gold is an important thing to protect, after all! However, it appears that one of the stranger mysteries in this regard is finally unraveling.
Hidden Coins in the Vault
There are a number of lingering questions about the gold reserves of the United States. What accounting purpose does the valuation of the gold at the 1971 price of $42.22 per ounce serve? Why is the auditing process of the gold stored at Fort Knox so sketchy? Have any of the gold reserves of other countries stored at the New York Fed been leased out (hypothecated)?
Simple answers are never provided to these questions regarding our gold.
Yet new light is being shed on a query that almost nobody even knew to ask.
Revelations recently surfaced that the U.S. Bullion Depository at West Point contains literally millions of gold coins from foreign countries. Many of them have been harbored for decades, as most of the coins date to before the end of the Second World War.
The discovery was reported by Coin World after the Treasury Department responded to the magazine's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Apparently, there are over 4.5 million of these foreign gold coins sitting at the West Point Mint. Their gross weight is nearly one million troy ounces—a bullion value in excess of $1.2 billion.
It's not particularly surprising that the U.S. would have acquired or stored these coins in the distant past. What's unexpected is that they're still there; that they've never been melted and made into bars, as is traditionally done with gold owned by the U.S.; and that their presence has been unknown for so long.
It simply raises a whole host of new questions.
A Gold Coin That's Illegal to Own
Meanwhile, another coin mystery in the U.S. was also investigated by Coin World last month.
There was a high-profile legal battle over the past decade involving the famous 1933 gold double eagle. Ten of these ultra-rare coins, which essentially aren't supposed to exist, were discovered by the Langbord family in a safe-deposit box. They had been sitting dormant for more than fifty years.
However, the courts ultimately (after a few back-and-forth decisions and subsequent appeals) ruled that the coins were stolen government property. Only one 1933 double eagle, the example once owned by Egypt's King Farouk, has ever been "monetized" and deemed legal to own.
Officials at the U.S. Mint knew of a handful of other examples that still exist in private hands somewhere. It was revealed that authorities even knew where some of them were located, which begs the question: Why haven't they confiscated them?
It turns out that at least one of the coins was already recovered, but the news was kept under wraps for legal reasons. The anonymous owner reportedly turned over the coin voluntarily to avoid being in possession of contraband.
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