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Which Nation Has the Highest Gold Reserves?

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There is a saying that, “He who owns the gold makes the rules.” That has been true for almost all of recorded history.

According to International Monetary Fund statistics, the U.S. has the world’s largest holdings of government and central bank gold reserves, totaling 261.5 million ounces as of the end of July. China officially comes in with the sixth largest holdings, at 62.6 million ounces, trailing the U.S., Germany, Italy, France, and Russia,

However, don’t believe that statistic about China. Eighteen years ago, China’s central bank began aggressively accumulating gold reserves. I learned of the purchases at the time but took two years to independently confirm this before I reported it in 2005.

The Chinese government did not disclose to the IMF until April 2009 that it had been accumulating gold reserves for the previous six years. I warned at the time that the supposedly updated official number was almost certainly still less than the current total of Chinese gold reserves.

Since then, the Chinese government and central bank have repeatedly increased their disclosed gold reserves. But, many market-watchers agree with me that the total Chinese gold reserves are far higher than reported.

First, the central bank, as it has done repeatedly, almost certainly holds more gold than it reports. Second, the Chinese army also holds massive quantities of gold not included in acknowledged reserves.

Third, the Chinese government also hides gold reserves by having it held in the inventories of businesses owned by the government. Fourth, the Chinese sovereign investment funds also hold gold that is not included in official reserves.

On top of this, China’s gold mines are the largest producer of any nation, all of which is sold to the government. In addition, various Chinese entities, at least some of which are owned by the Chinese government, are acquiring ownership of foreign gold mining companies.

No outsiders know how much gold the Chinese government and central bank control. Not even counting the gold still in the ground to be mined in the future, the estimates I see range from 325 million to almost 1 billion ounces. These amounts exceed U.S. government gold reserves by at least 24 to almost 300 percent.

With China now holding the most gold reserves of any nation, it is almost certain that in any future international monetary negotiations, the Chinese government will be “making the rules.”

Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at www.1320wils.com).