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How Much Gold Stock Is There Really

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This was added after the article below was first published.  I was accused by a few of being speculative, though I had admitted as such throughout the article.  It is possibly best to explain the thought process behind the article…

It goes without saying that the best method for establishing a valid story is the sequential structuring of events – facts – one after the other.  A diligent enough assembly of facts will begin to tell its own story without any need for the author to interrupt.  In almost all subject areas this is not only desirable, but possible.  With reference to the subject of the amount of gold in the world, the known facts are sparse and separated by centuries and sometimes millennia.  Author interruption – otherwise known as speculation – becomes wholly necessary, though regrettable.  Whilst the speculation cannot uncover with any precision the maximum amount of gold in the world, the facts, threadbare though they are, indicate with a certainty that the previously accepted figure for the total amount of gold in the world under-represents the facts to a remarkable degree.  PB


The current estimate for the amount of gold stock in the world is in the region of 170,000 tonnes.  As the very first step, it needs to be acknowledged that an estimate is all that is available.  Running a worldwide survey on how much gold people own is rather pointless.  Even in good times, people are noticeably reluctant to discuss their true wealth.  In troubled times, such as now, that becomes an unwillingness to even be interviewed.  Nevertheless, it also needs to be emphatically stated that 170,000 tonnes is far too low an estimate and that it is time for a revision.  Every single media outlet repeats this same figure, or similar, as though it is gospel.

Included in this 170,000 tonnes is the 10,000 tonnes estimated as being the total amount of gold mined in the history of the world prior to the Californian gold rush of 1848.  This was simply a guess.

‘David Guyatt, in his article “The Spoils of War”, commented that prior to the Californian Gold Rush of 1848 the amount of gold believed to be in existence was about 10,000 tonnes, i.e. it was “the sum total of gold mined throughout the world during the preceding 5,850 years, for which mining records exist.” In correspondence with the World Gold Council in 1998, Guyatt says that the WGC admitted that this figure was just an “industry estimate”, although as he says: “Nevertheless, this estimate has been incorporated into current day official mining figures and punched out as actual fact.”’
The Thunder Road Report

The “industry estimate” of the amount of gold mined in that 5,850 years works out to be 1.7 tonnes a year.  The assumption that underpins the idea that not much gold was mined prior to the Californian gold rush is essentially, that if it takes modern methods a whole year to extract 2,400 tonnes then it would take far, far longer for more primitive cultures to extract the same amount of gold.

The huge, gaping flaw in the modern versus primitive technology theory is that it assumes that all else was equal.  It unequivocally was not.  The further back into history we travel, the more accessible and plentiful gold was, just as it will be far less plentiful in the future than it is now.  Our ancestors mined all the easy to access gold in the world.  The Mesoamericans pulled chunks of it out of rivers with their hands it was so plentiful.  Today we are mining the residual leftovers – the sparse remnants of what was once plentiful.


In 1986, Ernie Maceda the Filipino Minister for Natural Resources, revealed that the country’s gold panners produced more than 18 tonnes of gold a year.  All that from the placer mining of just one country*.  The usefulness of this Filipino figures is that the law at the time stipulated that all gold had to be sold to the Filipino government.  Thus the miners were delivering directly to the central bank allowing for a more precise than usual estimate of gold production.

If primitive panning methods were able to produce a declared total of 18 tonnes a year in 1986,  then it makes a mockery of the claim that at an earlier time, when gold was in far greater abundance, the whole world was only able to produce 1.7 tonnes a year.  It goes far beyond just implausible, it speaks of an estimate made by people who were completely out of touch with the reality of gold production.

Nor should it be assumed that earlier gold extraction was as primitive as simple panning.  The Ancient Egyptians used far more sophisticated mining techniques than the Filipino panners.  This included fire techniques to break apart large rocks which were then crushed to dust before the residual gold was washed out.  The Mesoamericans were even more sophisticated.  Amongst other scientific feats, it is highly likely that they utilized the mercury amalgamation method of gold and silver extraction before the Europeans*.  The ancients were not as primitive as 20th and 21st century arrogance would have us assume.  To imagine them as knuckle-draggers scratching gold out of rocks with pointy sticks, and only able to glean 1.7 tonnes of gold per annum worldwide, speaks more to our lack of sophistication than theirs.

* ‘Pre-Columbian Societies Knew a Thing About Extracting Gold’ – AAAS.ORG

From a meeting with Middle East power brokers in 2011…
“’You guys don’t show up on my radar screen here.  I have a feeling there’s a lot more gold around here than anyone is willing to admit.’  They all sort of looked at each other and smiled and so without saying so in so many words, I was led to believe there was a lot more gold out there than what shows up in the official statistics…”
Jim Rickards – investment banker and US Intelligence and defence insider.

When the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened in 1922 it contained staggering amounts of gold.  The coffin was over six foot long and made from solid gold an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick.  The best estimates are that the amount of gold needed to create this coffin alone would have been 1.5 tonnes.

“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flames to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”
Howard Carter’s description upon opening Tutankhamen’s tomb – 1922

There were full sized, gold chariots in Tutankhamen’s tomb.  The famous facemask weighted over 24 kilograms.  All this from one of the least important pharaohs who died young and without ever leading an army.

Because of his insignificance, Tutankhamen was buried in one of the smallest and poorest of the pyramids.  His only claim to fame is that his tomb was relatively intact.  The 100 or so tombs of the other, far more revered pharaohs were discovered only after they had been stripped of all their gold.  How much gold existed in those other tombs can only be left to the imagination.

Even if the Ancient Egyptians, with their tens of thousands of slave labourers and more advanced techniques, were so incompetent that they were only able to mine the same amount per year as the Filipino panners of 1986, they did that for 2,000 years.  This most conservative of figures would have produced an amount of 36,000 tonnes of gold.  Ten times that amount would be the more likely figure.

By the time Roman gold mining records began, Egypt had already mined out its country of the easily available gold.  The Egyptians moved south and found enormous quantities of gold in the legendary mines of Nubia.  It is reputed that there was more gold mined from Nubia than from all other sources in the known world put together prior to the California gold rush.  Whilst the Nubian mines undoubtedly produced huge amounts of gold, that is unlikely.  There was also the Midian mine in the far north of what is now Saudi Arabia where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aqaba.  This area was famous for its abundance of gold.

“By 325 BC the Greeks had mined for gold from Gibraltar to Asia Minor.” (World Gold Council)

Even after the beginning of official records, only a percentage of the actual mining was recorded.  Probably a majority in some countries, but by no means all countries.  In many countries where gold mining took place, few records of any sort were even attempted until recent times.

“…contains rich underground veins of many kinds, including many of silver and gold…”
Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 1B.C. – speaking of India

The history of Asian gold is a book all on its own.  As with Egypt, by the time Roman records began, India had already mined out its country of the easily available gold.  Only in the present day has mining technology advanced to the point where the residual deposits are becoming viable again.

The Indus Civilization is the oldest in existing records, beginning just after the ending of the Ice-Age.  The Mehrgarh period of the Indus Civilization has been dated to at least 7,000 B.C..  The Ancient Egyptian Civilization came almost 4,000 years later.  There is some evidence to suggest that coinage originated in the Indus Civilization and speculation that the idea arrived in Lydia and the Greek states from there.

Between 2000 and 2010 India imported 7,500 tonnes of gold.  In just 2010 alone India imported a World Gold Council estimate of just under 1000 tonnes.  In 2011, imports are again expected to be 1,000 tonnes.  The Nizam of Hyderabad alone was reputed to own 15,000 tonnes.  The significance of gold to the Indians has never waned.  It is a major part of the fabric of the culture and far more than just a store of wealth, let alone a medium of exchange.  The Hindu creator was born from the cosmic egg of gold.  Brahma is known as ‘Hiranyagarbha’ – the one born of gold.  Hiranya, the ancient name for gold comes from the root ‘Hri’ meaning ‘imperishable’.

“The Sun is Brahman – this is the teaching. An explanation thereof (is this). In the beginning this (world) was non-existent. It became existent. It grew. It turned into an egg. It lay for the period of a year. It burst open. Then came out of the eggshell, two parts, one of silver, the other of gold.

That which was of silver is this earth; that which was of gold is the sky. What was the outer membrane is the mountains; that which was the inner membrane is the mist with the clouds. What were the veins were the rivers. What was the fluid within is the oceans”.
Chandogya Upanishad, III, 19, 1-2

In 1997 the ‘International Center for Peace and Development’ quoted a report showing that India had 29,000 tonnes of gold in private hands.  As already mentioned such reports tend to understate the real amount due to people’s natural reluctance to disclose their holdings.

“How much gold jewellery is available in North America for refiners?  (I will ignore Europe and Asia, given the higher regard in which gold is held there.)  An industry contact tells me the average household owns jewelry containing 0.75 ounces of gold.  With 130 million households, that represents approximately 3,000 tons.”
Publius – Journal of The Gold Standard Institute Mar. 2011

In the US, there is a very low awareness of gold and the nation has a history of less than 300 years.  It is reasonable to assume that in India, where gold has been widely accumulated as the only form of wealth and savings for at least 6,000 years, and where there are 1.2 billion people, there is at least 100 times this amount… 300,000 tons of gold.  It cannot be stressed too much that Indians have a huge awareness of, and respect for, gold.  It is owned, usually in the form of bars or jewellery, by everyone down to village peasants.  The Indians, who have always revered gold to an even greater degree than the ancient Egyptians, have traded for gold from all over the world for at least 5,000 years.  India has historically been spoken of as the gold and silver sponge, meaning it enters, but never leaves.

Siam is the old (and beautiful) name for Thailand.  It comes from Sanskrit meaning gold.  The Chinese still call Thailand ‘Jin Lin’.  It means ‘peninsula of gold’.

“Gold is so plentiful that no one who did not see it could believe it”.
Marco Polo reporting on gold in Lokak (Siam or Malaya)

“in great abundance because it is found there in measureless quantities”… “so much indeed that the ruler of the island has a very large palace entirely roofed with fine gold, just as we roof our churches with lead”
Marco Polo reporting on gold in Japan

“Gold dust is found in the rivers, and gold in bigger nuggets in the lakes and mountains”.
Marco Polo reporting on gold at Karajang (Chinese province of Yunnan which is still a gold mining area today)

The vast gold treasure of the Kublai Khan in China will have been added to and handed on down from one dynasty to the next.  It is reasonable to assume that Mao’s takeover would have seen this hoard increased through confiscation.  It is also possible though that this treasure became a part of Yamashita’s gold…

Yamashita’s gold, which is amply documented, tells a story of vast amounts of gold.  During World War 2, Japanese forces pillaged gold and platinum, along with other valuables, from every territory that they occupied.  General Yamashita was charged with hiding this treasure trove.  Most of the treasure was shipped directly to Japan.  Toward the end of the war US submarines blockaded Japan and it became necessary to hide the gold elsewhere.  The chosen location was the Philippines (and Indonesia).

In 1945 the US located some of these stashes and huge tonnages of gold were shipped back to the US.  There is much evidence to suggest that Ferdinand Marcos subsequently recovered most of the remaining gold hidden in the Philippines.  The following is an extract from a legal document in a case lodged in the Supreme Court of Hawaii in 1998 – ‘Roger Roxas and the Golden Buddha Corporation vs. Ferdinand E. Marcos and Imelda Marcos’.  The case was won which means that the evidence was found to be credible.  Roxas was awarded 43 billion US’s – later reduced to 22 billion on appeal.

Fourth paragraph:
“Curtis (Robert Curtis-owner of a mining business in Nevada) also testified that General Ver had brought him to a basement room in the Marcoses’ Miravelles summer palace, where the gold bars were kept. Curtis entered a room “about roughly 40 by 40,” stacked to the ceiling with bars of gold. He estimated the ceiling to be ten feet high. Two or three four-foot wide aisles ran through the stacks of gold. The bars were in a standard seventy-five kilogram size. He noticed that the bars had “oriental markings” on them.”

Allowing for three, four-foot wide aisles, the room contained approximately 11,200 cubic foot of gold.  That is over 6,700 tonnes.  All this gold came from just one site… Luzon; there were a total of 172 sites.

Official gold stock of 170,000 tonnes is best visualised as a cube with sides of 67 feet (20.4 metres), meaning that its sides are 11 foot (3.35 metres) shorter than a tennis court.  That is supposed to represent the sum of all gold mined… ever.  In light of just that one paragraph above it is not possible to take the ‘industry estimate’ of gold stock seriously.

Fifth paragraph:
“On cross-examination, Curtis testified that his study of the Yamashita treasure had suggested that the treasure contained eighteen buddhas and was distributed among 172 sites. He also testified that Ferdinand had told him that the gold that Curtis had seen had come from a site in the Luzon region. Moreover, in 1975, while Curtis was working with Ferdinand, another site was discovered in the town of Teresa, and more gold was retrieved.”

Further testimony from the same case both lends support to the testimony of Curtis and speaks of another gold storage room:

Eighth paragraph:
“… General Ver showed him (Olof Johsson, a clairvoyant called in to help in treasure hunting} a basement room in the guest house outside Malacanang Palace and another room in the summer palace, both filled with gold. He was also shown a golden buddha in the summer palace that was too heavy for him to move. Jonsson described the basement room in the guest cottage as being approximately twenty feet wide, forty feet long, and twelve feet high. He estimated the room in the summer palace as measuring “probably 40 feet by 25 or something” and twelve feet in height. Both rooms were filled with two-foot-long bars of gold stacked to the ceiling. Jonsson testified that it was possible that the bars were four inches wide and four inches thick, but that he could not recall exactly.”

Eleventh paragraph:
“(Michael) O’Brien (an Australian in real estate business) also traveled to the Philippines. At one point, when he expressed doubt as to the existence of so much gold, he was blindfolded and taken to a warehouse. Inside the warehouse was a stack of approximately three hundred to four hundred boxes, each the size of a six-pack of beer. O’Brien opened one and observed that it contained three crudely smelted gold bars, which he described as being pitted “like an orange peel.” He tried to lift several other boxes and found them too heavy to move.”

Two Australian bullion dealers testified under oath in the same trial that they had sold 1.63 trillion dollars worth of bullion on behalf of Marcos in the 1980′s.  As the precise year was not given I have assumed a price of $500 per ounce.  That equates to just over 100,000 tonnes of gold.  This evidence was accepted by the court as truthful. The full range of possible tonnage based upon 1980′s prices would be from 84,000 tonnes to 169,000 tonnes.


In 1998 a Filipino newspaper called The Enquirer published an article revealing that 96 members of the Filipino military had signed a joint affidavit declaring that they had, between 1973 and 1985, recovered over 60,000 tonnes of gold from 30 out of the 172 Japanese treasure sites.  If these 30 sites were typical, then the total amount of gold recovered by Marcos was just under 350,000 tonnes.  Far more of the gold reached and as far as is known, remains in Japan.  The quantity seized by the US from both Japan and the Philippines is unknown.


Japan, The Philippines, Indonesia, India and China hold vast tonnages of gold that western-centric estimates seem to have entirely ignored in their calculations.  There are also very large hoards with non-public documentation in Europe, particularly in Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland and quite possibly other European countries that the author is not aware of.  The US holds a large amount of non-publicly documented gold which far surpasses its official holdings of around 8,000 tonnes.  Note that there is no claim here that any of these hoards are known about by the relevant government authorities.

The Mesoamericans were actively mining much of Central and South America.  How much gold did they mine?  The ransom unsuccessfully paid by the Incans for their Emperor Atahualpa alone was sufficient to fill a whole room with the measurements of 17ft (5.2 metres) by 22ft (6.7 metres) by 8ft (2.4 metres) from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling with gold (Wikipedia).  The gold figurines and plates were melted down and turned into uniform ingots on the spot.  The room contained over 2,900 cubic foot of gold in ingot form.  That one room alone contained over 1,500 tonnes of gold which officially represents 15% of the total of all the gold mined in the whole world for the previous 43,000 years.

That was just one amount of gold in the 300 years of pillage that was South and Central America’s fate.  Mesoamerican artefacts were still being melted down in London in the 19th century.

“But if you tap into the Vatican accounts, of the Vatican bank, you come up with a claim of total bullion… the total value of the Vatican bank reserves would claim to be more than the entire value of gold ever mined in the history of the world.”
Lord James of Blackheath – speech in The House of Lords 2010

It is unlikely that the Vatican have any reason to exaggerate their gold reserves.

Rumours of a vast Java owned gold hoard, the product of a thousand years or more of trading, that dwarves the rest of the world’s gold combined have circulated for centuries, but there is no information available in the public domain to substantiate this.

Whilst much of the world’s gold is widely distributed, as in India, much of it is almost certainly in large, privately held or sovereign hoards.  There is no doubt that these hoards are known about to some beyond the sphere of the actual owners.

It is possible that one of the large hoards of undisclosed gold could re-surface and be used to back one or more of the existing major paper monies.  On the positive side this does allow for a measure of optimism in what is otherwise a ‘game over’ situation.  If there is a solution to the current monetary meltdown, it will come as a bolt from the blue, and it will involve large amounts of previously undisclosed gold.

Why is it that the amount of gold in the world has been deliberately understated as appears to be the case?  The answer most likely lies with the myth, accepted by almost everyone, that gold is valuable because of its shortage.  The fear, entirely unfounded, is that if the real amount of gold in the world were publicly acknowledged then gold would be suddenly and massively reduced in value.  This would then lead to convulsions in the world’s monetary systems as it is gold that underpins all concepts of money.

The ancient myth that gold’s value is due to its shortage has survived thousands of years right up to the present day.  It is far from amusing though as there appears to have been a fair deal of skulduggery committed toward the end of maintaining the charade… all for naught.  A minimum of 1,200,000 tonnes of gold gives a stock to flow ratio of 500 to 1.  Gold is already the only possible money because of its stock to flow of 70 to 1.  Increasing it to 500 to 1 would enhance gold’s monetary property, not diminish it.

It is time to put aside the myth that gold is valuable because there is not much of it.  Gold is a store of stable value over time because of its high stock to flow ratio – because there is so much of compared to the flow.

Another reasonable speculation with regard to the persistence of the myth of gold’s rarity is that it obviously an advantage to those who wield power through the issuance of paper money.  “There isn’t enough gold to return to the gold standard” is a common refrain from those whose self-interest it serves.

Once it becomes clear that gold will continue to hold its value, no matter how much of it enters the marketplace, then much of it could emerge from hiding.  Trust in governments, which is currently plumbing new depths, is also a pre-condition to that though.

There are numerous conspiracy theories which claim that covert agencies control the world’s gold, and therefore its destiny.  This is not wholly true, there is far more gold in the world than even these people know about.  By no means are all the large hoards of gold owned by those of, to put it politely, questionable intent.  There are those who understand, if not intellectually at least viscerally, the morality of gold and are sound custodians of that with which they are charged.

No claim to precision can be made with regard to the amount of gold in the world.  All that can be done is to try to arrive at an educated approximation based on such vague evidence as is available.  The evidence overwhelmingly states that 170,000 tonnes is probably around 10% of the gold that actually exists.

Somewhere between 1,200,000 tonnes and 2,500,000 tonnes would seem to be a reasonable and conservative estimate.  Obviously it could go way beyond 2,500,000 tonnes.  What is beyond doubt is that 170,000 tonnes barely represents the tip of the iceberg of the world’s gold stock.  Let us be rid of this figure once and for all.  It is a folly to keep repeating an obvious error as though it were fact.



* A figure sent from a contact in the Philippines (see comments at the bottom – ‘Peter’) informs that this figure was probably exaggerated by gold from non-panning sources.  According to Peter’s sources (he is a refiner in the Philippines), the true panning figure as of 2008 was about 6 – 7 tonnes a year.  Bearing in mind the diminishing nature of production from panning, but coupled with the greater interest in 2008 than in 1986 (year of Maceda’s quote), I guess that the safest presumption is that the figure would be similar.

So, the figure of 18 tonnes a year is reduced to say 6 tonnes a year.  Because I built a heck of a lot of fall-back position into this article (knowing how much flack I would receive), this does not alter the hypothesis.  I used the stats from one Asian country.  I can think of another 8 Asian countries, all high gold, high panning areas, where the production would be similar.  If panning production in the Philippines is 6 tonnes a year, then panning just from Asia can be assumed to be a minimum of 50 tonnes a year.

Placer gold is harder and harder to find, and has been so for all the thousands of years of production.  The gold that is freed from its ore source is in that situation because of the erosion of rock over hundreds of millions of years.  What is being panned out is not being replaced at anywhere near a replenishment rate.  That 50 tonnes a year is a much reduced rate from 6,000 years ago.

My honest interpretation of this info is that the case becomes ever stronger that the amounts of gold produced in ancient times were truly enormous, more so that I stated in the article.  The importance of placer mining is that, in one variation or another, this is the one method of production that has existed since time immemorial.

Ignoring the fact that we know by the law of diminishing returns that this figure was far greater in ancient times, but just using the same figure, then its application to the two other designated gold regions (Europe and Arabia – there is not enough evidence yet of mining from the Mesoamerican region in this period) produces a figure of 150 tonnes a year.  From 4,000 B.C to year dot that is a lot of gold.  A very conservative, pre A.D. figure of 600,000 thousand tonnes.



  1. A problem with these advanced estimates of ancient mining abilities is that you then have to apply these same ratios to copper/iron/silver…ect. The evidence isn’t there. There probably has been more gold mined out there. I would’;t go beyond double the exiting estimate. Equally probable is that it got buried and forgotten like all the mythical hoardes which probably don’t exist mentioned above. Any time Yamashita’s mythical gold hoarde is mentioned as a hot topic, the gold price doubles. At least this article is good for that.

  2. Philip Barton says:

    Ian… there are significant differences between mining the other metals and mining gold (and silver). The base metals were mined for entirely different reasons, namely, to be used. There was only the imperative to mine what was needed. Mining is hard work. Gold was always mined for the reason that it is now, to be accumulated because it is money… money that does not disintegrate with the passage of time. Gold stashes have been found in Spanish caves circa 40,000 B.C. There is no reason that I know of to imagine that the same increased ratios have to be applied.
    Of interest is that iron mines in Hungary and parts of Africa are dated back to 4,000 B.C., but that iron would be long gone by now. Neither iron nor copper have the same virtue of being accumulative over time.
    I almost left out Yamashita’s gold because of the dismissive attitude toward it, but because I could find nothing to negate the seeming truth of the story, I decided to leave it in. The court records seem genuine. If you have evidence of it being a myth then I would be genuinely interested to receive it as I would like to arrive at the most precise figure that is possible.
    I did not set out to prove a large amount, just to establish the likely conservative minimum amount. My own guess is far higher, but that is a guess, not an estimate.
    The ‘price’ of gold… really Ian!
    Please do respond if you have evidence that Yamashita’s gold is a myth.
    Cheers, Philip

  3. As someone who has spent decades studying gold production I think the numbers quoted above are a farce of huge proportion.

    I am a number cruncher & have spent thousands of hours work on gold production statistics.

    I am a historian of gold statistics & have a huge library spending decades collecting & compiling data.

    As such I cannot come to terms with the logic & stretches of imagination that the author has used to come up with huge numbers.

    Nick Laird

  4. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Nick,
    I understand that you are dubious, but what specific point or points do you disagree with? I am only seeking the true figure and have no other agenda. I agree, and made clear, that I could not be precise as no precision is possible, but such info as I presented has merit, unless it can be shown that it does not.
    Cheers, Philip

  5. Links only – your page doesn’t accept html.

    Annual Production

    Cumulative Production


  6. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Nick,
    I would genuinely like to avoid a slanging match as the subject is too interesting. From the tone of your previous comment I believe that is also your approach. I am only interested in arriving at the truth and have zero axe to grind.
    I realised that it would be an extremely controversial article and held it for almost two years because of that.
    My point is not that your charts and stats won’t tell a different story, it is that there are some quite specific calculations in my piece. To arrive at a point which is as close to the truth as possible either these specific points, or my calculations/conjecture, have to be logically refuted.
    I am okay with that, and totally okay with rewriting the article in light of new facts which emerge. It was the intent of the article to draw forth new facts which I had overlooked, or facts which I had misinterpreted – or not.
    There was much that I left out because I could not in any way quantify it.
    I hesitated mightily before putting in the Yamashita gold story, but I can find no evidence to suggest that it is not largely true. Do you have any evidence to suggest that it is not true?
    Cheers, Philip

  7. Hello,

    Very interesting article. I agree with you that it can be categorically stated that no-one has any idea of the amount of gold there is in the world. I have long thought that the amount given is way too low. Now, one question for Mr. Laird. Can he categorically state he knows how much gold is hoarded by the Vatican? My, guess is the Vatican haas a lot of gold hoarded.. How about The Rothschild Dynasty? These entities are definitely NOT going to reveal how much they have stored away.
    Thank you,
    Kaare Bursell

  8. Having visited Thailand and many of its Buddist temples I am inclined to accept a much higher figure than traditionally alleged. Gold was far more prevalent in ancient cultures than our own Western one that has been focussed on Paper money which I regard as counterfeit at best.

    The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of the traditional and Philip Bartons latest estimate.

  9. Hi Philip
    From the presumption of the amount of gold produced prior to 1850.

    I’ll start at 1850 & present data up to the present day & then go backwards from 1850

    In 1850 cumulative world production was approx 10,000 tonnes.
    Annual production for 1850 was 173 tons.

    Here’s the statistics I have from my spreadsheet all in tonnes:

    Year = annual production = cumulative production
    1850 = 173 = 10164
    1860 = 183 = 12059
    1870 = 176 = 13940
    1880 = 153 = 15594
    1890 = 190 = 17255
    1900 = 395 = 20622
    1910 = 696 = 26616
    1920 = 496 = 32828
    1930 = 697 = 38755
    1940 = 1227 = 49019
    1950 = 805 = 57053
    1960 = 1104 = 66232
    1970 = 1446 = 79092
    1980 = 1283 = 91636
    1990 = 2159 = 108905
    2000 = 2623 = 133132
    2010 = 2659 = 158076

    The eighteen hundreds ushered in the era of the industrial revolution.
    We had tools & now we had machines to gather gold.
    World population in 1850 was 1128 million people.
    People from Europe were spreading all out across the globe seeking fame & fortune & specially riches.

    In 1850 the California gold rush was in full swing & so was the Australian gold rush.
    Yet all they could produce in that year was 173 tonnes of the shiny metal – gold.
    That’s with the best of machines & modern technology.

    It was much the same until 1900 when production doubled to the 400 tonne region.
    World population now at 1550 million people & yet even more modern machines.

    There was a spurt in production that started in the depression where people all over the world took to grubbing up some dollars so they could buy some food to feed their families.

    Production in 1930 was 697 tonnes yet by 1935 was 1031 tonnes and peaked at 1252 tonnes in 1939 – production stayed over 1000 tonnes till the war started in 1941.
    Once the war was going production never climbed back to over 1000 tonnes until 1958.

    By 1950 the world population was 2400 million people & they thought that they were very technologically advanced.
    They had aircraft, radios, TVs and many modern conveniences in life.
    Yet all they could produce was 800 tonnes per year – from all over the whole wide world.

    By the 1960′s gold production started to rise again.
    Let me introduce the reason why.
    South Africa with it’s vast riches was coming online.
    South African gold production started in 1887 with 1.28 tonnes of production supplying 0.8% of the worlds production
    Within 2 years it was at 11 tonnes – within 10 years was at 85 tonnes supplying 24% of the worlds production.
    From 1907 production rose from 200 tonnes to approx 400 tonnes in 1954 supplying 51% of the worlds production
    But it was from 1955 through to 1970 when production really took off topping out at over 1000 tonnes in 1970 supplying 79% of the worlds production.

    So it was essentially South Africa’s vast riches of gold which pushed world production numbers up to over 1000 tonnes in 1960.
    World population now at 3 billion people.

    By 1970 world production was at 1446 tonnes with 79% coming from South Africa.
    It was South Africa’s riches which propelled gold production to new heights & new numbers.
    World population now at 3.7 billion people.

    By 1980 production was at 1283 tonnes per year & total cumulative gold at 91636 tonnes
    Even with better technology & an easily accessible world production was still approx the same.
    Production growth had been stagnant for 20 years.
    World population now at 4.45 billion people.

    By 1990 production was at 2159 tonnes per year & total cumulative gold at 108905 tonnes.
    World population now at 5.3 billion people.

    At this stage it has been shown how mankind – with all his technology – population & access to all the corners of the globe – to the most inaccessible regions
    Has been able to produce 100,000 tonnes of gold.
    It has taken 140 years to get there – from 10,164 in 1850 through to 108,905 tonnes in 1990
    Opps – my mistake – we’re almost there – still 1259 tonnes short.

    Then in 2000 production hits 2623 tonnes – a record & total cumulative production stands at 133,132 tonnes.
    World population now over 6 billion people.

    Slipstream through to 2010 with production at a new high of 2659 tonnes & total cumulative production at 158,076 tonnes.
    World population now 6.85 billion people.

    Since 1850 the world has produced 147,912 tonnes of gold.
    Population growth has risen from 1.1 billion to over 6.8 billion people.
    Machinery & automation has grown like the population – at huge rates.
    Today machines do what 1000′s of slaves could not comprehend.

    These statistic have been gathered from numerous sources & cross referenced.
    I have spent 100′s of hours if not 1000′s compiling these numbers.
    I have numerous spreadsheets & built databases which I now run online showcasing these numbers.
    So apart from what I would term *Wild Production – tribal people extracting by hand in 3rd world countries*
    I would consider these numbers to be statistically correct.

    Ok so now we go back to 1850 & count backwards.
    In 1850 production was 173 tonnes and cumulative production was set at 10164 tonnes.
    This was in the height of the new gold rushes.

    Back a decade earlier in 1840 & world production was 29 tonnes per year and cumulative production was set at 9451 tonnes.
    Back a decade earlier in 1830 & world production was 18 tonnes per year and cumulative production was set at 9239 tonnes.
    A measly 18 tonnes a year.

    Back to our table
    Year = annual production = cumulative production
    1850 = 173 = 10164
    1800 = 18 = 8699
    1750 = 15 = 7943
    1700 = 15 = 7193
    1650 = 12 = 6587
    1600 = 12 = 5987
    1550 = 9 = 5531
    1500 = 9 = 5000

    So we have approx 10000 tonnes in 1850
    Which is started off the base of 5000 tonnes in 1500 (this number taken from a source that can be cited)
    World population in 1500 was 425 million people.

    Now the above lays out production over a timeline of 500 years – you can see the growth of production over the years as the population grows technology is introduced & the whole world becomes more accessible.

    Now at the start of the study there is half a billion people spread thinly across the globe and they produce approx 9 tonnes per year.
    At the end of the study we have with modern technology 14 times the population & we produce 295 times a much per year gold at 2659 tonnes.

    Of the total added to the cumulative pile over the last 500 years 50% of the gold has been produced in the last 40 years
    ie we’ve dug up 80,000 tonnes since 1970
    Since 1930 we’ve dug up 75% of all the gold ever mined.

    The above stands clear is logical & is derived from accepted statistics.
    And I am not including Wild Production.

    If we want to guess the production for the period prior to 1500 we could take the base unit of 9 tonnes per year.
    Multiply this by say 2000 years – from 500 BC thru to 1500 AD – and we would get 9 x 2000 = 18,000 tonnes.
    Since we already attribute 5000 tonnes through this period – this posses a 13,000 tonne increase.

    Now back in 500BC world population was 100 million people – less than a quarter of in 1500AD

    Back to your story – I see this comment & shake my head in disbelief.


    Somewhere between 1,200,000 tonnes and 2,500,000 tonnes would seem to be a reasonable and conservative estimate.


    1 million tonnes divided by 2000 years would mean 500 tonnes per year
    That would mean that with a far smaller population that they were extracting gold at rates that we never saw in the statistics above till 1903

    2 million tonnes divided by 2000 years would mean 1000 tonnes per year
    Mankind never saw that sort of production until 1935.

    As to your list of sources – if I had the time & were speaking to you I could go through them one by one & comment.
    Many are fanciful – numbers blown to the side of optimism.
    It’s like you’re written this article through belief of what you’d like to see rather than working on statistics & common sense.

    What stands exceedingly clear from the above is that there is a rate of growth of production & hence cumulative production of gold through time.
    That this rate of growth grows as population & technology grows and is greatest now than ever before.
    Hence it is illogical to presume vast quantities of gold could have been produced prior to the time that we started measuring.

    Now if you have any statistics that can be verified that counter any of the above I would like to see them.

    As for *Wild Production* I would guess that this is closer to 10% of total production.
    Again we can only see growth that is large enough to be counted in the most recent years.
    If wild production was 20% 50 years ago (smaller tonnages) then with modern technology today it is more likely to be less.
    ie there are more gold miners today working in highly restrictive conditions with management watching them for all gold traces.

    Yamashita’s gold will remain unknown & speculated upon.
    But the source of his gold would have been global production & probably some *Wild Production*
    And I would say much embellishment over the years.
    Like fishing – such stories are always over extended in the telling.

    And as for ancient gold that rulers & kings had in times past.
    Peter Bernstein gives good account of these in his book ‘The Power of Gold’
    I have also seen other gold books cite these riches.
    Collectively they would add up to tonnes but not thousands of tonnes.

    All in all I will stick with the statistics & avoid the hearsay.
    There are too many fertile imaginations when it comes to gold.
    Too many seek what it cannot yield.

    Cheers Nick

  10. Hi Kaare
    I like everyone do not know.(:-)))

    Rather than trying to guess the unknown hoards which can’t even be guessed at I am moreso interested in the production rates.

    With the production rates you can estimate the gold in existence yet not worry about where it is or who has it.

    With the statistics I showed all that is missing is the production prior to 1500 which can only be guessed at – intelligently – & the Wild Production which again can only be guessed at.

    That’s why working with the statistics which can be verified is the logical point to start from.

    As to golden buddhas
    If we saw ten buddhas in a monastery would that increase global production 2 fold or even 10 fold – I think not.

    If we view an abundance of gold in one place does that mean there is more in other places.

    I think it is well documented the vast hoards of gold & silver that is held in religious institutions.

    The CRAA Report cited some 15 billion ounces of silver held in religious or art forms.
    ie silver that will never find it’s way to market.
    (You won’t see silverbugs citing this(:-))))

    Gold must also have a huge component held the same.

    Yet this gold that is held as art or religious had to be produced & I consider all of it to be represented in the gold production numbers.

    Hoards that are known are not considered outside global production.


  11. Johnny Voyles says:

    Hi Philip,

    Thank you for writing this article. I’ve been searching for information regarding this subject and am pleased to find your work.

    One question/thought -if a massive amount of hoarded gold were discovered I’m just not seeing how this wouldn’t devalue gold. I understand that it might make it more functional as a currency due to the fact we have 7 billion people on the planet yet it seems that’s the new lack of scarcity would lower value? Our federal reserve notes have less value today because there has been a tremendous increase on supply….wouldn’t the same be true if 1,000,000 tons of gold were discovered tomorrow?

    Thanks again for your research


  12. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Johnny,
    If we were talking about copper or platinum or nickel etc then yes, a significant discovery of above ground stock, way above previous estimates, would indeed cause the price/value of those metals to drop.
    But gold is mined for a completely different reason. Gold is not mined to be used in manufacture, it is mined because it is money.
    Gold – real money – does not deteriorate in value the more you have of it. Paper pseudo money does, and this is a cause of confusion to some people. The primary (but not only) factor is the quality, not the quantity.
    The stock to flow ratio also has a great bearing on this. See…
    Cheers, Philip

  13. Hi Philip
    Re the Yamashita story.
    I have no real knowledge but seen & read up on it over the years.

    I would consider that the story is based on truth.
    But that said I would downsize the number of hoards & the amounts found therein.

    I was born & bred a NZ fisherman & know how to exaggerate & tell a good yarn.(:-))))
    So all good stories get exaggerated over time.

    I would also be considering that of the real weight of Yamashita’s gold – that which they really did have – by conquest, find, source, steal etc – that this gold would come from either the known gold production statistics or from Wild Production – there is only the two choices – and Asia has always had plenty of Wild Production.

    So that infers that Yamashita’s gold is inclusive of the world production statistics.

    I would also conclude that this hoard would already have been returned to the financial world & put to use many years ago.
    That it is not an idle hoard hidden away yet to be released as some may imagine.

    So though I don’t give a lot of countenance to the Yamashita story I do accept that it is well within the realms of history but I do note that it’s quantities are within the bounds of known gold statistics.

    Most of the gold he would have plundered or stolen would have been in circulation or in private or religious caches prior to the war.
    And that it’s existence is known of through statistics.
    And that it was returned to use after the war.

    I think the real query should come back to production statistics.
    We know official production statistics.
    (I have them all going back for years – country by country.)

    What is unknown is how much Wild Production there is.
    Also what is unknown is cumulative gold prior to 1500.

    So a study on potential Wild Production on a country by country basis over the years would be very helpful.
    Also a study quantifying ancient hoards & mapping out the kilos held.

    With these two variables filled in I think you could preguess 95% of total gold production.

    My best guess on Wild Production is 10% & I think that is generous.
    And with ancient hoards I have noted that most times they are a lot less than first impressions.

    Tutankhamen’s 24 kg mask though impressive is only a fraction of a tonne.
    Hoards need to be many tonnes to be meaningful when looking for 1000′s of tonnes.

    The structure is like the SP500 with it’s 500 stocks & their collective market capitalisations and how they pale in comparison to one mega stock like Apple.

    So too many hoards of 10kg to 100kg against a large hoard of say 500 tonnes of gold.
    (and who held 500 tonnes of gold pre 1000AD?)

    Where there are lots of smaller hoards but few large hoards.
    Thus we must not make the mistake of measuring the total number of hoards times the largest hoard.

    This structure of quantifying the “number of” vs the “size of” is another aspect that must be taken into consideration with ever aspect of quantifying gold production.
    To wit each source needs to be accurately measured & not guessed as a whole.

    It is the same with the known mines in the world.
    Consider each mine in each given location.
    The gold has been in the ground for eons with mankind picking away at the shiny metal on the surface.
    With enough around he’s bothered to follow the seams underground.

    Some of these mines have been worked for 2000 years – mines in Mesopotamia – along the Niger & the Nile.

    Some like the vast mines of South Africa have only really opened up with colonisation in the late 1800′s & since then have given up their gold.

    Today geologists across the world are using new methodologies to find the last of the unknown Elephants (production over 1m tonnes p/a)

    If you were to count all the major mines that have been around for 2000 years you would have a list in the hundreds.
    If you were to count the minor mines (with minor output) you might add a few more thousand.
    Most elephants – mines that have produced large quantities of gold are running out.
    And I would guess that there has never been 100 elephants in the known history of mankind.

    So if one was to visualise all these mines – all known mines with names in specific countries – one can start to imagine how rare & few apart these mines are.

    Sure there are specimens of gold & gold dust in many places but the real concentrations are few & far between.
    The vast gold finds in California & Australia were skimmed out & cleansed of their majority of gold in a couple of decades.

    So known mines are few & far between & like large Market Cap Stocks carry a lot of the weight of production.
    ie the top 10 mines produce 80% of total production out of all the hundreds of mines.

    Now using this weighting methodology on known mines it’s obvious at the biggest mines the company’s owners will spend the most on making sure no gold leaves without being counted.
    ie no one shall steal.

    The forces in effect would be scaled down through the hundreds of mines with the most careless being at the bottom of the pool.

    So the greatest amounts of gold being stolen is from the smallest of mines.
    So Wild Production from stealing is not a large number – it used to be 200 years ago but has been closed off in the last 30 years.

    Now as to the Wild Mines – mines in third world countries where local people do a free for all.
    These do exist & significant tonnages come off them.
    But again like Elephants are most rare & few & far in-between.

    Again you need to scale these down by size & number & not expect that all Wild Mines are significant producers.

    And a trouble with these Wild Mines is that within time people want to own them so take over & kick the locals out.
    The bigger the mine the more this happens.

    So again through this process of there only being a few large Wild Mines & more smaller ones.
    And that the number of Wild Mines pales in comparison to the number of owned & accounted for mines.
    Hence production from either Wild Mines or stolen gold from accountable mines is not a large percentage of the overall.

    The mine at Grasberg – owned by Freeport McMoRan – is the largest copper & gold mine in the world.
    It produces about 1.5% of total world production and has almost 20,000 employees.
    It is the Elephant in the room when it comes to production. There are few to compare.

    So when I look at world Wild Production – I try to think & compare how many little soldiers are eking out a life digging in a mine & would all of them compare to a Grasberg with modern machinery & 20,000 workers.

    At 10% Wild Production I am allowing for over 6 Grasberg’s to be counted – this is why I consider it generous.

    So if I adopt the same for cumulative production & consider the same metrics over the last 2000 years I come up with an additional 10%
    So the current total World Cumulative Production expands from 158,076 tonnes out to 173,884 tonnes

    Again I think I am being realistic & generous.

    Cheers Nick

  14. Hi Philip
    Here’s my gold Stock-To-Flow chart

    With Peak Gold not far off it will presumably start to rise & rise & rise….

    I expect three Gold Bulls
    One for the end of the longwave – fiat/gold correction – 2013ish (bubble)
    Two for the inflationary takeoff after all the fiat they invent 2020+ (grinding inflation – not hyperinflation)
    Three for the Peak Gold fall-off on production 2030 onwards.
    Long term bull for gold owners where new owners can only come in at huge prices.
    Gold will become rare & replaced for the commoners….

    Every six years more silver is produced than all the gold ever dug up in all mankind’s history.

    Gold will be for the 1% & silver for the 90%

    Cheers Nick

  15. Matt Cusumano says:

    After reading Nick’s comments, and of course reading the original article, I think that the truth lies somewhere in between. I don’t believe Nick’s figure of 9 tons per year from 500 b.c. to 2,500 is an acceptable figure for all the gold mined in the history of the world. For starters, we know that summarian civilization existed long before 500 b.c. and I’m sure that they were engaged in extracting gold from the earth. I don’t think that Nick can honestly call all non-western gold production “wild”. The Chinese Empires lasted Milenia, and I’d bet that the Chinese probably extracted as much gold in their thousand year empire than the west has in the last hundred years.

  16. Naresh Katariya says:

    Very interesting piece of research, and the subsequent comments. I believe that ancient India (pre-British rule) alone would be holding more than the current estimated Indian Gold hoard. Take the example of the Padmanabha Kerala temple, where over 200 tons of Gold has been discovered in sealed vaults. 50000 tons would be a very conservative estimate of Gold accumulated in India, pre-19th Century.

  17. Hi Matt
    What I’m trying to say is that all gold production outside of known statistically represented gold is referred to as Wild Production.

    Theoretically you can only have known & unknown to make the total & I’m trying to stat the known numbers so as to get reference as to what the unknown might me.

    As for Chinese production – I think if you go back & study history you’ll find it’s far different than what you imagine.
    You only need to look at their last 50 years of gold production & to understand the flows to know that they have no mythical huge reserves.

    And it’s kinda hard imaging the Summarian gold production as to amounting to more than one or two elephants or Grasbergs.
    Simply put gold mines of substance are rarities.
    And no one back in history was capable of producing gold at the production rates which we have today.

    Sure there was tonnage produced back BC but it was minimal & didn’t accrue to massive tonnages.

    It reminds me of the story of the old broker talking to the new boy in the office saying. “Do you want to get a million dollars?”
    And the new boy says, “Sure, how do I do it?”
    And the old broker says, “It’s easy, save $500 each week for 40 years.”

    Today as humans we can readily conjure up millions of tonnes of gold yet in all reality this is far removed from what has actually come to pass in the history of mankind.
    You only need to go back to the 1900′s to know that a million was a massive number – by the time the 1970′s come along a billion was large.
    Today a trillion is now the new million.

    So young minds can think of large numbers without going back in history and seeing that the numbers were much less than we perceive today.

    Think about the great gold rush years – all they produced was 143 tonnes per year.

    Surely you can’t imagine a world 2000 years earlier producing more or as much as this with a much smaller population and little technology.

    The known presumption was that for 100′s of years prior to 1800 that production was minimal – under 20 tonnes.

    Even 2000 years by 20 tonnes per year yields only 40,000 tonnes.

    Once you study the history & the rates of production & read enough books on historical gold you get the understanding that gold is rare.

    Hence why it is valued as such.


  18. From the elder Pliny in the 1st century

    See note 78 on page 59
    It states that Asturia, Callaecia & Lustiania yield 20,000 pounds of gold a year.
    And in no other part of the world has there been such abundance over such a long period.

    20,000lbs is approx 8.7 tonnes

    This articles cites low production for Egypt 1 ton per year but a huge 1400 tonnes per year for the Romans.
    I would suggest that the 1400 is a typo & needs verifying before accepting.

    There are thousands of articles & books in history that all add snippets of information as to the history of gold.
    Careful analysis & cross referencing is needed to bring the statistics to the fore.


    As that empire extended, so it gave the Romans control over more regions with gold production. Their early conquest of Egypt gave them access to African gold; in Spain after 100 AD they developed substantial mines (the same deposits have been tapped again in the 1990s with modern technology) while, to the east, gold mines in Rumania were one of the temptations encouraging the Emperor Trajan to take over the country in 106 AD. The high tide of production was between 100 and 300 AD, and while annual output fluctuated considerably as rich new deposits were worked out, it probably averaged between five and ten tonnes (160,000 – 320,000 oz). Cumulatively, this put a significant amount of gold into circulation, not least because the Romans tried to enforce strict limits to how much gold could be buried with the dead.

    Roman writers remarked on the abundance of gold. Lucian noted the extravagance of women. “On their wrists and arms gold snakes which ought to be real live ones” he wrote “the gold goes right down to their feet and there are bangles around their ankles.” Petronius reports on a woman named Fortunata who had a hairnet of pure gold wire and claimed she had 6½ pounds (Roman) of gold ornaments – 2.1 kilos (67.5 troy oz). And a fresco of the first century AD from Pompeii shows a woman wearing more jewellery than clothes. The ruins of Pompeii have provided the best examples of Roman goldsmiths’ work, which can now be seen in Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.

    Again a report citing a low tonnage at the peak of their production yet in the following paragraphs cites how gold is abundant.

    Abundant to their population – far different to today’s modern perceptions.

    From the excellent Gold Encyclopedia

    More ancient history here

    From the Minoan’s

    In 1965 the tomb of a Minoan princess, who died around 1400 BC, was found in a cave above the vineyards near Mount Juktas. It proved one of the richest burial sites ever found on Crete. The princess was surrounded by 140 gold ornaments. Gold ribbons with rosette patterns lay at her waist and feet, five necklaces of gold and two small gold boxes lay on her breast. She wore five signet rings of gold. The largest necklace was of twenty papyrus flowers strung together. As John Sakellarakis, then Assistant Curator of the Archaeology Museum in Heraklion where the treasure now rests, observed, “The jewellery is as fashionable today as it must have been in 1400 BC”. That is a fitting legacy for one of the liveliest of ancient Mediterranean civilisations.

    140 ornaments for the richest find…..
    Far from 1000′s of tonnes….

    From Egypt
    The supply of gold, however, was often erratic. Egyptologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, tells of Queen Hatshepsut, co-regent with Thutmose III, one of Tutankhamun’s predecessors, who heard of two great columns at a temple gate set up by a much earlier pharaoh that were, supposedly, of electrum, containing 75% gold, 22% silver and 3% copper (a common way gold was found in ancient times) and weighed no less than 75 tones. She determined to do the same. Sadly, the royal treasury lacked that amount of electrum, which would have been an extraordinary quantity in those days when gold output in the entire region might have been two or three tonnes annually at best. She had to make do, instead, with columns covered with thin sheets of electrum.

    Tutankhamun – 143 articles of gold jewellery
    Heaviest is 110kg

    Pre Columbian

    Master goldsmiths achieved social prestige with gold regarded as the medium through which the highest artistic and technical achievements of Sican society could be reflected. This tradition was continued by the neighbouring Chimú culture, which flourished from 1000 AD to 1470. Their capital, Chan Chan, is thought to have housed 7000 artists and craftsmen. The goldsmiths by now were accomplished sheet-metal workers, hammering and annealing, then soldering a hundred pieces or more into a complex ornament that swayed and shimmered. Curiously, the Chimú goldsmiths did not adopt the lost-wax casting technique, widely used elsewhere in the Americas and in the Mediterranean world; this may be because the stingless bee, from which wax was taken, did not live on that side of the Andes. Yet the Chimú achievement was so substantial that, when they were conquered by the Incas in 1470, many of their goldsmiths were moved to Cusco, the Inca capital in the central Andes. Thus, when Francisco Pizarre conquered Peru sixty years later and ransomed the Inca emperor Atahualpa for gold, it was the finest treasures of the Chimú and the Incas that were melted to enrich Spain. The ransom alone yielded five tonnes (150,000 troy oz) of gold. And it virtually ended almost 3000 years of gold-working in Peru.

    Again many citations of low tonnages produced in the early history of mankind.

  20. Chinese Gold Production

    China’s gold reserves are relatively small (about 7% of the world total)

    Reserves are expected to be over 11,000 tonnes.

    As per peak gold would this infer that perhaps they have produced 11,000 tonnes?

    Most of China’s production comes from small, underground mines with little mechanisation. There are thought
    to be over 1,200 small to medium sized mines in operation throughout the country, equal to approximately
    70% of total gold deposits and representing 25-30% of total proven reserves, with only a few mines producing
    more than 100,000 ounces annually, although the annual average is closer to 16,000 ounces.

    A Concise History of Gold in China

    China is a “gold poor” country. The total amount of gold held by both private citizens and the government reserves amounts to between 4000-5000 tons of gold. Compared to the global average per capita gold held by private citizens, China’s per capita gold is about 1/10 of the average.

    No matter what you believe, it is a fact that after the Han Dynasty the amount of gold in China has continuously been very little.

    In recent times, there is a complicated legal case due to the fact that the retreating Nationalist Government took all of the gold reserves to Taiwan after the revolution. Relatively reliable estimates of the amount of gold shipped range around 2.77 million liang (similar to tael; a liang is 50 g and about 1.61 troy ounces; total about 139 metric tons). The highest estimate is 28 million liang (about 1400 metric tons). How much gold is 2.77 million liang? About the total domestic gold production of mainland China from 1949 to 1964.

    Since China historically had very little gold, therefore gold did not have the opportunity to become a mainstream medium of exchange or become minted into a standard coin. China also is short of silver and before silver was imported in large amounts.

    In reality, throughout the last several thousand years of Chinese history, the lower classes have rarely had a chance to touch gold or silver. “10,000 liang of gold! (unimaginable wealth)” and “Three years of good governance, 100,000 pieces of sliver (meaning a period of good governance was often followed by corruption)” are sayings that reflect the reality that the people who actually saw gold or silver were very few.

    The above shows that China is a small player in the world historical gold production stakes.

    From the above it appears clear that early history shows low tonnages.
    From Minoan to Roman to Byzantine – from Columbian to Chinese.


  21. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Nick,

    Firstly, I have to compliment you on the diligence with which you have collected your stats – I have truly never seen such an impressive array.

    That said, you have missed the whole point.

    I too believed those statistics, those ‘official’ figures, for many decades. Then one day I came across something that gave me pause for thought. So I started calculating based on the few situations that I could dig up where reasonably precise measurement was possible.

    What developed out of that was the article. It was an attempt to go behind the official statistics to find out what the real situation was. I still believe that I showed rather clearly and convincingly, by figures and measurement, not fisherman’s tales, that the official statistics are bunkum.

    I went over the article very carefully prior to publication as I was well aware that it would be controversial and that I would take some flak. I am confident of the facts and, what is speculation, I regard as reasonable speculation based upon those facts. If the facts can be shown to be wrong, or if I have misinterpreted them, then I will promptly add a correction to the article, or, if the error is egregious enough, withdraw the article. As I have stated, I have no axe to grind here. If I have erred then I shall still be whistling in the morning. I do not enjoy being in error so am always happy to be corrected :-0)

    However, if I can see outside my lounge room window that it is pouring with rain, then it does not matter how many times the weather reporter on the television shows me a chart which demonstrates that it is a gloriously sunny day… it is not credible.

    Ipso facto, if by simple calculations it can be seen that there is far more gold in the world than records state, then it is pointless to keep producing official stat after official stat showing otherwise. The only logical conclusion is that the stats are wrong.

    Just two points out of the many I made:
    Was the claim by the Filipino Minister for Natural Resources, Ernie Maceda, wrong?
    If not, then Filipino panners producing 18 tonnes of gold in one year makes a mockery of ‘official’ stats that state that the whole ancient world, including the Chinese, Indians and Egyptians, could only produce 1.7 tonnes a year because (presumably) of primitive mining methods. It doesn’t get much more primitive than panning. Either this is a false report or your stats are wrong. One or the other.

    Were the Spanish records wrong about the size of the room where Atahualpa’s gold was stored, or when they state that it was filled with gold bars?
    If not, then that one room, on that one continent, at that one time in all those years of pillage, contained around 1,500 tonnes of gold which represents 15% of all the gold supposedly mined in the world prior to 1849. Either the Spanish were wrong or your stats are wrong. Again, one or the other.

    Forget the charts and the stats for a moment Nick and look at the facts. Stop looking at the television and look out the window.
    Cheers, Philip

  22. As to wild production, let’s take Philippines as an example. Statistics show 37 tons for 2009. A refiner here estimates the actual mined tonnage at double. That is mostly due to taxes that the small scale miners don’t want to pay, also avoidance of government red tape. I can imagine that is very similar in other Asian countries, certainly Indonesia and others. It is very likely that this has been going for a long time and wouldn’t have been different in ancient times. If you find gold, your first instinct is to hide it from others, then and now. A lot of gold must have been picked up that way.
    For this reason I believe the wild production is underestimated at 10%. On the other hand, doubling the 170T tons would be too generous. The truth may be somewhere between. I don’t believe 1.2M tons or higher without very good evidence.

  23. Regarding Maceda’s remark about Philippine panners, that is not really correct. While panners are included in that figure, the far bigger amount comes from illegal miners. The bulk is from those who are using machinery and technology that is relatively recent. That means that only a fraction of the 18 tons comes from panners or technology that was already available in the old times. Therefore, you cannot extrapolate from those 18 tons.

  24. Philip Barton says:

    Would you give me your source for that info?

  25. The Secret Gold Treaty

    David Guyett’s book. Complete with photos etc…. – large.jpg

  26. Mr Barton.
    Your essay is monumental. All the arguments in the world cannot refute what you have stated in your article. We can argue and show stats for as long as we live, the truth is a closely guarded secret known by only one entity ! In the fifty’s Einstein calculated light was the fastest at 185,000 miles per second ! Now we are told that Neutrinos travel even faster. He also thought that all the planets and galaxies had a random motion;( The Universe and Dr Lincoln Barnett.) There has to be a
    Divine Cosmic Rythm in the Cosmos ! I am a layperson and with no research in the topics at hand. One only needs to travel to Thailands Temples , monastries, and same in India, Japan etc to get an miniscule idea. Mr Barton alludes to a greater truth that is beyond the grasp of the finite capacity of the mind.
    Humbly sumitted as an opinion.
    Thanks….”Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”

  27. As far as Tutankhamen is concerned, his tomb was truly magnificent. However it is the only such Egyptian tomb ever discovered. Because Tutankhamen was a relatively minor pharaoh, the assumption is that every pharaoh was buried in a similar manner. However, Tutankhamen’s father Akhenaten was one of the most prominent and important pharaohs, and had a very large tomb right next to Tut. However, his mummy was found there with nothing, not a stone sarcophagus, no gold, nothing. It is likely that the priests, who hated Akhenaten, simply confiscated the gold reserved for his burial, and used it for his son, instead.

    But if that was acceptable, then how common was it to steal gold from old tombs, and use it for new ones? Is it possible that the “tomb robbers” were really subsequent generations of priests who pillaged old tombs to properly appoint the new ones? If so, the amount of gold required to bury all those pharaohs would be much smaller. Egyptologists are split on this subject, but nobody really knows.

    As for “who had 500 tons before 1000AD”? I would assert the Romans probably had at least that much. But they also stole a lot of it from their colonies. In the ancient world you will have LOTS of double counting. Babylonian gold going to Egypt and Perisa, then going to Macedonia with Alexander then going to Rome and hence Byzantium. Islam would have plundered gold from North Africa which may have been left over from the Romans. Substanial European gold would have come then come home from the Crusades.

    This is substance of the comment above, that the Yamashita gold is likely double or triple counted. It existed before the war, and after. What happened to it after Marcos? Is it officially counted?

    Also, FOFOA has gathered information from older writers who appear to have been well connected in the gold community. It is his assertion that Saudi Arabia, as the swing producer for so many years, has always insisted in being paid partly in gold. His figure was 1/1000th of an oz. per barrel. That sounds insignificant, but they have already produced 100B barrels, which is 100M oz, or 3110 tons! There is no reason that couldn’t be more. They also exchange oil futures for gold futures, adding to their store, albeit in paper form. The point being that, many reserves are under reported as well as leased out.

    As a very apocryphal story, there was a report that official in England were offered support in the financial crisis from a mysterious group who claimed to have 30,000 tons. If all this leased and hypothecated gold has been being accumulated by a few very prescient investors, perhaps that figure is possible.

    Lastly, there are reports that bullion banks have fractional reserves to the tune of 100:1. So they have wildly over reported how much “gold” they have. But where did the rest of it go? Nick Baird’s work is phenomenal, but its very hard to know where it all is today.

  28. Josh Lyons says:


    I don’t believe the claim about Philippinos panning 18T of gold in one year, not for a second. Prove it.

  29. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Josh, i was quite clear that I could not prove anything. Maceda made the claim – as the Minister of Natural Resources – in the Filipino press. I am more dubious of the press and politicians than anyone. But where else can one go?

  30. Philip Barton says:

    All true DDT. Much of the Pharaoh’s gold was recycled by the Pharaoh’s themselves. They had a different concept of burial which made such practice tolerated. Much of it was not recycled though as subsequent Egyptian court records clearly show. Yes also to the priests. By 1000 BC the tombs were being systematically looted by the priesthood, to the degree that some of the inner burial coffins were looted of their gold before the bodies were even interred.
    Don’t forget re Yamashita’s gold that the vast majority can be assumed to have reached Japan. It was only after the battle of Coral Sea that it started to be diverted to other places, not just the Philippines. Marcos only got a small percentage of Yamashita’s gold.
    The ‘English official’ that you refer to as an ‘apocryphal story’ was the ‘Lord Black’ that I referred to and the statement was made in the House of Lords.
    I also agree that Nick Laird’s work is phenomenal and laudable. However, on this one point I believe that he is being blinded by his statistics.

  31. Philip Barton says:

    Thank you sincerely Jaydev. As a very non-controversial person I did not lightly enter this area. I waited for someone else to get the ball rolling, but nobody did. I eventually bit the bullet and have no regrets for doing so. There is nothing more important than the truth and it is only by opening the subject up to an informed (mostly) discussion that the we may approach the approximate area of the truth.

  32. Hi Philip
    One aspect that is paramount.
    There are the known numbers – the official numbers.
    And there are the unknown numbers – the Wild Production.

    The sum of the two is the truth of the total.
    This logic is refutable.
    The known & the unknown.

    As I have shown the known is easily accountable & credible as official stats.
    It’s the unknown that is what is in question.

    If you want to believe that the unknown is 10 times the known based off a couple of comments that you read – well that is up to you to decide.

    I would suggest you go ask any serious mine owner around the world & see what his response would be.
    Pierre Lassonde would be a good person to start with.

    I think I will stick with the Elder Pliny & not let my imagination run wild.

    You say
    Forget the charts and the stats for a moment Nick and look at the facts. Stop looking at the television and look out the window.

    And then turn around & expect me to believe your extrapolations based on loose hearsay about Philippine miners & a tomb & it’s contents.

    You say
    A few situations that I could dig up where reasonably precise measurement was possible.

    Yet ignore the historical statistics I listed prior without consideration.

    Sorry Philip but I am wasting my time here.

    I used to be very vocal on forums talking about gold & it’s history a decade ago but gave up because their were too many people with opinion & little facts who tried to assert that they were correct without really having a clue.

    I see the same silliness here today & realise that I am still wasting my time.

    Cheers Nick

  33. Hey Philip
    I agree 100% about what you say about the Truth…..
    Ethics & integrity are paramount!!!

    Therefore we have to let our opinions slide & work with the known facts.

    There are many shown above.

    Go Pliny the Elder – Go Gold

    Cheers Nick

    back to my chart cave…..

  34. Philip Barton says:

    I’d still buy you a beer if we met Nick for I greatly admire your work.
    Cheers, Philip

  35. Being a precious metal refiner in the Philippines, we know what metal suppliers do and where and how they get their gold. Panning is a very minor portion of what Nick refers to as wild production.
    Maceda may have euphemistically referred to the gold as coming from panners, but the precise source was not the focus of that article. If he had mentioned illegal miners, he would have implicated Marcos, which Maceda would never have done. As refiners we know that the major part comes from illegal miners that were even encouraged by Marcos agents as long as the gold went to them.
    Marcos was in fact gold crazy, and he had treasure hunters swarming all over the country. What buried Yamashita gold they found is only rumored. One theory is that he did find some Yamashita treasure, but that he used it also as alibi for the existence of his substantial gold holdings, majority of which in fact came from plundering the mineral wealth of the Philippines.
    This has been going on ever since, and only in 2011 has the government started to move against illegal gold miners. The results of that will only be known in due time.

  36. Lord Blackheath is still on Youtube. Saw him when he came out, and he didn’t come across as a crazy man or having an agenda. I believed what he said and thought Foundation X was a front for the Rothschilds. But who am I to say…

  37. Gold bars… Cambodia…

    More gold 75 kilo bars…

  38. Philip Barton says:

    This is great Peter! I was confident that someone would be able to respond to the questions. I don’t know you from a bar of soap, but I would trust a refiner before a politician any day. Your simple analysis also makes sense.
    Is it possible for you to give a reasonable approximation of the amount that would have been panned out of the 18 tonne total? And, does the figure of 18 tonnes seem plausible and in line with your experience?
    Also, one other if I could trouble you: what are the other specific methods that would have been used to produce the ‘wild’ gold?
    Sincere thanks, Philip

  39. Peter I read your post in that you are a refiner in the Philippines. I am involved with gold transactions in the Philippines and would be interested in making your acquantance. Is there a way I could contact you? I may have a need for a refiner in the Philippines. Thank you Paul

  40. To Paul:
    You can contact me at

  41. In support of Nick’s comments on historical gold production, I offer an analysis of atmospheric lead published by Delmas and Legrand in 1998. The figure appears near the end of a rather long critique I wrote about a recent paper estimating historical gold production available.

    The gist is that based on atmospheric lead obtained from ice cores, the peak in mining and industry during Roman times was only exceeded by the year 1500 by a factor of about 10%, which suggests that the peak of mining activity 2000 years ago would have been about 8 tonnes per annum. And that was the peak–most production in that time range would have been lower.

    Since atmospheric lead can arrive from any source within the world, the method should identify significant earlier mining activities, of which there appear to have been very little.

    Critique here:

    Original paper is linked within the critique and is available at: (note it is a pdf)

  42. Philip Barton says:

    I have to acknowledge that I have no idea of the relationship between placer gold mining and atmospheric lead. In other words I have no way of evaluating this information.

  43. Philip Barton says:

    A follow up with some random and scattered thoughts late at night:

    Some doubt, has been placed on the veracity of Maceda’s use of the word ‘panning’. One of the respondents to the article (a refiner from The Philippines) was sure that the majority of this gold was not obtained from panning, but from other methods. Unfortunately there was no follow up to my question as to an informed estimate of panning to other methods, and what sort of ‘other methods’ may have been employed. Were they still ‘primitive’ or using modern technology… probably the latter, but I don’t know.

    Once I got some time I went through Nick Laird’s document discussing the claims of Pliny the Elder. This is a fascinating document and I can think of no good reason not to accept the veracity of the claims. Pliny’s information is the most credible that I have seen by a country mile. Thanks for this Nick. I did not acknowledge it because I put it away to read ‘later’ as I was so busy answering emails. I received an awful lot privately as well as publicly.

    Pliny mentions the regions of Asturia, Callaecia and Lusitania (these three regions are what today is North West Spain).
    The actual quote is:
    “Some have shown that Asturia, Callaecia and Lusitania yield 20,000 (Roman) pounds weight in a single year by this method in such a way that Asturia produces the most. And in no other part of the world has there been this abundance over such a long period.”
    “no other part of the world” refers to the then known world of course.

    This 20,000 Roman pounds is about 8.7 tonnes (Nick). If 8.7 tonnes per year is produced by the best gold mining area of the known world in Pliny’s time, then it follows from the statement that there was mining in other parts of the known world…. which we know to be true.

    It would seem reasonable that all the other areas combined in the known world would have been able to produce the same amount as that one region in Spain could produce. That seems an extremely conservative estimate as in the same document Pliny mentions “up to 50 pounds a day” from a single site in Dalmatia (I think modern Croatia), so the other sites in the known world were not all miniscule.

    That would give us 17.4 tonnes a year. Add on the 10% for ‘wild’ mining (I can’t argue with this donated figure as I don’t have a clue what the real figure is) and we have 19 tonnes a year.

    We also know that there was much gold being produced outside of Pliny’s known world. This would be Asia including but not limited to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, the Philippines and Java, in other words, the major Asian gold producing nations. India was in the known world at this time. Because we have nothing else to go on I will assume that the production in Asia was the same as Pliny’s known world, which gives us a total yearly world output of 38 tonnes. The Asian figure is undoubtedly more… see more below on panning.

    4,000 BC is when it is agreed that gold mining began. Thus, there was 4,000 years of mining for which we have only the amounts for Pliny’s era as a guide.

    I personally find the argument that gold production has increased incrementally and linearly with the passage of time entirely unconvincing, in fact I find it implausible in the extreme. Doubtless there have been periods where technology improved considerably and quickly where that was so. But doubtless also, there were long periods when gold first began to be accumulated, when it was so plentiful that gold accumulation diminished as time moved on.

    If we use that 4,000 years of mining and assume (this is becoming a bit ridiculous) 38 tonnes of production per year then we arrive at a figure of 152,000 tonnes from 4,000 B.C. to the year dot.

    We also have the pre 4,000 B.C. mining. A small gold cache was found in a Palaeolithic cave in Spain dated at 40,000 B.C. I can’t even hazard a guess for how much gold was mined from 40,000 – 4,000 B.C..

    We also have the Roman AD mining.

    To return to the panning figure from the Philippines. Even if only 3 tonnes of that 18 tonne figure was from panning. It seems reasonable to assume that the other Asian countries were able to produce that amount also, and were in fact doing so. If we allow for 3 tonnes a year each from the Philippines, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Indonesia, Java, Vietnam, that is 27 tonnes a year in the 1980s. Now panning is most definitely a law of diminishing returns – I know because I have done it (Colombia in the 70s). How much was Asia panning 5,000 – 4,000 years ago? No idea, except that it would have been considerably more than was being panned in the 1980s. If 27 tonnes a year from panning from Asia alone was possible in the 1980s then by what factor is than increased the further that we return in time?

    No matter which way I look at it I cannot see how a figure of 8 or 9 tonnes a year for the whole ancient world has even a shred of credibility. It just is not plausible. From Pliny’s document alone we know that just NW Spain was producing that amount.

    The factor of gold’s far greater availability the further back we go in time is significant, particularly in the area of placer mining which for a large part of history has been the dominant method of gold production. Under ‘panning’ I also include primitive methods such as the use of sheepskins etc.

    This is just an update on my current thoughts. I am still ‘open for business’ with comments:-0).

  44. I have been carefully reading and trying to follow the discussions and documents from above. I surprised about the interest and the depth of research. Unless I am missing something it appears that the estimates range from several hundred thousand tonnes to two million tonnes. What I do not understand is why there is not more discussion and strong emphasis on the documents and information available concerning the period of time during WWII in Europe and Asia, and related events post. Maybe someone could comment on this please.

  45. Philip Barton says:

    Hi Paul,
    The emphasis has been entirely on the pre-1849 period, because this is the area that is really contentious in terms of how much production took place. The claim, that I dispute, is that only 10,000 tonnes of gold was mined in the whole world prior to 1849. I have seen most if not all of the documents that you refer to.
    The point is that the large numbers noted in these documents are assumed to be false only because ‘everyone knows’ that before 1849 only 10,000 tonnes were mined. That, coupled with fairly precise records since Roman times, indicate that those figures cannot be true.
    If it can be shown that far more gold was mined pre-1849 than 10,000 tonnes, then it also shows how some of the figures that you are referring to could be true… and probably are true.
    So in a way, the conversation is about what you refer to, but in a rather round-about way.
    One other thought. The true dissension is in the production of gold in the B.C, period. There are documents showing gold mining in stone age Africa going back to 120,000 BC. I am trying to verify them at the moment.
    Cheers, Philip

  46. Philip Barton says:

    Paul, a correction, I should have said that western records are fairly precise since Roman times. There are no records at all related to Mesoamerican or Asian gold pre the 20th century – that I have ever come across. Philip

  47. Philip Barton says:

    De Re Metallica, 12, 2009 pp. 65-69
    © Sociedad Española para la Defensa del Patrimonio Geológico y Minero
    ISSN: 1577-9033
    Fathi Habashi
    Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering,
    Laval University, Quebec City, Canada G1V 0A6

    “Gold was exploited by the ancient Egyptians in Nubia. It has been estimated that Nubia was yielding 40 tonnes of gold every year.”

    Note that this was just one mine in the ancient world, though admittedly a large one. The likely tonnage per year in the ancient ‘known world’ is rising to levels that even I am surprised at.
    Cheers, Philip

  48. Have checked the Philippine panning situation, and according to the info gathered pure panning per year was about 6-7 tons, 2-3 years ago. Can’t find anything better than that.

  49. Philip Barton says:

    Thanks Peter

  50. Hi Philip
    Thank you for your response. That clears up some of the mystery for me.

    The subject of Au numbers is always sensitive throughout history and so they will never really be known.

    It was mentioned that:

    Paul, a correction, I should have said that western records are fairly precise since Roman times. There are no records at all related to Mesoamerican or Asian gold pre the 20th century – that I have ever come across. Philip

    It can then be said that Western records and Asian records 20th century and post 20th century are available and maybe somewhat reliable? Does this include only mining production numbers and not gold stock numbers?

    To me these numbers seem to be vague, as entities are hesitant to say. Yes I have noticed there are reference books you can buy for hundreds of $, but I wonder if they are only “publically published numbers”? GLD numbers do not tell us much about the overall picture. Actuals are never around.

    The trade off seems to be between a) very old historical records that are in contention to some degree, b) unknown Asian records pre 20th Century, and c) what was indicated 65 yrs ago and then subsequently and carefully documented. Is not the data from c) a much more robust and reliable dataset compared to a) and b)? Therefore why not place more emphasis on c)?

    Why not then scrub the recent robust numbers best we can and then use those to piece together the past? A tolerance sensitivity analysis could be applied, however I would not have the time or historical expertise to perform.

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