The largest accumulation of gold in human history is located deep underneath the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Some 80 feet beneath sidewalk level, the Fed’s special vault is built in bedrock and entrusted with deposits from central banks across the globe. Inside sits 7,000 tons of glittering gold bars—around 5 percent of all of the gold ever mined.
The vault itself is cylindrical double-story space that can rotate at the turn of a wheel. A sliver-shaped pie chunk of the cylinder has an opening, that when properly aligned with the entry hallway allows access to the treasure inside. Inside there are 122 separate mini vaults (one for each different country), plus a “library vault” for account holders with smaller deposits.
The Fed considers each gold bar as a non-fungible individual because of variations in purity and weight. As a result they carefully track each of the deposits, so if you give them a particular bar you can later retrieve that exact one.
The Fed’s gold vault really doesn’t cater to millionaires and billionaires, though; the customers are sovereign nations. While the list of account holders is a closely guarded secret, think of the likes of Bank of England, Banque de France, and Deutsche Bundesbank. Foreign countries store their gold in New York for the benefits of convenience and centrality. One of the perks of centralizing everything in one spot is that countries can transfer gold amongst themselves by simply moving bars from one compartment to another, at a modest handling cost of $2 per bar.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the New York Fed gold vault is that it offers public tours (although the website says that new bookings are currently unavailable). That’s a remarkable feat considering the security at similar facilities like the Gold Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, which bars the likes of reporters, members of congress and former presidents.
Know Before You Go
Fulton street Station on the 2,3 or 4,5 Trains. The tour is free: https://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/visiting.html