NEW YORK--This may look like enough gold to make up just about anybody's nest egg, but it's actually a very, very small portion of the entire deposit at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The largest collection of gold on Earth, the New York Fed's accumulation belongs to 37 countries, including the United States. The U.S., in fact, owns just a fraction, and the Fed itself is only the custodian of the precious metal. All told, the deposits are worth about $255 billion, at market value.
On Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman visited the U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing in Washington, D.C., and saw how the new, next-generation $100 bills are made. He then visited the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, the largest mint in the world, and saw the design process and the production of our coins.
When he reached New York, Terdiman discovered the Fed's gold deposits, and thought a trilogy of stories about visceral and physical representations of money would be a perfect thing to include in the Road Trip package. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to arrange a visit to see the gold, but the Fed did provide information (PDF file) and imagery of the deposits which, as the largest on Earth, are naturally larger than that of the famous collection at Fort Knox in Kentucky.
The front entrance to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at 33 Liberty St. This is the front page of a presentation (PDF file) on the gold vault, the history of gold as a monetary instrument and the Fed's accumulation of gold from 36 foreign nations and the United States.
In this image, Federal Reserve of New York personnel weigh 12 27-pound gold bars from the giant deposits there using special hydraulic lifts to hoist the bars. According to the Fed, those involved in the weighing wear special protection on their shoes in case a bar is dropped on their feet.
In order to get inside the vault, it is necessary to pass through a 10-foot entryway that was carved from a 90-ton steel cylinder, and which rotates vertically inside a steel and concrete framing weighing 140 tons. According to the Fed, the passageway into the vault is 80 feet below the surface street above, and the vault is on top of a foundation--one of the few in New York City--capable of supporting the weight of the vault and the gold inside.