who owns the most gold bars in the world

Gold is a popular investment. Some buy it to hedge against inflation, while others see it as a way to diversify their portfolios.

Governments also hold huge reserves of the precious metal as a way to protect against financial crisis. We take a look at who owns the most gold bars in the world.

1. United States

The United States is the largest holder of gold bars in the world. Uncle Sam has stashed 8,133,5 tons of the precious metal in vaults like Fort Knox and elsewhere. Liquidating this stash would barely put a dent in the country’s $21 trillion national debt, though.

Many individual Americans hold gold as well. They buy bullion for a variety of reasons, including as an investment and a hedge against inflation. Some individuals even purchase gold coins and bars as gifts for others, a time-honored tradition in many cultures around the globe.

2. Germany

While India and China get a lot of press for their massive gold demand and overall gold holdings, Germany’s citizens also hold huge amounts of the yellow metal. That’s probably due to generational memories of hyperinflation and the belief that physical gold can be trusted as a store of value and safe haven during crises and war.

Germany’s central bank recently repatriated some of its Cold War-era gold reserves from New York and Paris. Its 2,300-page list of every single gold bar in its reserves helps reassure citizens that the Bundesbank is transparent about its holdings.

3. France

While governments no longer require that their currency be backed by gold, many still store huge amounts of the precious metal as a hedge against hyperinflation and other economic calamities. With that in mind, let’s see who owns the most gold bars in the world.

France has a massive gold stash in Paris, which is stored on a custodial basis for other central banks. A Banque de France presentation at the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) conference in 2013 stated that 91% of its gold is in Paris, with 9% being abroad.

4. China

Amid all the talk of massive bond-buying, money-printing and near-zero or negative interest rates, it’s not a coincidence that many countries are buying gold. And the most clandestine buyer is China.

According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the PBOC has been coveringtly buying gold for a long time. They may have bought tens of billions in gold bars that never existed.

Despite the fact that it has the world’s most active bullion market, China doesn’t disclose much about its gold reserves. But combining official reporting with research from the likes of Ross Norman, Bron Suchecki and Koos Jansen, they arrive at a figure of not far off 31,000. The Chinese don’t let much gold leave the country anyway, though.

5. India

India has a large population, many temples, and many private gold holders. It has been estimated that Indian households own a staggering 20,000 tons of gold, which could be worth upwards of $1 Trillion.

That translates to roughly a half ounce of gold per person in the country. The central bank has added to its holdings in recent years. In 2020, it made the second largest net purchase of gold of any central bank in the world. Gold is viewed as a way to hedge against currency volatility and other economic uncertainties.

6. Japan

When ownership of gold became legal in Japan for the first time since 1973, a gold fever developed. Japanese rushed to buy gold accessorries and even gold for the reproduction of old coins.

But 98 per cent of that gold was in ornamental objects such as small kettles. Their net value is much less than the price paid for them because of processing costs and dealer commissions.

7. Switzerland

Swiss citizens own an estimated 920 tonnes of private gold. This makes it the seventh largest owner of gold bars in the world and is higher than many other countries’ per capita savings.

The tiny Swiss nation (the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined) has built a global reputation as a precious metals hub. It seized the opportunity when the London Gold Pool collapsed and major gold producers moved their reserves to Switzerland, where the country is politically neutral, has exceptional privacy laws, and does not charge customs or value-added tax on the sale of physical gold.