Precious Metals

Wine and Fort Knox caper: From the Memory Bank

Coin World editor Margo Russell snapped this photo of Mint Director Mary Brooks in the gold vault at the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1974.

Coin World file photo.

While most attending the 1982 Central States Numismatic Society convention on opening day in Iowa City, Iowa, were busy buying and selling coins, former Mint Director Mary Brooks and I joined a small group of adventurers on a tour of the nearby Amana Colonies.

The most memorable moments of the tour for me came when we ventured into Iowa’s oldest winery, the Ackerman Winery in the heart of Amana.

The former Mint director was fascinated by the winery’s fruit wines and was determined to taste every one of dozen or so before us! We sampled the pure cranberry (as well as cranberries blended with various other fruits such as plums, apples and grapes), blackberry, cherry, dandelion, elderberry, mango, peach, plum, pomegranate, red raspberry, strawberry, and rhubarb.

She declared the rhubarb the best of the fruit wines and cast an eye toward another half dozen or so grape wines. I bowed out at that point, knowing I was well past my limit. As she sipped the various grape varieties, she spotted a seal on one bottle noting that it had captured the gold award in a recent competition.

“Did Margo tell you about our ‘gold caper’ at Fort Knox?”

Of course, I had read about when in 1974 she had led a group of reporters — including Margo — to the Fort Knox Bullion Depository to assure doubters that all of the nation’s gold was accounted for and was indeed safely secured in the vaults there.

“Caper?” I questioned.

She chuckled, progressively lowering her voice to a loud whisper. “We are the only two people I know of who ever walked out of Fort Knox carrying gold!”

She explained that the day after the tour she and Margo happened to talk. Margo was curious to know if Mary had noticed the silk stockings she wore at Fort Knox.

Margo had noticed when she took hers off that they were filled with microscopic flakes of gold dust — enough that the stockings had a golden hue. The Mint director checked her stockings and found them to also be “golden.” Together they surmised that static electricity had caused the gold transfer. 

David T. Alexander, a member of the Coin World staff in 1974, confirms Margo brought her golden stockings to the office, where he saw them. The whereabouts of the “golden stockings” is unknown today. 

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