US Coins

West Point Mint stores millions of foreign gold coins

The West Point Mint's vaults have stored nearly 4.7 million foreign gold coins in bags possibly for as long as before the end of World War II.

Image by Coin World Senior Editor Paul Gilkes.

Nearly 4.7 million foreign gold coins, many of them British gold sovereigns, have been stored in bags in vaults at the West Point Mint likely for decades without any current explanation provided as to why they are there nor what their ultimate disposition will be.

A May 4, 2018, Treasury Department response to Coin World from an April 5, 2018, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)request confirms that the West Point facility houses 4,686,358 foreign gold coins, amounting to a total gold weight of 991,855.139 fine troy ounces of gold.

The coins are believed to be dated prior to the end of World War II, based on a 2013 FOIA filed with the Treasury Department by a third party.

The statutory value of the gold coins, based on that weight and the established troy ounce value, $42.2222, set in 1973 according to 31 USC § 5116-5117, is $41,878,306.50. The market value, based on the spot price of gold per troy ounce at $1,291.25, is $1,280,732,948.23.


Deep storage

The gold coins are among the 54,067,331 troy ounces of gold held in “deep storage” at the West Point Mint and are not part of the working stock.

Deep storage, according the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, is “that portion of the U.S. government-owned gold bullion reserve which the Mint secures in sealed vaults that are examined annually by the Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General and consists primarily of gold bars.”

 Working stock, according to the Fiscal Service, is “that portion of the U.S. government gold reserve which the Mint uses as the raw material for minting congressionally authorized coins and consists of bars, blanks, unsold coins and condemned coins.”

The West Point facility was erected in 1937 and opened the following year as the West Point Bullion Depository on the grounds of the West Point Military Academy.

The facility gained official status as a branch of the United States Mint on March 31, 1988, at the same time the San Francisco Assay Office was returned to full Mint Status. 

The facility primarily strikes all of the nation’s bullion coins in gold, silver, platinum and palladium, as well as gold commemoratives and other specially designated issues.

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What the Mint holds

The documentation provided through the U.S. Mint indicates the foreign gold coins, all Uncirculated, are stored in bags in quantities from as few as 22 coins to as many as 3,000 coins per bag. 

The predominant issues are British gold sovereigns of unspecified dates. The sovereigns are made of .9167 fine gold, or 22 karats, the same fineness as today’s American Eagle gold coins.

Also represented, with no specific dates listed are:

??.900 fine gold French 10- and 20-franc coins.

??.8995 fine gold Austrian 10- and 20-korona coins.

??.8995 fine gold German 20-mark coins.

??.8995 fine gold Danish 20-kroner coins.

??.900 fine Canadian $10 gold coins.

None of the documentation provided to Coin World pursuant to its April 5 FOIA request nor gained from direct inquiry to Mint officials answers when the U.S. Mint began amassing the bags of gold coins; or over what period the coins were accumulated and for what purpose; or why the Mint doesn’t either melt them and reclaim the metal for U.S. coin production or sell them as a numismatic product, in much the same way Treasury-held bags of Seated Liberty, Morgan and Peace silver dollars were dispersed in the 1960s and 1970s. 

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