Throughout history, people have used gold in jewelry and as a currency, and the revered metal has long been a symbol of value. You can buy gold in pieces of any size, but one of the most iconic ways of measuring gold is in large bars.
A “gold bar” is a rectangular bar made of solid gold in many sizes and weights. When they hear of a gold bar, most people picture one about the size of a brick since that is what they see in movies. However, gold bars of this size are not easy to find, and they are much heavier than they seem in the film world.
In this article, we will define the weight and dimensions of a standard gold bar in addition to smaller bars that the average gold investor might have.
The value of gold fluctuates daily. We base any mentions of the value of a gold bar in this article on the price of gold in April 2021.
Weight and Dimensions of One Gold Bar
Since gold is so hard to find in large quantities, many gold bars are relatively small. Gold is a common investment commodity, so many people purchase small amounts at a time. In most cases, people do not buy a standard bar of gold. Instead, they purchase bars that range in size from a paperclip to a smartphone.
A bar of gold the size of a smartphone would weigh about one kilogram or 2.2 pounds. A bar of gold this size is worth over $57,000. In comparison, a standard bar of gold with dimensions about 4 x 11 x 2 inches weighs approximately 400 troy ounces (over 11 kilograms, or 27.5 pounds). This standard bar of gold is worth over $700,000.
Few average investors have a gold bar lying around at home. $700,000 is a lot of money to have invested in one commodity, even for a wealthy person. If someone is particularly interested in investing in gold, they are more likely to own several smaller bars rather than one standard size bar. We will return to this later in the article.
Calculating Value of Gold by Weight
You might have noticed that we mentioned the weight in troy ounces rather than regular ounces when talking about the weight of a gold bar. A troy ounce contains slightly more weight than a standard ounce, making it about 10% heavier. The use of troy ounces dates back to the Middle Ages, but today we only use the measure for the weight of precious metals like gold.
You might have also noticed that a bar of gold weighs “approximately” 400 ounces. Even with a standard-sized bar, the amount of gold within each bar is inexact. Mints create gold bars using molds, and some are fuller than others, resulting in larger- or smaller-than-average gold bars.
The value per troy ounce of gold fluctuates all the time. At the time of this article’s writing, one troy ounce of gold was worth about $1,760. To figure out exactly how much your gold bar is worth, you will need to measure it in troy ounces and then check the most updated price of gold per troy ounce.
The History of Gold Bars
Gold bars, also known as gold bullion—which means that the gold is as pure and refined as possible—are nearly 100% pure gold. Gold bullion has a long history of use as currency and until recently provided the backing of many currencies worldwide.
The Gold Standard
Investopedia defines the concept of the “gold standard” in the following way:
“The gold standard is a monetary system where a country’s currency or paper money has a value directly linked to gold. With the gold standard, countries agreed to convert paper money into a fixed amount of gold. A country that uses the gold standard sets a fixed price for gold and buys and sells gold at that price.”
Gold has long been the way that many currencies around the world held any value. Essentially, paper and coin money linked directly to gold. Rather than trading and purchasing with physical gold, many economic systems had their citizens trade in their gold for paper and coin money that represented gold. This was traditionally a way to prevent inflation and keep economies under control.
The United States left the gold standard in 1971, and no other country today uses it any longer to back their currency. The fiat system replaced the gold standard in most cases. This system works by having individual governments regulate their currency. This system is in place in the United States today.
Even though no nation uses the gold standard any longer, gold is still a precious metal and has significant value. Many people own physical gold for investment purposes since its value has the potential to increase.
Because the United States once rooted its economy on the gold standard, our nation owns large stores of gold bars. These are the iconic brick-sized bars of gold that we see in movies. The gold reserves are under heavy protection in vaults at the United States Bullion Depository located in Fort Knox, Kentucky, in the possession of the United States Department of the Treasury.
Fort Knox is an Army post in Kentucky that houses most of the gold reserves belonging to the United States. Established in 1936, Fort Knox became the home of the gold previously housed in New York City and Philadelphia to establish a safer, more inland location that would be harder for potential thieves to access.
The United States Postal Service transported all of the gold from the two cities to Fort Knox over land since the gold bars were too heavy for transport by plane. Fort Knox has been one of the most heavily guarded and secure locations in the country ever since.
In fact, the original Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and other important historical documents stayed safe at Fort Knox during World War II for protection. Fort Knox boasts all sorts of modern security devices, and landmines surround the entire property, which radars monitor.
Even the President of the United States can’t visit Fort Knox. To date, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the sitting president who established Fort Knox, is the only president to have visited the property.
Fort Knox currently holds 147 million troy ounces of gold, which equals over 10 million pounds. If all of the gold in Fort Knox were in gold bar form, there would be 367,500 bars. The value of all of the gold at Fort Knox is over $250 billion.
Investing in Gold
Even though no currencies are on the gold standard anymore, gold is still valuable as a precious metal. Many people will recommend diversifying your investment portfolio by purchasing some gold or investing in a gold mine.
Some people even predict that currencies might go back to the gold standard during times of extreme economic turmoil. If this happens, it might not be a bad thing to have some gold lying around. This scenario, however, is unlikely to happen.
What to Buy
If you are simply looking to diversify your investment portfolio a bit, it is unlikely that you will want to purchase a standard gold bar with a $700,000 price tag. When investing in physical gold, it is best to purchase smaller bars or coins.
Smaller amounts provide you with more liquidity and give you the option to sell only part of your gold supply in the future, if necessary. For example, if you put all of your gold investments into one bar of gold, you wouldn’t be able to sell half of your gold, so it’s best to purchase multiple small bars and coins.
Official gold bars and coins are as close to pure gold as possible. They have a serial number attached to certify them for security and authenticity purposes.
Minted Gold Bars
While any average person can make a gold bar out of a mold, minted gold bars hold higher standards. Although you can find multiple sizes of minted gold bars, mints measure each with care to ensure that they are the exact weight as advertised.
Mints create these types of gold bars for people wanting to buy gold for investment purposes. Investors can purchase minted gold bars from the United States mint.
Wrapping Things Up
At the end of the day, gold bars are hefty, with one standard-size gold bar weighing in at nearly 30 pounds. While these large gold bars are more common in secure reserves like Fort Knox rather than out in the world, smaller gold bars and coins are frequent investments on the gold market.
Even though you may not be able to visit the vaults at Fort Knox, you can invest in and own gold bars, and gold investing is among the best ways to build your precious metals portfolio. For example, you can buy a 1-kilo gold bar (32.5 ounces of .999 pure gold) if you have about $58,000—but even less wealthy investors can purchase gold coins, gold certificates, or gold mining stocks.
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