The Fort Knox gold vault is one of the most secure and secret places in America. Because few people have ever gotten inside, the gold depository is a subject of fascination and speculation.

Here are 10 things we know — and maybe don't know.

1. It holds tons of gold -- literally

Gold bars isolated on white background. Financial concept.
Pixfiction / Shutterstock
Fort Knox holds more than 147 million ounces of gold.

Fort Knox currently houses 147.3 million ounces of gold. The government says the bullion has a "book value" of $6.22 billion.

However, that's based on a fixed price that officials set in 1973. Based on the current market value of gold, the reserves at Fort Knox are worth a far more impressive $190 billion, roughly speaking.

Much of the gold in the vault is in the form of 27-pound bars, while a percentage is in gold coins.

At one time, the point of having all of that gold was to provide backing for U.S. currency — but the dollar was taken off the gold standard in 1971.

2. Is the gold really in there?

United States Gold Bullion Depository Fort Knox Kentucky
Michael Vadon / Flickr
Are we sure there's gold in Fort Knox?

So why does the U.S. hang onto its gold stash? "Just in case we need it," is the explanation former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan reportedly once gave.

Conspiracy theorists have insisted that the government secretly sold off the gold and that the gold bars are actually tungsten bricks painted to look like the precious metal.

Apparently, there's no way to say with absolute certainty if there's really bullion — or if it's all bull. Over the years, there have been few audits to test the gold, or inventories to count it.

Not many people have even seen it...

3. Outsiders rarely get inside

Berlin, Germany, 2017-03-16: Finance minister Steven Mnuchin, USA, at the office of the german finance minister, answers questions
photocosmos1 / Shutterstock
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin got a rare look inside the gold vault in 2017.

In 2017, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led a rare visit by outsiders to peek at the gold reserves inside the Fort Knox vault.

He was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the two of them were photographed holding gold bars. Afterward, Mnuchin had an answer for the conspiracy mongers. "Glad gold is safe!" he tweeted.

The last time Fort Knox had opened its vault to civilians was more than 40 years earlier. A congressional delegation and some journalists got a look at the gold in 1974.

4. Only one US president ever got inside

Gold bars and Financial concept, studio shots
Misunseo / Shutterstock
Franklin Roosevelt is the only U.S. president to see inside Fort Knox.

President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the construction of Fort Knox in the mid-1930s, reportedly because the Treasury worried that U.S. gold reserves weren't safe from an enemy invasion.

Later, Roosevelt became the only U.S. president ever to set foot inside the gold vault’s titanic walls.

He traveled to Fort Knox to make an inspection in 1943, about seven years after construction on the vault was completed. The building is really incredible...

5. It's one beefy building

Concrete pouring during commercial concreting floors of building
Bannafarsai_Stock / Shutterstock
Fort Knox contains 4,200 cubic yards of concrete.

Fort Knox contains 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 750 tons of reinforced steel and 670 tons of structural steel. The cost of construction in the 1930s was a mere $560,000.

The roof is said to be bomb-proof, and the main vault door weighs 20 tons and is 21 inches thick. The Treasury says no one person knows the entire combination.

The door is resistant to torches, drills and explosives — not that any of that matters. The real challenge to any would-be intruder is reaching the building in the first place...

6. Guards and more guards

Fort Knox, Kentucky
Margaret Taylor2010 / Flickr
Fort Knox is very heavily guarded.

Fort Knox is guarded by members of the U.S. Mint Police, one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies. It was established in 1792!

The officers undergo 12 weeks of basic training, followed by five weeks of field training. They learn a long list of heavy-duty skills, including weapons handling, cornering, door entry and room clearing.

If that doesn't seem intimidating enough, Fort Knox sits at the center of a 109,000-acre U.S. Army post and is a training ground for military troops from around the country.

7. A frail foreign visitor

Magna Carta Libertatum, is an eight-hundred year-old English legal charter that required King John of England to proclaim certain rights and accept that his will could be bound by the law.
David Smart / Shutterstock
Fort Knox once held an original of the Magna Carta.

Occasionally, the vault at Fort Knox has held other precious items, besides gold.

In 1939, one of the original copies of the Magna Carta — the Medieval English charter laying down basic human rights — was brought to the U.S. to go on exhibit at the New York World's Fair.

When World War II erupted, the delicate document was transferred to Fort Knox for safekeeping. The Magna Carta stayed in residence until 1947, when it went back to England.

But for a time, it had some treasured American roommates...

8. Very special guests from US history

Close up of Constitution of the United States of America with the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights
Pamela Au / Shutterstock
Fort Knox hosted original copies of the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

World War II turned Fort Knox into a hotel of sorts for prized papers from both sides of the pond.

Originals of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution were moved to the gold vault out of fear that the nation’s capital would be attacked.

As the war wound down, the parchment was returned to its rightful home in Washington, D.C., in 1944. That left some room at Fort Knox for the next priceless guest...

9. Protection for a hallowed headpiece

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY, - October. 28. 2008: Holy Crown of Hungary at Hungarian parliament
T photography / Shutterstock
The Holy Crown of Hungary was once kept at Fort Knox for safekeeping.

Legend has it that Hungary's King Coloman, who reigned from 1095 to 1116, declared that the Holy Crown of Hungary, and not the king, was the true ruler of the realm.

During World War II, the crown was whisked out of Hungary to protect it from falling into the clutches of the Nazis or Soviets. It resurfaced in Austria in 1945 and was handed over to American forces.

The U.S. government brought the crown to Fort Knox for safekeeping. It remained there until 1978, when it was returned to Hungary by a delegation led by U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

10. America's medicine cabinet

Morphine sulfate pills with bottle and prescription.
Sherry Yates Young / Shutterstock
Fort Knox holds a huge stash of morphine sulfate.

What else has Fort Knox held, besides gold and historic artifacts? How about a hoard of drugs? Morphine sulfate, to be exact.

During the Cold War, the U.S. military wanted to be certain that it had a healthy supply of pain meds in case foreign opium sources ever got cut off. So, in 1955, Fort Knox opened its doors to tons of opium.

The government spent millions refining the stuff into morphine in 1993. It's still stored at Fort Knox, alongside the gold.

That is, if the gold is really there. What do you think?

What's Next

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman


Doug Whiteman is the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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