Most people who have heard of the huge gold depository buried under the Federal Reserve Bank of New York assume that’s where most of the U.S. gold hoard is stashed away. That’s not true.

It is true there are 6,000 tons of gold at the New York Fed, but that gold does not belong to the U.S. It belongs to foreign governments and the IMF, which leave it there in safekeeping. (The U.S. gold is divided between Fort Knox and West Point with a relatively small amount kept at the Denver mint.)

The other large third-party depository in the world is the Bank of England, which also has about 6,000 tons of gold. Only about 600 tons of that gold belongs to the U.K. The rest belongs to other governments.

The question is why other governments trust the U.S. and U.K. to secure their gold. In a financial panic, the Fed or Bank of England could easily seize that gold and hold it for their own account. As revealed in this article, foreign central banks are starting to realize this and demand return of their physical gold bullion to home country vaults.

The stampede began several years ago when Germany demanded the return of most of its gold from the Fed and the Bank of France vaults. Austria, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Hungary and some other countries followed suit to demand the return of some or all of their gold. Other nations such as China and Russia have always kept their gold reserves in their own vaults and never trusted custody to the U.S. or U.K. Now we can add Poland to the list.

This article reports that Poland is demanding the return of about half its gold from the Bank of England vaults. These gold transfers involve more than just shipping the physical gold from one vault to another. London and New York are centers of gold trading in physical and derivative forms. Physical gold can be leased or hypothecated to trading banks for purposes of covering short sales used to suppress the price of gold.

As gold leaves New York and London, it becomes unavailable for leasing and other market-manipulation schemes. This may be one reason for the recent rise in gold prices, since less gold is available for manipulation.

In any case, a full-scale “run on the bank” for gold has now started. Like most bank runs, this dynamic will only end when most or all of the gold is gone. No one wants to be the last in line to take custody of his gold. Things are about to get interesting at the gold vaults.

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