Welcome to the World's Largest Gold Vault

Just a few blocks from the bustle of Wall Street sits $200 billion in gold.

ByABC News
September 18, 2008, 6:00 PM

Sept. 19, 2008— -- NEW YORK -- Gold. It's one of the oldest and most prized possessions we have. Egyptian pharaohs were buried with it, the Romans traded it and gold is even mentioned as a gift in the Bible.

As stocks plummet and many realize they don't understand how their money is invested, some on Wall Street are turning to gold as a haven.

Who can blame them? Gold is something you can see, hold and fully understand. In the last two days, the price of gold shot up $110 to $892.70 an ounce.

Just a few blocks away from all the turmoil and panic of the stock market sits the world's largest stockpile of gold. Deep under the streets of Manhattan sits more gold than "James Bond" villain Goldfinger could ever imagine.

And I recently got a private tour inside the little-known vault.

Nearly $200 billion worth of gold rests on bedrock five stories underground, 30 feet below the city's subway system, inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's vault.

That's more than can be found in Fort Knox.

Very little of it belongs to the U.S. government.

There are roughly 540,000 gold bars belonging to 48 foreign central banks and 12 international organizations such as The International Monetary Fund or The Bank for International Settlement. The United States has about 5 percent of its gold stored there.

Fed officials were very tight-lipped about who owns what gold. Accounts are just identified by number, not name.

The Fed stores the gold for free but depositors pay $1.75 for each bar that is moved.

This vault contains about 25 percent of the world's gold reserves. That's more gold that the entire annual economy of the United Arab Emirates -- home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The majority of gold came to the Fed after World War II as countries sought a safe place to keep their wealth. New York's rise as one of the world's financial capitals also makes it convenient for countries that want to sell their holdings.