And then there are the people who should know most about how sound the world's various types of paper money are: central banks. As a group, they have added tonnes of bullion to their reserves last year:
- Turkey added 13 tonnes (417,959 troy ounces) of gold in November 2013. Overall, it has added 143.6 tonnes (4,616,847 troy ounces) so far this year, up 22.5% from a year ago, in part thanks to the adoption of a new policy to accept gold in its reserve requirements from commercial banks.
- Russia bought 19.1 tonnes (614,079 troy ounces) in July and August alone. With the year-to-date addition of 57.37 tonnes -- second only to Turkey - Russia's gold reserves now total 1,015 tonnes. It now holds the eighth-largest national stash in the world.
- South Korea added a whopping 20 tonnes (643,014 troy ounces) of gold in February, and now carries 23.7% more gold on its balance sheet than at the end of 2012. "Gold is a real safe asset that can help (us) respond to tail risks from global financial situations effectively and boosts the reliability of our foreign reserves holdings," said central bank officials.
- Kazakhstan has been buying gold every month, at an average of 2.4 tonnes (77,161 troy ounces) through October. As a result, the country's reserves have seen a 21% increase to 139.5 tonnes from a year ago.
- Azerbaijan has taken advantage of a slump in gold prices and has gone from having virtually no gold to 16 tonnes (514,411 ounces).
- Sri Lanka and Ukraine added 5.5 (176,829 troy ounces) and 6.22 tonnes (199,977 troy ounces), respectively, over the past year.
- China, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla that mainstream analysts seem determined to ignore. Though nothing official has been announced by China's central bank, the chart below provides some perspective into the country's consumer buying habits.
China ended 2013 officially as the largest gold consumer in the world. Chinese sentiment towards gold is well echoed in a statement made by Liu Zhongbo of the Agricultural Bank of China: "Because gold has capabilities to absorb external economic shocks, growth of its use in the international monetary system will be imminent."