Imports and Exports

Someone commented recently about the import and export of gold in relation to the US Mint’s rule that they must use American gold when minting American gold coins. Could it be that our export of gold makes it more difficult for the Mint to find enough gold?

Out of curiosity, what are the import and export figures for gold? Let’s look at the various data available on the US Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Statistics site.

First, here is the graphic of the statistics for gold for 2000 through 2009 and the first four months of 2010:

US Export/Import of Gold Ore 2000-April2010

In 2009, our largest export locations included Mexico ($38.5M), Costa Rica ($10.1M), Hong Kong ($3.6M), Ireland ($3.1M), Australia ($2.7M), United Kingdom ($2.6M), Germany ($2.6M) and Korea ($2.5M). The US exported to other countries but at less than $1M for the year.

Conversely, the US imported gold ore from only four countries in 2009: Mexico ($29.8M), Canada ($4.2M), Ghana ($2M) and Australia ($0.2M). The annual trade balance for the gold ore shows we exported $69.9M and imported $36.1M.

Year to date through April 2010 demonstrates a continuation of that roughly two to one ratio of gold ore exports to imports at $29.6M to $15.7M. The largest export countries in descending order include Germany, Mexico, Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Korea. For year to date gold imports, the countries are Mexico (greater than 94% of the year-to-date imports), Canada, Australia, Taiwan and Togo.

 But what about silver?

US Export/Import of Silver Ore 2000-April2010


The silver imports and exports graphic tells an interesting story. First, our exports are dramatically larger than our imports. We import just over 2% of the value of our silver ore exports. Plus, we exported just over$99M in 2008 and imported less than $70,000. In 2009, the gold ore exports grew an additional 40% to over $139M, and the imports decreased to less than $10,000. That’s both interesting and puzzling.

Another related import and export statistic maintained in the US Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade information is what they term “Numismatic Coins.” For the years 2005 through 2009, our trade included:

Numismatic Coins Export and Import 2005 through 2009

Though this report does not relate easily to the countries, another of their sources shows that the majority of our coin imports come from Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Austria, France and United Kingdom At least for the first four months of this year, our imports from those countries ranged from over $204M from Canada to over $10M from the UK.

Year to date, our largest coin exports went to United Kingdom, Germany and Austria with the UK at over $77M and Austria just over $11M.

For the five years 2005 – 2009, our exported numismatic values were roughly 26% of our imported values. But, in 2009, we exported just 15% of our imported values.

Perhaps as a nation we are greedy for the Canadian Maple Leaves, the Gold Pesos, the Gold Roosters and other foreign collectible and investment grade numismatics.

These graphs do not answer the initial question about our gold ore exports impacting the US Mint’s ability to find American gold. However, they do provide insights into the US’s relationship in the international marketplace.