## Tuesday, March 4, 2014

### How Much Gold Fits in a Backpack?

Last week I had some fun writing open letter replies to email solicitations. In one reply I said
“I have decided not to turn my entire net worth into a lump of metal that fits in a backpack.”
This was my way of using humour to poke fun at the absurdly high price of gold. But you may wonder if this statement is literally true. What dollar amount of gold fits in a backpack?

A typical backpack used by high school students has a capacity of about 20 liters. Here are a few other facts that will take us to our destination:

– 1000 cubic centimeters in a liter
– Gold density is 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter
– One troy ounce is 31.1 grams
– A recent gold price was \$1328.60 per troy ounce

Combining all this together, we find that a backpack holds \$16.5 million worth of gold! Although I don’t like to talk too much about my exact net worth, I’m prepared to reveal that I have less than \$16.5 million. So, my net worth in gold does, in fact, fit in a backpack. If you find it crazy that people are willing to pay this much for a modest-size hunk of metal, I’m with you.

Some might think I’m cheating here because the weight of this much gold is 851 pounds. So, while it fits in a backpack, I certainly couldn’t lift it. However, \$1 million worth of gold would only be about 52 pounds and would be a little larger than a 1 liter carton of milk. So most people are capable of lifting their net worth in gold.

If you were to win a million dollars, you could get a nice house in a large Canadian city, a huge house outside the city, or a 52-pound lump of yellow metal. Your choice.

1. Huh... so when I go to the gym I'm lifting \$4m. That's a good way to put it :)

1. @Richard: You're right that if your weights were made of gold, they would cost \$4M. The actual value of such a lump of gold is an entirely different discussion.

2. Hi Michael,
I am not a gold buff by any means but gold does have some irrefutable values associated with it. I used to remember going to buy milk for my mom when i was a kid and it was \$0.40 cents for what is the equivalent of 3 1L bags of milk today that at some stores is \$7.00 and even \$9.00 for the pure filtered stuff. If I had \$0.40 cents worth of gold back in the 70's, that tiny amount of gold today would buy many bags of milk (probably about 25 bags by quick calculation). You could fit a lot of paper money in a backpack too depending on the denomination and 5 years from now it will but 20% less "stuff". Or you could set it on fire and stay warm. I think I'm missing your point with the gold here. Both a house and a lump of gold fluctuate in value. I have a property in Fla. in 2007 it was worth \$220,000.00 today its worth about \$90.000.00. That could happen in Canada too.

1. @Paul: I'm not disputing that the price of gold has risen. But price and value are not the same thing. If gold were prices based on its practical uses, the price would drop like a stone. The only thing holding up gold prices is the fact that people are willing to pay the current price. I wouldn't pay this price any more than I'd pay for some ridiculously overpriced piece of art. But I don't dispute that the price of some pieces of art have risen dramatically.

3. I'm sure you could lift the 851 lbs but unfortunately the straps would rip out of the back pack before you could.

You've also made me wonder exactly WHAT my kids are toting around in their packs that's so heavy so tonight I think I'll check and make sure they aren't carrying a few unwanted gold bars.

1. @Bet Crooks: Better sell those gold bars in case everyone in the world gives their head a shake and gold prices plunge :-)

2. Turns out their bars were Toblerones from Christmas, so they just ate them. Problem solved; Big smiles all around.