When Owning Gold Was Illegal in America

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States by promising to end the Great Depression, which had driven the national unemployment rate up to 25% and gutted the economy. He promised to lower government spending and taxes, as well as balance the budget. Once in office, of course, he did the exact opposite. One of FDR's first acts as president was to declare that Americans withdrawing their gold and currency from the beleaguered banking system were to blame for creating a national emergency. He ordered all banks to close from March 6-9 in order to prevent the export, hoarding, or earmarking of gold or silver coin, bullion or currency. Since he believed his action wasn’t sufficient to prevent a run on the banks, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, which made gold ownership — both in coins and bars — illegal for all Americans and punishable by 10 years in prison. All Americans were required to turn in their gold on or before May 1, 1933 to the Federal Reserve in return for $20.67 of paper money per troy ounce. Americans who failed to turn in their gold were subject to arrest on criminal charges and faced up to 10 years in federal prison. An exception was made for dentists, who could own up to 100 ounces. The prohibition wasn’t lifted until 1974, when President Gerald Ford signed a proclamation that legalized gold ownership.