Some interesting thoughts here (h/t Mark Thoma) on counterfeiting and the USA’s monetary history. The final paragraph brings it all together though. The dollar is “way, way” more popular than gold so take that gold bugs!
“Wood closes by noting that most of the $900 billion of Federal Reserve Notes in circulation in 2010 (now well over $1 trillion) are thought to be held outside the US. The amount of gold held in bullion or coins by private citizens is estimated to be 16% of the total of gold in existence in2008. The current stock of gold in all forms is about 170,000 metric tons. So about 25,000 metric tons of gold may now be privately held. At $1700 an ounce, private gold holdings are thus worth about $1.3 trillion. I don’t know how much of this is held outside the US, but I suspect it is much more than a half. Let’s assume it’s a round number like $1 trillion. Then the amount of privately held gold outside the US is about twice the amount of privately held Federal Reserve notes. However, holding Federal Reserve Notes is not the only way that people can hold dollars abroad. They can also hold euro dollar accounts, which are time deposits denominated in dollars held in offshore (outside the US) banks. No one knows what the volume of such accounts is, because it is basically an unregulated market outside the reach of US regulatory authority and pretty much left unregulated by foreign governments. But estimates of the size of euro dollar accounts (which may be denominated in other currencies, but are overwhelmingly denominate in dollars) are probably far more than $1 trillion. So based on the revealed preferences of legally unconstrained choices, the dollar seems to be way, way more popular than gold.”