Of course, gold is not the only thing of value. There’s plenty of less durable goods to be had, like livestock. The two-legged kind are particularly valuable.
What we find when we plug in the numbers as of 1 November 2012 is that the entire national debt of the United States is the equivalent of a solid gold cube that is nearly 80 feet tall by 80 feet long by 80 feet wide. Transporting all that gold would require over 431 of those standard 20-foot long shipping containers.
The only problem with that is that all of the gold that has ever been mined on Planet Earth would only make a solid gold cube that is 66.1 feet high by 66.1 feet long by 66.1 feet wide, which would work out to fill just over 249 of those 20-foot standard shipping containers. Even if Fort Knox held all the gold in the world, the U.S. Treasury would still be more than 182 shipping containers short of being able to pay off the national debt in gold at today’s spot prices.