Gold has always played an important role in the international monetary system. Gold coins were first struck on the order of King Croesus of Lydia (an area that is now part of Turkey), around 550 BC. They circulated as currency in many countries before the introduction of paper money. Once paper money was introduced, currencies still maintained an explicit link to gold (the paper being exchangeable for gold on demand).

The Gold Standard was a system under which nearly all countries fixed the value of their currencies in terms of a specified amount of gold, or linked their currency to that of a country which did so. Domestic currencies were freely convertible into gold at the fixed price and there was no restriction on the import or export of gold.

The gold standard ended on August 15, 1971. That's when Nixon changed the dollar/gold relationship to $38 per ounce. He no longer allowed the Fed to redeem dollars with gold. That made the gold standard meaningless. The U.S. government repriced gold to $42 per ounce in 1973 and then decoupled the value of the dollar from gold altogether in 1976. The price of gold quickly shot up to $120 per ounce in the free market.

Once the gold standard was dropped, countries began printing more of their own currency. Inflation resulted and all paper money (currency) has persistently depreciated in value in terms of gold ever since. Gold has never lost its appeal as an asset of real value. Whenever a recession or inflation looms, investors return to gold as a safe haven.