Few people realized how fragile a system this was, built as it
was on so narrow a base. The totality of gold ever mined
in the whole world since the dawn of time was barely enough to fill a modest two-story town house. Moreover, new
supplies were neither stable nor predictable, coming as they did in fits and starts and only by sheer coincidence arriving
in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of the world economy. As a result, during periods when new gold finds were
lean, such as between the California and Australian gold rushes of the 1850s and the discover......