Straight Dope Message Board (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/index.php)
-   General Questions (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?f=3)
-   -   How much would a stereotypical Pirate Chest actually weigh? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=815126)

 chacoguy 12-31-2016 10:16 PM

How much would a stereotypical Pirate Chest actually weigh?

Like THIS or THIS?

Let's assume it's full of gold coins, wouldn't that amount to a half a ton or more?

 DrDeth 12-31-2016 11:49 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by chacoguy (Post 19888736) Like THIS or THIS? Let's assume it's full of gold coins, wouldn't that amount to a half a ton or more?
A cubic foot of gold weighs more than 1000 lbs. Worth like \$20MM.

 Gukumatz 01-01-2017 03:09 AM

Gold has a density of 19g/cm^3.

Let's say the interior of the chest has a volume equivalent to 40*40*50cm. That's 64000 cm^3.

Let's say 3/4 of the interior of the chest is gold. The rest is air. So that's 48000cm^3 of gold.

48000cm^3 * 19g/cm^3 = 912000g.

So your pirate chest would weigh about 912kg, give or take 5-10 kilograms of wood and other metals in the chest itself, provided the gold coins were pure gold. (24k) They usually weren't; other metals were mixed in to make the coin more durable.

England still uses the "crown gold" standard for minting new gold sovereigns. It was introduced in the 1500s by Henry VIII, I think, so I guess that could be the type of gold crown reasonably expected to show up in a pirate chest. Crown gold is 22 karat (91,667%) gold, with the rest strictly copper. Copper has a density of about 8,96g/cm^3. Roughly, that would decrease the weight of the chest by about 4%.

So the chest would weigh in at about 875 kilograms. Or about 1930 pounds. Man, gold's heavy.

(Apologies for any mistakes - I just came off night shift and I'm going cross-eyed.)

 bob++ 01-01-2017 04:59 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by chacoguy (Post 19888736) Let's assume it's full of gold coins, wouldn't that amount to a half a ton or more?
One of my pet peeves is that film makers rarely seem to represent the real difficulties of handling heavy objects. From the suitcases that are clearly empty to the gold bars in the Italian job, even if they make some attempt, they abandon reality for effect.

 MikeS 01-01-2017 09:12 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by bob++ (Post 19888987) From the suitcases that are clearly empty to the gold bars in the Italian job, even if they make some attempt, they abandon reality for effect.
I do recall that Three Kings (1999) made a noticeable effort to show that the gold being stolen by the GIs was rather heavy. But their effort was mainly noticeable because most other films don't make that same effort.

 ASGuy 01-01-2017 09:36 AM

Apologies for continuing the hijack.

And don't forget Kelly's Heroes (1970). When the gold was being removed each man carried one case at a time and many men were in use. The Yanks had their truck and the Germans had theirs. I thought it an accurate portrayal of the weight and difficulty of transporting gold.

 jtur88 01-01-2017 09:38 AM

On a similar note, a standard attache case found handcuffed to your skeleton wrist after your plane crashes in the Caribbean will contain less than a million dollars in crisp US \$100 bills packed in tight.

 silenus 01-01-2017 11:19 AM

Let us also not forget that gold was not that common even back in the day. Most coins were silver, and a pirate's treasure chest would be predominantly filled with Ag, not Au. That's gotta save you what, a pound or two? :D

 LSLGuy 01-01-2017 11:28 AM

A stack of 1000 US bills is a bit smaller than two standard red clay builder's bricks. But much lighter. So \$1M in \$100s is 10 such stacks or about 20 brick's worth. I bet you can get 6 full stacks in an attaché case, and maybe a 7th if you can break it up. But not much more.

 cmkeller 01-01-2017 11:40 AM

bob++

Quote:
 One of my pet peeves is that film makers rarely seem to represent the real difficulties of handling heavy objects.
As I recall, the impossibility to carting away so much gold was why the filmmakers of Goldfinger changed from the book's plot of stealing the contents of Fort Knox to irradiating it to reduce the world supply of the stuff and thereby make Goldfinger's own gold more valuable.

 RealityChuck 01-01-2017 01:47 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by bob++ (Post 19888987) One of my pet peeves is that film makers rarely seem to represent the real difficulties of handling heavy objects. From the suitcases that are clearly empty to the gold bars in the Italian job, even if they make some attempt, they abandon reality for effect.
As well they should.

 Chessic Sense 01-01-2017 06:54 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by MikeS (Post 19889143) I do recall that Three Kings (1999) made a noticeable effort to show that the gold being stolen by the GIs was rather heavy. But their effort was mainly noticeable because most other films don't make that same effort.
Funny you should say that. I remember that movie as being the most egregious violation of gold-weight in Hollywood. They pack, like, 20 bars into one fabric suitcase and they hold bars by their fingertips.

 PastTense 01-01-2017 07:36 PM

But we know a couple pirates can carry it quite a distance over rough terrain [surely you've seen those movies!]. Based on this I am thinking 150 pounds.

Again I don't think some of you have seen many pirate movies: it's not just gold; it's also jewels...

 Bear_Nenno 01-01-2017 08:13 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by RealityChuck (Post 19889554) As well they should.

 Chronos 01-01-2017 08:27 PM

And don't forget when Pinky and the Brain successfully managed to break into Fort Knox, only to realize that even a single gold bar is well beyond the carrying capacity of a pair of mice.

 md2000 01-02-2017 07:39 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by cmkeller (Post 19889376) bob++ As I recall, the impossibility to carting away so much gold was why the filmmakers of Goldfinger changed from the book's plot of stealing the contents of Fort Knox to irradiating it to reduce the world supply of the stuff and thereby make Goldfinger's own gold more valuable.
Yes, that was a rare dose of reality - it's not as if, even back in the dark ages of 1965, that someone could take a stolen cargo consisting of truckloads of gold, safely make it to the Canadian border, and then be home free. Unless he then buried it in the snow... :D

However, it did include Pussy Galore and Plenty O'Toole.

 bob++ 01-02-2017 08:09 AM

Quote:
 From the film: James Bond: Yes, well, I've worked out a few statistics of my own. 15 billion dollars in gold bullion weighs 10,500 tons. Sixty men would take twelve days to load it onto 200 trucks. Now, at the most, you're going to have two hours before the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines move in and make you put it back. Auric Goldfinger: Who mentioned anything about removing it?
As far as I know, Flemming never actually said in the book, how GF planned to shift it.

At today's prices, I think \$15 billion of gold would weigh in at around 4,000 tons (US)

 Bryan Ekers 01-02-2017 10:55 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by md2000 (Post 19890714) Yes, that was a rare dose of reality - it's not as if, even back in the dark ages of 1965, that someone could take a stolen cargo consisting of truckloads of gold, safely make it to the Canadian border, and then be home free. Unless he then buried it in the snow... :D However, it did include Pussy Galore and Plenty O'Toole.
Plenty O'Toole was in Diamonds are Forever, which incidentally reminds me of another adaptation-improvement. In Charles Templeton's 1975 novel The Kidnapping of the President, the hostage-takers demand a ransom of, as I recall, 12.5 tons of gold. In the 1980 film adaptation, this is modified to the equivalent in diamonds, which has the advantage of being far more portable, though probably not nearly as negotiable.

 bonzer 01-02-2017 12:38 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by bob++ (Post 19890752) As far as I know, Flemming never actually said in the book, how GF planned to shift it.
The problem's certainly acknowledged in the book, though Goldfinger rather skates over some of the details in addressing the Mafia bosses:

Quote:
 'First, and in some ways most difficult, is the question of disposal. One billion dollars of gold bullion weighs approximately one thousand tons. To transport this amount would require one hundred ten-ton trucks or some twenty six-wheel heavy industry road transporters. I recommend the latter vehicles. I have a list of charter companies who hire out this type of vehicle and I recommend that, if we are to be partners, you should proceed immediately after this meeting to contracting with the relevant companies in your territories. For obvious reasons you will all wish to engage your own drivers and this I leave in your hands. No doubt' - Mr Goldfinger allowed himself the ghost of a smile - 'the Teamsters Union will prove a fruitful source for reliable men and you will probably consider recruiting ex-drivers from the Negro Red Ball Express that served the American armies during the war. However, these are details requiring exact planning and co-ordination. There will also be a traffic control problem and no doubt you will make arrangements among yourselves for sharing out the available roads. Transport aircraft will be a subsidiary source of mobility and arrangements will be made to keep open the north-south runway on the Godman Airfield. Your subsequent disposal of the bullion will, of course, be your own affair.'
He then notes that he'll "initially" be using the railways himself to move his share and asks that he have unimpeded access to them.

Quote:
 'Compared with this problem of transport, the other arrangements will be relatively simple [...]

 MikeS 01-02-2017 03:49 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Chessic Sense (Post 19889989) Funny you should say that. I remember that movie as being the most egregious violation of gold-weight in Hollywood. They pack, like, 20 bars into one fabric suitcase and they hold bars by their fingertips.
I have a recollection that when they tried to lift said fabric suitcase, it immediately tore. But I might be remembering it wrong or mixing it up with another movie.

 Noel Prosequi 01-03-2017 07:35 PM

In Hangover III, Lesley Chou carries two large duffel bags, each full with a dozen or more bars of gold, to a van. Then with a gestural grunt heaves each into the back of the vehicle.

 Count Blucher 01-03-2017 07:46 PM

Arrrrrrrr.... data seems sketchy.... ;) :D

 Renee 01-03-2017 08:05 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by MikeS (Post 19891589) I have a recollection that when they tried to lift said fabric suitcase, it immediately tore. But I might be remembering it wrong or mixing it up with another movie.
I just watched Three Kings a couple of days ago. It was pretty egregious. When they got to the bunker, there were maybe 20-30 flimsy-ass suitcases; like cheap, wal-mart level roller bags, each stuffed completely full of solid gold bars, so at minimum 2 cubic feet. So, about 2000lbs according to the poster above. The suitcases tore, but no problem, because they happened to have a pile of designer bags in the corner, Louis Viton (sp?) IIRC. Apparently the designer logos are extremely strong, because those bags managed to handle being stuffed with gold no problem, and were easily passed around. Granted, they did show them as being maybe half full of gold, but we're still talking at least 500-1000 lbs each. Otherwise a pretty good movie.

 Melbourne 01-05-2017 04:17 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by jtur88 (Post 19889172) On a similar note, a standard attache case found handcuffed to your skeleton wrist after your plane crashes in the Caribbean will contain less than a million dollars in crisp US \$100 bills packed in tight.
Or 100,000 rupees: peti: "a suitcase" (using 100Rs bills, which used to be the largest denomination)

 Lumpy 01-05-2017 11:11 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Gukumatz (Post 19888958) England still uses the "crown gold" standard for minting new gold sovereigns. It was introduced in the 1500s by Henry VIII, I think, so I guess that could be the type of gold crown reasonably expected to show up in a pirate chest.
Wouldn't coins in the Caribbean most commonly be Spanish?

 Colibri 01-05-2017 11:28 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Lumpy (Post 19898226) Wouldn't coins in the Caribbean most commonly be Spanish?
Even in the British colonies that later became the US, most coins in circulation were Spanish (eventually leading to US coins being named after the Spanish dolar instead of the pound).

 Omar Little 01-05-2017 02:20 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by bob++ (Post 19890752) As far as I know, Flemming never actually said in the book, how GF planned to shift it.
I remember that he never planned to move it. He planned to irradiate the gold making it untouchable...so that his own gold stockpile would rise in value.

 Dewey Finn 01-05-2017 02:39 PM

Since we're talking about the plausibility of the plot of Goldfinger, anyone want to comment on the plausibility of the gold theft in the third Die Hard film (Die Hard with a Vengence), in which the gold stored at the New York Federal Reserve Bank is stolen in a series of dump trucks?

According to Wikipedia, there is 4,582 metric tons of gold at Fort Knox vs 7,000 metric tons in New York, although I don't know how much was at Fort Knox when either the book or the movie Goldfinger were created.

 Bryan Ekers 01-05-2017 02:42 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Omar Little (Post 19898869) I remember that he never planned to move it. He planned to irradiate the gold making it untouchable...so that his own gold stockpile would rise in value.
That was in the movie. In Fleming's novel, the plan was to steal the gold, though a small atom bomb was part of the plan to blow open the vault. Novel-Bond points out the inherent flaws in the plan, as does movie-Bond, though movie-Goldfinger introduces the idea of destroying Knox's gold in place by detonating the A-Bomb inside the already-breached vault.

A more shocking twist to the story would have been them breaking into the vault and finding it empty because the U.S. Government had been lying about its gold reserves for years.

As an incidental note, I drove by the depository in 1997. It is (or at least then was) a mildly interesting-looking white building sat WAAAAY back behind a really tall chain-link fence. Oddly, the gift store at Fort Knox had virtually no merchandise relating to the depository. I ended up sending home a postcard with a picture of a tank on it.

 DrCube 01-05-2017 03:56 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by cmkeller (Post 19889376) As I recall, the impossibility to carting away so much gold was why the filmmakers of Goldfinger changed from the book's plot of stealing the contents of Fort Knox to irradiating it to reduce the world supply of the stuff and thereby make Goldfinger's own gold more valuable.
That doesn't make much sense either when you think about it. Whether that gold is locked inside Ft. Knox, buried in a mine or shot into the sun, it isn't in circulation and shouldn't affect Mr. Finger's wealth one way or the other, right?

 Lumpy 01-05-2017 08:28 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers (Post 19898942) A more shocking twist to the story would have been them breaking into the vault and finding it empty because the U.S. Government had been lying about its gold reserves for years.
Quote:
 Originally Posted by DrCube (Post 19899152) That doesn't make much sense either when you think about it. Whether that gold is locked inside Ft. Knox, buried in a mine or shot into the sun, it isn't in circulation and shouldn't affect Mr. Finger's wealth one way or the other, right?
OK, a brief primer on US government gold in the 1960s:

A common misconception was the the gold in Fort Knox backed the dollar, although the government was happy to let people think that. The USA hadn't been on a true gold standard since the Gold Reserve Act of 1934. Instead of the dollar being defined as so many dollars being worth a troy ounce of gold, the relationship of dollars to gold was reversed, the price of gold being fixed at 35 dollars to the ounce, and this artificial price maintained by banning most private possession of gold.

So what was all the gold in Fort Knox for? Primarily for banks to be able to conduct business with overseas financial institutions, in gold certificates that were redeemable for actual gold only by banks or foreign governments. The whole system fell apart in 1971, when after years of the French government dumping its dollar holdings and insisting on payment in bullion, the US government suspended convertibility of the dollar to gold.

So at the time Goldfinger was written/filmed, having a large reserve of gold was indeed a big thing. If the US had lost all of the reserve in Fort Knox, Goldfinger could have demanded virtually anything from the US government in exchange for covering the US's obligations.

 DesertDog 01-06-2017 09:17 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Lumpy (Post 19899689) So what was all the gold in Fort Knox for? Primarily for banks to be able to conduct business with overseas financial institutions, in gold certificates that were redeemable for actual gold only by banks or foreign governments.
That's why, as Dewey Finn asserted, the FRB vault in New York has a bigger stash than Ft. Knox -- most of it belongs to foreign governments. If China buys \$10-million worth of wheat from Canada, the wheat might cross the Pacific, but the gold is simply pulled from the China niche and loaded onto a heavy-duty truck, which is trundled over to the Canada niche and unloaded there. I read as a kid that all that heavy trundling wears out the oak floor in about five years, whereupon it is torn up and burned to recover enough gold to pay for its replacement.

 Lumpy 01-06-2017 10:29 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by DesertDog (Post 19900526) That's why, as Dewey Finn asserted, the FRB vault in New York has a bigger stash than Ft. Knox -- most of it belongs to foreign governments. If China buys \$10-million worth of wheat from Canada, the wheat might cross the Pacific, but the gold is simply pulled from the China niche and loaded onto a heavy-duty truck, which is trundled over to the Canada niche and unloaded there. I read as a kid that all that heavy trundling wears out the oak floor in about five years, whereupon it is torn up and burned to recover enough gold to pay for its replacement.
Do they really physically move the gold instead of just keeping track of who owns how many ingots?

 Number 01-07-2017 01:20 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by ASGuy (Post 19889168) And don't forget Kelly's Heroes (1970). When the gold was being removed each man carried one case at a time and many men were in use. The Yanks had their truck and the Germans had theirs. I thought it an accurate portrayal of the weight and difficulty of transporting gold.
I'm pretty sure that I've seen that cited in previous threads as a prime example of an inaccurate Hollywood depiction. The way Kelly waves around a gold bar one-handed and other guys pick up crates ostensibly full of gold like they weigh nothing is not particularly convincing.

But maybe I'm being whooshed.

 All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:50 AM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com