How Much Gold Would You Need to Recreate Scrooge McDuck's Gold Coin Swim?

Scrooge McDuck diving into his vault full of gold.
Scrooge McDuck diving into his vault full of gold. (Image credit: YouTube | Smokeyfanclub)

Scrooge McDuck, the miserly Scottish business tycoon in Disney's "Duck universe", regularly appeared in the late-1980s Saturday morning cartoon "Duck Tales" taking leisurely swims through the sea of gold he kept in a private vault. It is surely the secret hope of us all that we, too, will someday amass enough gold to partake in this rich duck's sport. So, just how much gold would you need to recreate Scrooge's gold coin swim?

Writing at The Billfold, Matt Powers recently gave an amusing accounting of the amount of gold Scrooge dives into in his vault. In Powers' parody estimation, a total gold value of $31 billion appears in the vault in some clips of the show, and around $210 billion is visible in others. That's quite a chunk of change, but possibly affordable for the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim Helu, who is worth roughly $70 billion.

However, it's a gross underestimate. Our own calculation reveals that Scrooge McDuck possesses trillions of dollars worth of gold, making the richest Disney duck two orders of magnitude richer than the richest human. In fact, the amount of gold in his vault is almost exactly equal to the total amount of gold that has been mined in the entire history of the world.

Here's how we did the math:

Carl Banks, the creator of Scrooge McDuck and his gold trove, described Scrooge's vault (which he called a "money bin") as a 12-story skyscraper. Additionally, blueprints created for a Scrooge McDuck story by Don Rosa, a writer who picked up the Scrooge franchise where Banks left off, detail that the money bin is approximately 127 feet (39 meters) tall, and 120 feet (37 meters) long on each side. Of course, the money bin isn't filled to the top — Scrooge dives into it daily from a diving board raised a few stories above the gold's surface — so, for simplicity, we assume the vault is half full. [Would You Really Sink If You Fell into a Volcano?  ]

That means it contains approximately 228,600 cubic feet of heaped gold. Using a common estimate that the empty space between coins accounts for roughly a quarter of the total volume, Scrooge owns 171,450 cubic feet of actual gold. That volume translates to 3,302,088,419 ounces, and at the current market price of $1,641 per ounce, its total worth is $5.4 trillion. Dream on, Carlos Slim Helu.

Since the dawn of humanity's fixation on shiny things, we have mined a total of 158,000 tonnes of gold, according to the World Gold Council. Coin Week says this translates into a volume of 289,121 cubic feet (8,187 cubic meters) of the precious metal — a quantity roughly the size of a small office building, and one that is approximately half as tall as Scrooge's money bin. All this is to say, there must be a lot of gold in Duck universe: Scrooge alone owns about as much of it as all the poor Earthlings put together.

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Natalie Wolchover

Natalie Wolchover was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012 and is currently a senior physics writer and editor for Quanta Magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Tufts University and has studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with the staff of Quanta, Wolchover won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory writing for her work on the building of the James Webb Space Telescope. Her work has also appeared in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best Writing on Mathematics, Nature, The New Yorker and Popular Science. She was the 2016 winner of the  Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, as well as the winner of the 2017 Science Communication Award for the American Institute of Physics.