For much of human history gold has been an important ingredient of economic activity. But its importance declined during the 20th century and may continue to shrink in future. The gold standard, which fixed exchange rates to the value of gold during the 19th and early 20th centuries, has been long abandoned. central banks, which in 2000 still owned 30,000 tonnes, over one-quarter of all the gold ever mined, no longer feel the need to have large reserves of the metal to support the value of their currency. It does not pay them any interest, though they may earn a little by lending it to bullion dealers. So they have started to sell.
Governments and investors have traditionally held gold as a hedge against inflation and to provide security at times of international crisis. But its role as a store of value has been tarnished. During the 1980s and 1990s, the value of gold generally failed to keep pace with inflation. The liquidity of gold is also less than that of a foreign currency so it cannot as easily be used for foreign exchange intervention in defence of a currency under attack. In short, gold is no longer a monetary asset. It has become just another commodity, although so-called gold-bugs still believe that should inflation ever soar again, gold will once more become the thing to have.