I am grateful to the collective efforts of FOFOA and Ro' on this one - they knew I had an interest and applied a better approach to researching the topic than I did. Prior to this discovery our earliest bar list was from October 2009. As a quick reminder : we're interested in the GLD bar list because it is the biggest and best data source for public weight lists - it constitutes 80% of the bullion bar information we have in the database (currently over 54 million rows of data).
The key to obtaining the early lists basically boils down to two elements: (1) knowing what the URL was historically and (2) using the popular 'way back web' site to see if the items were stored, then attempting to retrieve them. Here is a quick history of the download URL.
This appears to be the very first bar list from 20th November 2004 - it seems the original spreadsheet remained on the website file system for several years, even after the URL changed. Thanks to people writing about the newly opened ETF, the file was indexed.
This appears to have been the URL the following week (presumably after figuring that a PDF was a better format), and remained for the duration of early 2005 to early 2009. The same file was also available via http://www.streettracksgoldshares.com/us/value/bar_list.php. Although the wayback machine did record the file a few times during this period, some of the files are corrupted (unfortunately).
On 8th October 2009, the bar list header included the first HSBC reference and thanks to Rob Kirby (who wrote about the reduction of size of the list and had the foresight to post the files), we have the files from before and after. The URL is still the same one we use today, and the familiar branding first appeared on 23rd October 2009. Please note that the actual HSBC takeover happened long before that - I'm just showing when the file format changes.
The very first bar list (spreadsheet) appears to have been some kind of float to start things off in November 2004, with 29,954.500 gross gold oz (just under one tonne). 17 of those same bars were still part of the inventory as late as May 2013. During that time they have been removed and added back again (as dark bullion), so who is to say that right now they are gone for good?
Initially I thought having the new lists and the natural churn in bar inventory would give a much bigger boost in 'missing bars' numbers, but the updated graph (below) only shows a modest increase. The new data gives us an additional 8,000 missing bar signatures but given that the records may have had adjustments over the six or seven year period (such as changes to the way the serial number is recorded) it's possible some of these extra items are 'ghost bullion' records (where a historical bar record ceases to re-appear in the data because the signature was changed).
|Adjusted 'Missing Bar Signatures' graph, using early data.|
Please note: Relatively large limit of reading error applies.
Now that we've added earlier data, the Dark Bullion charts change as well. Looking back I realized I never published a full view of the Dark Bullion graph for GLD. Here is an updated chart - if you're wondering what Dark Bullion is, please read this. To compare against an old Dark Bullion chart for GLD, please click here. The last time we updated this graph was in July, it's a little bit obscure so I'm happy to discuss it in the comments if anyone is interested.
|Dark Bullion chart for GLD, updated for December 2013|
now includes data from previous years - 2004/2005/2006/2009
General appeal - if anyone out there has some 2007 or 2008 GLD bar list files, please consider sending them to me so I can add them to the public archive, and to the data.