Unveiling the Riches of Genghis Khan: Exploring the Net Worth of the Mongol Empire's Founder


Posted by James DeFalkin on Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Genghis Khan established the vast Mongol Empire in the early 13th century, becoming one of the most feared and wealthy conquerors in history. But what was the infamous warlord’s actual net worth? Given the passage of time and scarce financial records, it’s impossible to put an exact dollar figure on his accumulated riches. However, by examining the extent of his conquests and the tributes he received, we can make some educated guesses.

Amassing Wealth Through Conquest

As leader of the Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan united them into a fighting force that could sweep across continents. He first attacked and defeated other nomadic groups on the Asian steppe before setting his sights on the Jin dynasty of northern China. By 1209 CE, he had conquered huge swaths of Xi Xia and Jin territories. In the coming years, the Mongols would go on to subjugate the Khwarezm Empire of modern-day Iran and other lands to the west. The Silk Road trade routes also came under Genghis Khan’s control, allowing him to tax merchant caravans travelling between Europe and East Asia.

Conquering these lands brought Genghis Khan access to invaluable natural resources, fertile farmland, urban workshops and major trade hubs. As ruler of the world’s largest contiguous empire, he extracted tributes from the conquered people in the form of precious metals, livestock, grains, fabrics and other spoils of war. There is no doubt that these regular tributes made him an extremely wealthy individual.

However, putting a number on his actual net worth is challenging for a few reasons:

  • Limited historical financial records from that era
  • Uncertainty around the true extent of his empire’s treasury
  • Exact tributes received are unknown
  • Value of goods differs greatly from modern concepts of money

Still, historians have made estimations based on the available information.

Mongol Money

Estimating His Vast Wealth

Genghis Khan died in 1227 CE while his empire was still rapidly expanding across Asia and into eastern Europe. So the conqueror didn’t live to see the full extent of territories that would eventually come under Mongol rule. However, the wealth flowing back to Karakorum (the empire’s capital) only increased after his death.

Historian John Man estimated that the Mongols extracted an annual tribute worth hundreds of thousands of taels of silver from China alone by 1279 CE. A tael is equal to 50 grams or 1.6 ounces. So that amounts to roughly 17,600 pounds (8 tons) of silver per year. At today’s silver prices, that would equal almost $20 million annually just from one part of the empire. Other territories would have contributed additional precious metals, livestock and other valuables as tribute to the Great Khan.

However, it’s difficult to translate the value of medieval tribute payments into modern USD equivalents. The concept of net worth simply didn’t exist in 13th century Mongolia. Genghis Khan measured his personal fortune in tangible goods like horses, weapons, and literal wagonloads of gold, silk and other spoils of war.

So while it’s impossible to put an exact dollar figure on his net worth, Genghis Khan undoubtedly died an extremely wealthy warlord based on the immense natural resources, taxes, tributes and plunder extracted from his vast empire. Estimates peg him as one of the wealthiest rulers in history when adjusted for inflation.

Mongol Silver Coin

Passing on His Vast Riches

On his deathbed, Genghis Khan reportedly stated: “All the important business of the state I have decided in counsel with my sons, the princes, with my companions in arms, and with my ministers. I have no other business that I should decide alone."

This quote illustrates that he viewed his fabulous wealth as belonging to the continuation of the Mongol Empire, not as his sole personal fortune to distribute at will. Mongol tradition held that all spoils of war, livestock and precious goods belonged to the empire to fund further military campaigns or reward loyalty. So Genghis Khan’s riches funded his sons and grandsons as they expanded the empire even further after his death. There was no formal will decreeing that his heirs or others receive a specific sum of money upon his death.

This tradition contrasts sharply with the European inherited wealth system of primogeniture laws. Such laws dictate that estates and fortunes should pass undivided to a person’s eldest male heir. Daughters and younger sons are often excluded or receive much less. But the Mongols held very different attitudes about passing accumulated family wealth from one generation to the next.

Therefore, no single heir “inherited” or directly benefited from the majority of Genghis Khan’s vast personal fortunes upon his death. His wives and younger children did receive gifts of slaves, livestock and other movable goods. But the enormous treasury and wider spoils remained with the ruling Borjigin clan to fund further expansion of the Mongol Empire.

In this way, Genghis Khan’s legendary wealth supported his descendants for several more generations as the vast Mongol domains grew to be the largest land empire in history. No one person could claim or inherit the full extent of his enormous accumulated riches.

Silver Bar

Lingering Mysteries Around His Lost Treasures

While scholars agree Genghis Khan died an incredibly wealthy warlord, the whereabouts of his vast personal treasure remain shrouded in mystery centuries later. Legend says that an enormous wagon train of gold, silver, diamonds, silks and other loot accompanied his funeral procession back to Burkhan Khaldun mountain. At an unknown location on that sacred mountain where he was laid to rest, slaves buried “The Golden Button” containing chests of precious metals and gems. The slaves were then all massacred to conceal the site forever.

However, archaeologists have never confirmed finding any such hidden treasure trove linked to Genghis Khan’s burial. Only his actual gravesite has been verified on the mountain where the Mongols interred their great leader in an unmarked spot. But his treasures remain lost despite many colorful legends and fruitless quests to uncover The Golden Button’s location.

Perhaps his followers actually did conceal a king’s ransom in precious metals and jewels for Genghis Khan to enjoy in the afterlife. But unless archaeologists locate his personal cache, its existence will remain speculative myth and legend. The uncertainty only adds to the mystique around the famous warlord’s incalculable fortunes seized during his bloody conquests across Asia.

Gold Bars


In his ruthless peak, Genghis Khan controlled the largest contiguous land empire in world history. From the Pacific shores of Asia to the Danube River in Hungary, nothing seemed able to stop his armies from seizing new territories and amassing unimaginable plunder. Although concrete records are few, historians agree the infamous conqueror died an exceptionally wealthy warlord by any metric. Just how many billions his plunder would be worth today is anyone’s guess. But suffice to say that Genghis Khan extracted a fortune from the peoples he subjugated, making him arguably one of the richest men who ever lived.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money did Genghis Khan have when he died?

There are no definitive records showing exactly how much money or goods Genghis Khan personally owned when he died. However, based on the vast extent of his empire and the regular tribute payments received, historians estimate he was an extremely wealthy ruler. Exactly how his wealth would translate to modern dollar values is impossible to say.

Where did Genghis Khan get all his money?

Genghis Khan accumulated huge personal wealth by conquering towns, cities and empires across China, central Asia and parts of eastern Europe. He extracted tributes of precious metals, livestock, grains, fabrics, and other valuable goods from the defeated peoples. He also taxed merchant caravans travelling the Silk Road trade routes through his empire. These regular tribute payments and taxes made him exceptionally rich over his lifetime.

Who inherited Genghis Khan’s fortune after he died?

Unlike medieval European inheritance traditions, Genghis Khan did not pass his vast personal fortune directly to a single primary heir. Mongol custom dictated all spoils of war belonged to the empire, not any one person. So his accumulated wealth funded further expansion by his sons and grandsons who became Great Khans after him. There was no formal division of his riches among heirs.

Where is Genghis Khan’s buried treasure located?

According to legend, Genghis Khan’s followers buried a vast cache of his personal treasures including gold, silver, gems and other loot in an unknown location near his gravesite. This mythical treasure trove is referred to as “The Golden Button” but has never been found despite many searches. So what really happened to his immense personal riches remains a mystery to this day. The secrecy only enhances his legacy as perhaps the richest conqueror of the medieval age.

How did Genghis Khan change the world?

Genghis Khan greatly impacted world history by uniting the Mongol tribes and conquering the largest land empire ever seen. His ruthless military tactics and total war mindset laid waste to population centers that resisted. These invasions opened trade routes and enabled cultural exchange between distant lands such as western Asia and eastern Europe. For these seismic impacts on the medieval world, Genghis Khan remains one of history’s most renowned and feared conquerors. His name still echoes through the history books because of the dramatic way his horseback archers swiftly built an empire spanning 11 million contiguous square miles. For better or worse, the world felt his impact during his explosive rise and establishment of the infamous Mongol domain.

So while his exact net worth will forever stay elusive, the enduring historical legacy of Genghis Khan speaks for itself. As ruler over much of the known 13th century world, he undoubtedly died an incredibly wealthy warlord by any standard. Even 800 years later, his name continues to stir fascination about the reached heights of power wielded by the mighty “Oceanic Khan.”


“Genghis Khan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genghis_Khan. Accessed 24 Jan. 2024.

“Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire.” Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mongol-empire. Accessed 24 January 2024.

“Lost Treasures of Genghis Khan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 May. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_treasures_of_Genghis_Khan. Accessed 24 January 2024.