Back in 2009, President Barack Obama received the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit from the Saudi Arabian monarch. This medallion represented the highest honour in the Saudi kingdom and was listed on the Federal Register as a "large gold medallion with the Royal seal" alongside a "large desert scene" on a marble base and a "large brass and glass clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre", with an estimated total value of $34,500 (£26,700). The gift may have been to President Obama, but the items have to be handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration, unless the recipient pays the market value of the item to keep it.
The Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz are just one of the more curious items owned by the National Museum of American History, part of the government-run Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Several pairs were made for the movie and this set, which are mismatched, were donated by an anonymous benefactor back in 1979. However a stolen pair recovered by the FBI in September 2018 were estimated to be worth between $2-3 million (£1.5-2.3m).
The 15th century Gutenberg Bible was one of the first major books printed in Europe using moveable metal type and is named after Johannes Gutenberg, the German inventor of the printing press. The 49 remaining copies are deemed some of the most valuable books in the world, and the one housed in the Library of Congress is one of just three perfect versions made of vellum, a fine parchment made from animal skin. Experts think a complete copy could fetch up to $35 million (£27m) at auction, if not more.
The secretive US military facility most commonly known as Area 51 has long been the basis of UFO folklore. Back in 2015, the US Air Force valued the land neighbouring the Nevada site, owned by the local Sheahan family, at $5.2 million (£3.9m), although this dropped to just $333,300 (£256,000) by the time the area was seized a year later. The Sheahans countered that the land was worth between $44 -116 million (£34-89m). The total compensation paid out remains shrouded in secrecy.
The US national rail service Amtrak was set up under the Congressional Rail Passenger Service Act of 1971, serving 43 states with 21 routes. Today, the railway travels overs more than 30 routes across 46 states. It remains heavily subsidised but last year reported revenues of $3.3 billion (£2.5bn), its best performance in decades. But while Amtrak doesn't generate profits, it does own valuable real estate in terms of stations like Penn Station in New York, where land costs $1,773 (£1,360) per square foot.
Created in 1958, NASA – or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to give it its full title – is the US government agency responsible for space exploration and aeronautics research. Its budget for the fiscal year 2020 is $21 billion ($16bn), which may seem high but accounts for just 0.4% of $4.7 trillion ($3.6tn) federal budget. And it appears to be money well spent as the Space Foundation estimates that every dollar spent on NASA adds $10 (£7.70) to the US economy.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a collaborative project between the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan. First launched in 1998, it has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and makes 16 orbits of Earth each day. The $150 billion (£115bn) ISS costs NASA between $3-$4 billion (£2.3bn-£3.1bn) in maintenance each year and the US, like all other partners, gets to exercise its jurisdiction over the elements it provides.
One of the US's greatest assets is its land. The federal government owns 28% of the 2.27 billion acres that makes up the US, and 47% of all land in the west. In addition, the Institute for Energy Research estimated in 2013 that the US government's net worth of natural resources was at least $130 trillion (£120tn) – a figure which vastly eclipses the current $22 trillion ($17tn) federal debt.