In the United States, the main advantage of the gold standard compared to fiat currency is that it is much more resistant to inflation. The limited supply of gold and the government's inability to create more gold as it pleases help to avoid rapid changes in the currency's valuation over relatively short periods of time. In fact, no currency in today's world follows the “gold standard”. Switzerland abandoned the practice just two decades ago.
Mining and producing precious metals may cost more money than paper money, but there is a finite amount of gold and silver on the planet. Precious metals such as gold and silver were once the standard that backed countries' currencies, but now things are different. President Roosevelt's famous confiscation of gold forced all banks to hand over their gold to the government's Fort Knox, and forced private citizens to hand over their metals at huge discounts in exchange for dollars. Since governments can only mint money if they have a corresponding amount of gold in reserve, the gold standard prevents governments from injecting a large influx of foreign exchange into the economy, which would generate hyperinflation.
It's even possible to borrow money from gold at low interest rates, freeing up liquidity and essentially giving you an option against the dollar. While paper money first became popular in the West in the 16th century, gold continued to dominate Western trade well into the 19th century. The value of fiat money is not based on any physical product and is allowed to fluctuate dynamically against other currencies in the foreign exchange markets. The beauty of gold has captivated humans for thousands of years, and while it has always been appreciated and sought after for its brilliance and elegance, it also used to serve a much greater purpose.
The dollars and the British pound sterling as reserve currencies, which led to the accumulation of gold reserves in the hands of a few large nations. After all, people have historically flocked to gold when they don't trust the local bank to keep their money safe. Again, I am not referring to an ETF, but to a new concept of so-called paper money containing gold. In most developed economies, fiat currency is relatively stable because inflation, one of the main factors in its value, tends to increase slowly.
Gold as a means of valuing currencies has existed for centuries and was used before the First World War as a medium for international trade. Instead of having to measure half an ounce of gold powder, you would simply provide a gold coin that you (and your trading partner) knew weighed half an ounce. Paper money first appeared in the 7th century and became the de facto currency issued by the government starting in the 12th century.