It should be no surprise that gold prices climbed to higher levels last week, given all the political and economic turmoil facing our country. And with even more uncertainty ahead, many investors want to own this classic safe-haven asset but are unsure on the best way to do so.
Generally speaking, there are four reasons to own gold. The first is that people like to wear the precious metal as jewelry. Archeologists have found evidence that Egyptians created gold jewelry over 7,000 years ago and ever since both men and women have been wearing gold as a form of decoration and status symbol.
The second reason to own gold is to store monetary value. Some people either don’t have access to or don’t trust banks or paper currency to store their wealth so they purchase gold to accumulate wealth or pass it along to their heirs.
Next, people own gold as a hedge against currency losing value. In countries with high inflation, for example, physical currency will lose some of its value every day. Gold, which is often pegged to a stable currency like the U.S. dollar, will maintain its worth.
And finally, some people own gold as an investment. These people simply attempt to buy gold at a low price and sell it at a higher price.
The reason for owning gold will help to determine what the best way to own the precious metal. If you desire gold to wear it as jewelry, obviously a jewelry store is the only place where you can go. Note that this is also one of the most expensive ways to own gold as not only are you paying for the metal but also the designer of the jewelry as well as a high-overhead store which sells it you. Generally speaking, designer jewelry stores will be the most expensive followed closely by mall and department store jewelry stores. Independent jewelry stores can often offer a better value and estate jewelry stores or pawn shops that sells gold by weight are almost always the least expensive method for purchasing gold jewelry.
If the primary purpose of owning gold is to store monetary value or a hedge against a currency, gold coins are often the preferable method of owning the metal. Coins are easy to transport and store, transparent in terms of their value, and are more easily negotiated in transactions. Here in the U.S., I would recommend buying U.S. gold bullion recently minted Eagle coins. These coins come in a variety of gold weights from 1 full ounce down to 1/10 ounce. These coins are readily available, so you are not paying for the rarity of the coin or numismatic value, just the value of the gold. I would not purchase these coins from the internet or from a company advertising on an infomercial as you can be sold a fraudulent coin or pay a massive premium. If you are paying more than a 5% premium over gold prices for your bullion, you are paying too much. I would instead buy coins from a local coin dealer or other store that has a long, good reputation in the community and stands behind the coins sold out of its storefront.
As a strict investment, there is an alternative to owning physical gold. Investors can purchase a fund, like the Exchange Traded Fund GLD, which mirrors the movement in spot gold prices. The advantages of owning a fund is that it is quicker to trade in and out of a fund than having to find a buyer for physical gold. There is also less of security risk compared to owning physical gold which can be stolen or lost. And finally, for investors who want to own a large amount of gold, storing such a large amount of metal can become problematic. However, if an investor believes that the price of gold will increase because of a significant economic or geopolitical event like a war, terrorist attack or government change, many question whether trading exchanges will continue to function — and owning physical gold may be preferable.
I would advise against owning gold in other forms. Many private companies make commemorative coins with various gold content with the promise of limited editions and scarcity in the future. These claims almost never come to fruition and the products are often overpriced. Gold bars are unfortunately being sold with “filler” metals in their cores, like tungsten, which have similar weight and mass as gold. Because of the thickness of the bars, traditional testing methods are hard to detect these counterfeit bars. I would be very wary of buying gold bars from anyone other than a very trusted source.
Finally, some investment guides advise gold investors to invest in gold mine companies. While the price of these companies often move in tandem with gold prices and sometimes even pay a dividend, other factors like labor agreements, environmental events or unanticipated management decisions can negatively affect the success of the investment. ¦