Gold historically has retained its value even when currency hasn't. That's the lure of gold as an investment vehicle. Gold bars are easy to store, especially if you are accumulating gold in large amounts. In fact, banks---large and small---often maintain a percentage of their assets in gold bars. But they won't sell those bars to you. You'll have to obtain your gold bars through the secondary market. If you are interested in adding gold bars to your asset portfolio, the first step is learning a few things about them.
Where to Buy Gold Bars
If you call your bank and say you'd like to buy some gold bars, you'll get a polite refusal. But gold bars can be purchased directly from mints, and more easily from dealers---even online auctions or individuals. Of course, it is safer to buy from mints, and many mints now have online shopping. Larger, well-established dealers also are generally safe. If you live in a large city, you probably can find dealers in the phone book, but you also can find dealers online over a wider geographic area. You typically will pay slightly above market value for a gold bar, and the percentage of the premium likely will be higher on smaller bars. If you buy from an overseas mint or dealer, there will be currency differences that will affect the price you pay. If you are buying sight unseen, make sure there is a return policy.
What to Look for
Make sure you get a certificate with the accurate details of the gold bar. The weight, size, manufacturer and certificate number should match the information stamped on the bar. Larger ingots will not come with packaging, but minted bars should be sealed in transparent packaging. If the container has been opened, return it to the seller.
Purity and Weight
Gold bars mostly are 99.99 per cent pure, although bars manufactured according to regulations in some Asian countries allow a bit less purity. Bars are made from 22 carat gold up to pure 24 carat stock. All the unique characteristics of the bar are certified and stamped onto it. The price of gold is based on the troy ounce, which is about 10 per cent heavier than an ounce used in common measurements. Although expressions of weights vary in Asia, most gold bars are sold in either troy ounces or grams. A troy ounce equals 31.1034768 grams, so if gold were priced at £650 an ounce, a gram of gold would be worth about £20.9. A ChipGold card certified with 3 grams would be worth nearly £65.
Types of Gold Bars
Gold bars basically come in two types: cast and minted. Cast bars, typically called ingots, are produced by pouring melted gold into forms or casts. The manufacturer presses its mark, registration number and the purity of the gold into the ingot. Minted bars are made much like coins. The bars are stamped out in the required size and shape and with the necessary markings from gold that has been rolled into strips. The main difference between the process for bars and coins results in a more lustrous finish in coins. There also is a relatively new product called ChipGold, which was created to be a more liquid investment. This is a small bar, typically 20 grams or smaller, encased in a sealed and certified package that resembles a credit card.
Where to Sell Gold Bars
Dealers and private individuals are the primary market if you want to unload your gold bars. Dealers tend to be most convenient---you know where to find them, for one thing. But they likely will give you a shade below the daily gold price, because the dealer is looking to make a profit, and she now will have to sell the bar. You might be able to match the daily price of gold if you sell to an individual or through an online auction. Because the price of gold changes daily, setting a price can be difficult. Typically, it's easier to sell gold coins than it is bars. Coins tend to be smaller, therefore, cheaper. A relatively small 1-kilogram bar (about 32.15 ounces) would cost more than $32,000 if gold were priced at $1,000 an ounce.