Buying Physical Gold: The Basics

Economic turmoil has many concerned about the future — including the future of the dollar.

All of the talk about another round of quantitative easing has some worried that hyper-inflation is right around the corner.  Since gold is seen as a hedge against inflation, it isn’t surprising that some feel that physical gold is a protection against the problems that can come when the Fed is pumping trillions of dollars of created money into the economy.

Others are just worried that the economy is on verge of complete collapse, and that physical gold might be the best currency available if the entire economy falls to pieces.

But before you jump on the gold bandwagon, it’s important to understand some of the basics of investing in physical gold.


When most of us think of owning physical gold, we have visions of gold bars, or of gold coins.

You can usually get it in weights ranging from one gram to one kilogram.  You will have to pay a little more than the current market price as a premium.  You may also have to pay to have it shipped to you.  You can purchase gold from online dealers, and even local coin shops.

When you buy bullion this way, you will need to find a way to store it.  

You can store it at home, where you have easy access to it, or you can store it somewhere else, such as a bank safety deposit box.  It is usually a good idea to keep your gold in some sort of safe, especially a fire safe, in order to reduce the risk of theft from your home, and to make it fairly easy to protect — along with your most vital documents — in the event of flood or fire.

buying physical gold

The basics of buying physical gold.

A safety deposit box can be a good idea as well, but it is important to note that the contents of safety deposit boxes are not protected against bank failure by the FDIC, and in some cases might not be insured in disasters (although the value may be protected from theft).

Pooled Accounts

Another option is to purchase your physical gold through what is known as a pooled account. In this case, your physical gold is present in a vault somewhere.  There is a very slight markup on the price of the gold, but it is usually less than the premium you will pay when buying bullion on your own.

You can choose between two types of pooled gold accounts:

  1. Allocated: In this type of arrangement, you have specific gold numbered to you.  You have a record of which bullion bars are yours.  You usually have to pay fees, though, for insurance and for storage, and the fees can eat into the value over time — especially if it turns out gold was in a bubble and it bursts.
  2. Unallocated: Rather than numbering specific gold to you, you are told that you have an assigned sum of gold.  You usually don’t have to pay fees, though.  The downside is that the gold often remains in the name of the bank or company holding the gold for you, so you could actually lose your gold if the company goes out of business and creditors come calling.

The main disadvantage with keeping your physical gold anywhere off site is that you may not have immediate access to it. From a pooled account, delivery of your gold will result in the payment of fees, and if the bank is closed, or inaccessible due to a natural or financial disaster, you won’t be able to get your gold.

Bottom Line

Before buying physical gold, make sure you have a plan for it, and that you understand your options.  Choose what you think will work best for you.  Also make sure if buying physical gold is the right thing for you!

Do you own physical gold?  How do you invest in it?

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Published or updated July 30, 2013.


  1. I have more physical silver than gold and own American Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs mostly. I figure that recognized coins will be more valuable in years to come.

  2. Track Your Bucks says:

    You can also consider gold (or other precious metal) mining stocks, and ETFs. I wouldn’t put more than 10% of my investable assets in gold – but everyone’s different. On a semi-related note: precious metals are all the rage now; while stocks are spooky to most investors. The adage “buy when others are selling, and sell when others are buying” should encourage smart investors to give value-oriented stocks from worthy companies a look – especially during this time of market volatility.

  3. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Adaptu recently published an infographic on gold. Would love to hear your thoughts on it: Investing in Gold:

  4. Even though Gold is the popular investment at the moment I feel uncomfortable paying thousands of dollars per ounce of something that has no value or brings in no income. At least a company can pay you dividends or oil has practical value.
    Everyone says Gold is a great investment if everything goes to heck and a handbasket, but why would you want Gold, something with no practical value instead of oil, food or other critical life supplies?

  5. Chad Richardson says:

    If you do invest in physical gold and silver, and actually want to keep track of how that investment is performing, you should check out It beats trying to do it with spreadsheets.

    I’m amazed at how many people invest in physical, but yet don’t monitor its performance. Does anyone think that is responsible investing?

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