We’re in the midst of a modern-day gold rush.
The precious metal has reached record high prices in recent days. A survey of 1,000 people by Magnify Money found that one out of six have invested in gold or other precious metals since May, and about half of Americans are seriously thinking about buying gold. (This after Gallup reported in April that Americans had cooled somewhat on stocks as a long-term investment.)
Whether these people are stocking up on gold because they’re worried about a pending apocalypse or simply convinced that it’s a fabulous investment, they do have one major issue: storage. Bars and coins are bulky (and let’s not get started on jewelry, which can be complicated emotionally).
With anxiety about the economy increasing — which tends to rise any time there’s political or world turmoil — the need for storage is growing, too, and options are expanding to meet it.
“Gold and silver bullion storage options have simply grown more in location diversity, pricing — with even some offering short-term collateral loan options,” said James Anderson, a research executive at SD Bullion in Toledo, Ohio. “When I began in this industry pre-2008 financial crisis, there were perhaps 10 to 20 domestic bullion storage depositories. Now, there are hundreds in the U.S.A. and abroad.”
People tend to buy gold when they fear a sustained loss in stocks, bonds, real estate or other traditionally profitable investments, said Adrian Ash, the director of research for BullionVault in West London.
So private vault operators have been increasing their capacity as well — but specifically within presumed politically safe locations like Switzerland and Singapore, said James Turk, the founder and director of Goldmoney Inc. in Toronto.
Switzerland’s banks have always been deemed a safe haven for assets and precious metals, but in recent years many people started to lose faith in banks. As a result, there has been an increased demand there for safe deposit boxes there that aren’t run by banks.
“In late 2019, we even had to build additional boxes, as we had reached 100 percent of our capacity,” said Michael Hardmeier, the C.E.O. of Sincona Trading AG, whose headquarters are in a former bank building in central Zurich.
Swiss vaults tend to be more expensive than those in England, but a new spot opened in England that was designed for those accustomed to the lavish lifestyle. The vault is inside a former mansion run by International Bank Vaults (IBV).
A chauffeur driving a Rolls-Royce picks up clients and delivers them to the London mansion, where white-gloved custodians transfer them to their boxes (after a quick fingerprint and iris scan, of course).
Those boxes are stored within a steel-lined vault supposedly impenetrable to anyone attempting to illegally gain access from any angle.
You may have to spend a few of those gold bars to store them: It’s advertised as the most expensive safe deposit box in the world, and the company claims it’s available only to billionaires, with the smallest box starting at 600 pounds to rent (this would fit just a few gold bars).
Unlike a bank, IBV London allows clients to buy gold and to store it — and IBV will buy back the gold, said Sean Hoey, the managing director of IBV London.
Also unlike a bank, many gold owners believe that vaults are somewhat resilient to an economic meltdown.
“You can use a safe deposit box, but folks worry that if there was an economic meltdown, the banks might close, and your metals would be trapped inside that bank,” said Gary Cubeta, a gold dealer in Arizona and the president and founder of Insurance for Final Expense.
Even without an economic meltdown, there’s less faith in bank safe deposit boxes, because there aren’t federal laws governing these boxes, so if anything is stolen or destroyed, the customer is typically out of luck.
That may be why some are choosing to go the old-fashioned route and are storing their gold at home. Numerous YouTube videos and bloggers explain how to bury gold bars in everything from mincemeat to the backyard.
But it’s wise to consider your home options before simply stuffing your gold under a tree.
Mr. Cubeta, who advises gold owners to store their gold within 15 to 20 minutes of their home so they have easy access to it in case of a financial meltdown, said the best thing you can do is to keep half in a home safe while putting the other half in a safe deposit box.
“You need a safe especially designed for precious metals,” he said, explaining that most gun safes can’t withstand the heat of a fire, while precious metal safes will keep your gold protected for two hours.
Before moving your gold home, you need to contact the insurer that issues your homeowner’s policy, because most don’t cover large amounts of gold stored at home.
“On average, the standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers around $1,000 for jewelry or valuables, and the average home insurance policy is set up to protect the average household so the limits will not be sufficient to cover expensive or valuable items,” said Lev Barinskiy, the C.E.O. of SmartFinancial, an insurance comparison site.
There are also storage options where you never even see the gold you own.
Customers buy a digital token backed by physical gold held in a vault, said Joonas Karppinen, head of trading at InfiniGold.
“A token provides customers with actual ownership of the gold in question — which is essential, especially if your content insurance does not cover your bullion portfolio stored in the house,” Mr. Karppinen said.
That’s all good, unless you want to feel its weight in gold. Literally.