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Where to Buy Gold Bars and Coins

Looking to buy gold? You’ve made the right decision!

You don’t have to be a doom-and-gloomer or a conspiracy theorist to buy gold bars or gold coins. I can tell you that even many gold critics, including some government officials, own gold—if for no other reason than diversification.

It makes sense to hold some of mankind’s oldest monetary asset in your portfolio. After all, how many stocks have survived for thousands of years? None, and neither has any one currency.

Not only that, owning an asset uncorrelated to stocks and bonds can protect you from huge losses in an economic downturn.

And because it’s a hard asset—rather than a paper promise—no one’s ever going to default on your investment.

So the question isn’t really whether to buy gold, but rather where and how to buy gold.

Drawing on my 10+ years of experience as an industry insider, I will show you different options to buy gold bars and coins—along with their pros and cons—to get the best deals.

But before we start, let me tell you a couple of important things about investing in gold.

Things to Consider Before Contacting a Gold Dealer 

Not all gold is created equal, so it helps to know exactly what you’re looking to buy before working with gold dealers.

Gold coins and bars are the most affordable, low-risk, and convenient way to start or grow your allocation to precious metals.

However, a lot of inexperienced gold investors have been steered into products that don’t offer the protection that makes physical gold bullion an attractive investment in the first place.

The type of gold you own makes a difference in the value, liquidity, and security of your investment.

Here’s what to avoid:

typewhat it iswhy you should avoid it

Numismatic coins

Rare, collector coins with historical significance
  • Value is based more on rarity or historical significance than gold content
  • Collectible coins are a niche market; if you’re not an expert, you can easily get ripped off
  • Numismatics is a small market; coins are highly illiquid
  • Big markups; it is easy to overpay
  • No price transparency
Commemorative & proof coinsSpecial edition coins
  • Have little, if any, gold
  • Largely uncontrolled market
  • Not authentic and rare contrary to what advertisers claim
Gold ETFsPaper/electronic units backed by physical gold
  • You own the shares you buy, NOT the physical gold that backs them
  • Counterparty risk; any breakdown in protocols can hurt your investment
  • Delivery requests can be settled in cash
  • Expensive—and in most cases, not possible—to take delivery
Pool accountsMoney is pooled with other investors to buy large gold bars
  • Bars are owned by the company, not to any individual that shares ownership
  • Delivery requires an expensive fabrication fee, plus a delivery fee
  • Fabrication and delivery can be subject to availability of the product required
  • Counterparty risk

Real, physical investment-grade bullion is the only gold investment that offers physical ownership and no risk of default.

Now, let’s get back to picking a dealer for your bullion purchases.

Buying Gold from a Local Dealer

Buying from the neighborhood bullion dealer has distinct advantages. You can buy now, instead of waiting for delivery. You’ll also avoid shipping fees. And you can talk face-to-face with the guy you’re buying from.

The drawback is that premiums at a brick-and-mortar dealer may be higher than those of an online dealer, even after you factor in shipping and insurance.

A storefront business must cover higher expenses than a website company. They also tend to offer lower buy-back prices, though most will give prior customers their best deal.

Even with the drawbacks, always check your options with a local dealer. A relationship with them can be helpful should you need to make a quick sale. Ask for a discount if you’re buying multiple bars.

Where to find a local dealer

One of the easiest options is to Google “gold dealer” and your city or country. Another search tool is this handy US Mint dealer locator.

If you’re in Europe or Asia, you can buy gold bars (and coins) at certain banks.

How to choose the best local dealer:

  • Look for a dealer that is more educational than salesy. Avoid anyone that promotes rare coins or anything you’re not shopping for.
  • Warning: Most dealers will try to sell you on numismatics and collectibles. The reason is that these products have much higher premiums than investment-grade bullion and so the dealer earns more from them. 
  • Know exactly what product you want and stick to it. Check standard mark-ups over the spot before you walk in the store.
  • Consider the size of the shop. Small dealers may have limited product selection or be unable to fill a large order. Insufficient cash on hand could also prevent them from buying back a large number of gold bars.
  • Do your due diligence and get recommendations. While there are many honest dealers out there, there are also a lot of shady ones.

Pros and cons of buying gold bars from a local dealer:

Take immediate possessionPremiums likely higher and smaller buyback premiums
No shipping or insurance fees

Insufficient liquidity to make large buybacks

Gold bullion is outside of the London Bullion Market Association’s chain of custody, which makes it harder to guarantee it is genuine.

Face-to-face transaction with dealerLimited product choices possible

Online Gold Dealers

Buying gold bars and coins from online dealers also comes with some inherent risk.

You must trust the dealer to deliver what you paid for. However, a reputable dealer can be cheaper than your local storefront, even when shipping and insurance fees are included.

When selecting an online dealer, you want to see product prices displayed on the site, along with shipping and insurance fees (you may have to search for these charges).

A dealer that doesn’t show prices isn’t necessarily bad, but it gives greater weight to transparent dealers. A delivery timeframe should also be confirmed before you place an order.

If you are not planning to store gold yourself, choose a dealer that offers buy-and-store programs. If you find one, the key selection criteria for a bullion buy-and-store program is the custodian.

The custodian—the entity that will hold your gold—should not be the dealer that sells you the product. You want a chain of custody that separates storage from sales, as this adds a layer of security.

If you want to buy, store, and sell your gold back to the same dealer, pay attention to the bid-ask spread of their gold product prices, which can vary a lot.

Also, make sure that your stored gold is fully-allocated to you and not pooled with others’ gold bullion. Otherwise, you may not easily take possession of your gold assets when the need arises.

How to choose the best online dealer:

Compare product prices from a few dealers. Getting a low premium is important, but price isn’t the only consideration. The following factors should also weigh in your decision on where to buy gold bars and coins:

  • How quick are delivery times?
  • Do they offer a buy-and-store program? If so, is gold insured at full replacement value and fully allocated to you? Are the assets held in custody by a world-class LBMA approved vault?
  • What are my total costs, including commissions, shipping, insurance, and credit card/bank wire charges?
  • What are their premiums?
  • What is their bid-ask spread for gold bars and sovereign coins?

Pros and cons of buying gold bars from an online dealer:

Ease of online orderingMust trust dealer to deliver your product
Higher liquidity 
Real-time pricing 
All-in costs likely cheaperMust wait for delivery
Buy-and-store programsProduct only ships after payment clears

What About Those Dealers on TV?

We generally would avoid them. They pay exorbitant advertising and celebrity endorsement fees, which must be recouped by selling lots of product at high premiums.

If you call one, you’ll probably get the ole’ “Did you know this rare coin will make you more money than bullion?” sales pitch. No thanks.

Are Gold Dealers on eBay Trustworthy?

Some people swear by eBay. Beyond its convenience, shipping is often free and you don’t pay state sales tax (there’s no federal tax on buying gold, but some states charge sales tax).

You can find gold bullion bars and coins that cost less on eBay than at a bullion shop, though many dealers also post products on eBay. 

One useful eBay feature is the Advanced Search tool. Enter the name of the product you want (e.g., one-ounce gold bar) and check the “sold listings” box. This search will show you what one-ounce gold bars have sold for in the past.

This gives you an idea of whether the current asking prices of gold bars and coins for sale are competitive.

Many eBay buyers are investors who know exactly what they want—with sufficient experience to recognize a good deal. I don’t recommend eBay for first-time buyers.

How to choose the best eBay dealer and avoid fraud:

  • As with anything you buy on eBay, deal only with sellers who have a 100% approval rating, or close to it. (Note that most gold on eBay is not auctioned, but is either “Buy It Now” or “Make Offer.”)
  • Check the buyer feedback on a seller you’re considering doing business with. There can be unscrupulous sellers, but they don’t last long on eBay. And eBay has a buyer protection plan that guarantees your purchase. Nevertheless, always proceed with caution, especially if you’re an eBay newbie.

Pros and cons of buying on eBay:

Usually no sales taxMust wait for delivery
Free shipping is likelyBest for experienced buyers
May find better price than local bullion shopMust trust seller to deliver what you paid for

What about Gold Shows?

Most gold shows are focused on coins, and collectible coins at that. You might find the occasional gold bar, but selection is generally very limited. As such, they are not a good place to buy investment-grade bullion. And they are definitely not for the novice.

Pros and cons of buying gold bars at gold shows:

Can bargain on priceUsually poor selection of bars
May find other items you likeMust travel to show

Fractional Ownership/Pool Accounts

A pool account is where your investment into gold bullion is “pooled” with other investors to buy large gold bars. Together with other investors, you own a “fraction” of that bar.

These programs tend to be convenient and cheap. Storage is also inexpensive and sometimes free.

The catch: You don’t own the gold. Ownership of the gold bars is allocated to the company, not to any individual that shares ownership. Some programs offer delivery, but it’s expensive. You must first pay a fabrication fee, which can exceed the premium you would’ve paid for the bar in the first place, and then a delivery fee.

You are also exposed to counterparty risk. Should the company become insolvent or bankrupt, you become an unsecured creditor. You may never receive your gold or the return of your money.

Pool accounts were popular in the early 2000s. Today, a greater number of options to buy gold are available and their popularity has waned.

How to choose the best pool account:

  • The first priority is to select a company that is financially strong.
  • Confirm with the company that your gold bars are not held on its balance sheet. A bankruptcy would, at a minimum, tie up your bullion during a lengthy legal process, and at worst be used to meet the claims of other creditors.
  • Next, confirm that the company holds allocated metal for its pool accounts. They should possess the exact amount of bullion that customers have bought.
  • Holding a paper substitute for gold is unacceptable, as the company might be unable to meet customer liquidation demands.

Pros and cons of pool accounts:

Trading costs are very lowNo ownership
Storage is inexpensiveFabrication and delivery is expensive
Don’t have to take deliveryCounterparty risk

If I Buy Gold Bars and Coins, How Do I Know They’re Real?

Now that you know how to pick the best dealer for your needs, let’s look at some precautions to avoid any fraud.

Most gold bars are manufactured by reputable refiners. But counterfeit bars have been discovered, especially for larger bars. The overall incidence of these gold-plated, tungsten-filled bars is relatively low, but there’s two easy ways to make sure your bar is the real McCoy:

  • Buy a reputable brand. The world’s most highly regarded refiners include Johnson Matthey, Argor-Heraeus, PAMP Suisse, and Valcambi. This list is not exhaustive. The point is to avoid products from little-known or upstart refiners. The refiner’s name should be stamped on the bar, along with the purity (99.99%) and a unique serial number. Buying a recognized brand also makes resell easier.
  • Buy from a reputable dealer. You want a well-established dealer that facilitates large volumes of business at low prices. Check the dealer’s Better Business Bureau rating.
  • Don’t buy bullion below the spot price. No dealer would sell their product at a loss. If their bullion price is below the spot price, it might be a fake product or there are some hidden fees or intentions.

The Best Advice on Where to Buy Gold

Where to buy gold bars is a personal choice. Based on my decade of insider experience in the industry, here’s what I would do if I were new to the gold sector:

  • Compare prices at your local shops with online dealers. I would not use eBay or gold shows in the beginning, and pool accounts as well as ETFs don’t offer full ownership.
  • Buy a small portion of physical gold to store at or close to home. For this purchase, compare bullion prices at local and online dealers. Buy from a reputable dealer that offers the best price.
  • Buy the rest of your bullion with a reputable online dealer that has the buy-and-store program. Direct access to some of your gold bars is essential. However, the bulk of your gold bars should be stored outside your home to reduce your security risks.
  • Don’t forget to compare storage fees, bid-ask spreads, buy-back policies, and check whether your bullion is fully allocated to you or not.
  • Warning: Some dealers might say that they offer fully-allocated bullion storage even if they don’t. They “allocate” bullion in terms of “grains” or other vague measurements. Pay attention to the wording in their terms. Ideally, you want the entire gold, discrete coins, or bars allocated to you.

Gold bars are a physical asset that act as inexpensive insurance against all types of crisis.

Congratulations; you’re about to own mankind’s most enduring asset that has withstood history’s worst troubles.

For convenient reference, here’s a table that summarizes the options covered in this report and their pros and cons.

Local dealersTake immediate possessionPremiums likely higher and smaller buyback premiums, lower liquidity & transparency
No shipping or insurance feesInsufficient liquidity to make large buybacks
Face-to-face transaction with dealerLimited product choices possible
Online dealersEase of online orderingMust trust dealer to deliver your product
Higher liquidityMust wait for delivery
All-in costs likely cheaper 
Expanded hours to buy productProduct only ships after payment clears
eBayUsually no sales taxMust wait for delivery
Free shipping is likelyBest for experienced buyers
May find better price than local bullion shopMust trust seller to deliver what you paid for
Gold showsCan bargain on priceUsually poor selection of bars
May find other items you likeMust travel to show
Fractional Ownership/Pool AccountsTrading costs are very lowNo ownership
Storage is inexpensiveFabrication and delivery is expensive
Don’t have to take deliveryCounterparty risk
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