Gold bars (or ingots) are produced in standardised weights, measured in troy ounces. Equivalent to approximately 31.1035g, a troy ounce is slightly heavier than an imperial ounce at 28.3495g. Though the weight is referred to in ounces, be aware that this measurement is different from that on your standard kitchen scales. Banks utilise a common derivative in the UK, a 400-ounce ingot called a ‘delivery bar’. Most gold bars owned by central banks are manufactured wholly flat for easy storage through European banks and investors still prefer the traditional brick shape.
You can purchase them in varying denominations, from 5g up to 1000g gold bar or more, from UK dealers. The smaller the bar you buy, the more divisible the assets when you come to selling your gold.
Gold bars can be manufactured by casting or minting; casting is the process of pouring molten gold into a press whereas minting is done via cutting from flat gold. Gold bars that have been minted are usually more expensive as the process takes longer and requires more precision handling.
Gold bars can be manufactured by any mint or bullion producer but not all are produced with the same quality. You can buy them with varying purity levels depending on the manufacturer and for some investors, this is a critical element. This is because the internal revenue agencies in some countries set minimum purity levels for gold bar reserves. This is most commonly a level of 999.9 gold fineness. The greater the purity, the higher the value of the bar. Each manufacturer may also offer varying levels of security when buying gold online including serial numbers of tamper-proof seals (see below). Bars of gold are predominantly manufactured in Switzerland as well as government mints with the major producers being Credit Suisse, Metalor, Umicore, Emirates Gold and UBS. Many of these also manufacture silver bars.
When buying gold online you should always use gold bar dealers that can provide provenance and/or a certificate of authenticity. Large bars (over 250g) usually have a serial number printed on them. This is a way of preventing investors from buying stolen or counterfeited goods, these unique numbers should tally with the certificate provided or sealed inside. Small denominations from gold bar dealers do not usually have these security features. However, minted bars produced in the last few years are most commonly sealed in tamper-proof packaging with a holographic security seal. Known as a Kinegram, bars that contain these diffractive logos are referred to as Kinebars.
When it comes to securing your investment, the safest way to store gold bars in the UK is in a recognised gold bullion vault. Not only does this keep your investment safe but it also allows you to maintain a record of provenance (‘Good Delivery’) that assures the integrity of the gold’s value. However, the choice is yours and, if you want to take physical delivery of the gold you purchase online, then you can do so. You have the option of storing your gold in a bank safety deposit box or at home in a safe. Bear in mind that if you do choose to keep your investment at home then you will need to inform your home insurance company. Remember that this is likely to increase your premium. If you buy large quantities of gold online then your gold bar dealers should be able to offer secure storage options on top of providing you with details of gold prices.
The major benefit of buying gold bars is the size of secure investment that you can make in one transaction. Bars are typically produced with certification as to their purity and value and are protected with sealed packaging to prevent counterfeiting. In short, they offer investors a very secure way to invest in gold that has a guaranteed purity.
Gold coins, on the other hand, generally don’t come with certification. However, coins can attract additional value that bars do not. This is often related to their collectable value in addition to the worth of the raw materials.
When it comes to storage, bars are easy and, if you are investing a lot of money, take a lot less space and organisation than the equivalent value in coins.
Coins offer the opportunity to spread your investment as they can be purchased at a lower cost over a longer period of time and offer this same flexibility when liquidating your assets. Coins also offer the added advantage of their design aesthetics and historical significance. This is appealing for numismatists who enjoy collecting coins as well as investing.
Lastly, there can be less of a premium when buying gold in bars as it costs less to produce a single bar than the equivalent minting costs associated with the same weight in gold bullion coins.
In the last few years, there are several new methods of buying gold bars UK-wide including gold-to-go style vending machines. The first such device in the UK was installed in a Westfield Shopping Centre in London in 2011. The trend for these gimmicky sales outlets started in Abu Dhabi and appeals to the impulse purchaser rather than a savvy investor.
You can buy gold bars online from Physical Gold as well as buy gold bars UK-wide from dealers. Our bars are produced by the Swiss manufacturers, Metalor, and are of a 999.9 finesse grade. You can purchase from us in up to 9 different denominations from 5g to a 1000g gold bar. All of our bars are VAT free and come with unique serial numbers printed on each bar as well as a certificate of authenticity. Our smaller denominations (5g, 1oz to 100g) also come sealed with tamper-proof packaging.
The choice of size is entirely up to the individual investor and the amount of money being invested. However, you should bear in mind that when it comes to liquidating your assets, it is easier to sell off part of your portfolio if you have several smaller bars than if you have a single gold bar of a higher value (such as a 1000g gold bar). You should also factor in economies of scale as larger bars can be purchased at a discount.