Gold bars have been referenced since ancient times. The earliest type of gold bars were ingots that were produced from pouring molten gold into molds. An ancient-Roman author, Tacitus referenced ingots in Annals, Book XVI, claiming that Bassus knew of large amounts of stored gold. The gold was never found but this story illustrates that an ingot was a known commodity in pre-Roman times.
The production process of gold bars has been continually refined over thousands of years and today presents investors with a few options when purchasing gold bars.
New Gold Bars in Assay
The assay is the process of testing of a metal like gold to determine its purity and exact molecular content. New gold bars can come in sealed assay cards which assures the purity and content of the gold bar. Purchasing new gold bars in original assay cards is one of the safest methods of investing in gold. Most of the time these gold bars are rectangular with rounded corners and have a glossy finish. Unique, artistic designs of gold bars in assay cards vary by manufacturing company. The specific design to purchase is largely investor preference and does not impact the value of the gold bar.
The plastic assay card from the refinery that produced the gold bar makes these much more difficult to counterfeit than a cast gold bar. The sealed assay card also helps to preserve the condition of the gold bar. This should be a consideration if you plan to stack your gold bars for an extended period of time. The assay card allows gold bars to be safely stacked in large piles and fit into common storage containers like safes.
Cast Gold Bars
The cast gold bar is the most popular sub-category of poured gold bars. Most of the time a cast gold bar is only produced in the larger sizes like the kilogram, 10 Troy oz, or 100 gram gold bars. The cast gold bars appeal to the investor looking for the natural look without the shiny exterior of a new gold bar in the assay. A cast gold bar has its own distinct features and imperfections.
The cast gold bar is not usually sealed but does come with an assay card stating the weight and purity of the bar along with a unique serial number, most of the time. These bars are not sealed which increases the risk of finding counterfeit gold bars.
Unsealed Gold Bar with Assay
This type of a gold bar is somewhat a hybrid between the cast gold bar and the new gold bars that are sealed in an assay. The unsealed gold bar with assay could be new or pre-owned and is stored in a hard plastic case. The assay card for these gold bars is separate from the bar in contrast to the bar being sealed inside the assay. This type of gold bar may contain an assay certificate with a specific serial number that corresponds to the individual gold bar. The major advantage to this type of gold bar over the new gold bar in an assay is that it generally has a lower premium over spot price.
Sizes of Gold Bars
The standard gold bar that is traded by central banks is the Good Delivery Bar. It has a minimum purity of 99.5% gold and a nominal weight of 400 Troy oz. The current price of gold means this type of gold bar would cost over $400,000, which is not practical for most investors.
Gold bars are available in different sizes to accommodate more investors by making gold more attainable. These are the most common sizes of gold bars and the pros and cons associated with each size.
1 Gram Gold Bar
The one gram gold bars are about the size of a pushpin and are the smallest size purchased for investment purposes.
Pro: Ideal size to be used as actual money. The small size makes it easier to use as a medium of exchange.
Con: The small size does not decrease the production cost and as a result, the smaller bar comes with a higher premium per Troy ounce of gold as opposed to the larger size gold bar.
1 Troy oz Gold Bar
If an investor is referring to a gold bar without a specific weight they probably mean the 1 Troy oz gold bar.
Pro: Most common size and larger resell market. Lower premium than smaller size gold bars and easily stored in large quantities.
Con: Have to liquidate a larger amount of gold than the smaller sizes of gold bars.
Pro: Most gold at the lowest premium over spot price.
Con: Must liquidate a significant amount of gold at one time to a smaller number of potential buyers.
Interconnecting Gold Bars
Refineries also produce a gold product for those looking to make a larger investment than a single 1 gram gold bar but like the flexibility and ability to barter that the small gold bars provide. The product name varies by company but these are perforated cards of 1 gram gold bars. The number of gold bars also varies but the common quantities are 25 and 50 bars.
Pro: Easier to store than individual 1 gram gold bars. Easily divisible and could be used as barter of exchange.
Con: Higher premium than a single 50 gram bar.
For centuries gold bars have been used in commerce and store wealth. Gold bars are an excellent way for investors to diversify their financial portfolios. The refining process has seen many improvements and offers investors various choices when buying gold bars. The U.S. Gold Bureau offers many sizes and types of gold bars for clients including the 1 gram gold bar, 1 Troy oz gold bar, interconnecting 1 gram gold bars, and the 1 kilo gold bar. Get our FREE Gold Investors Guide or contact a Precious Metals Specialist at (800) 775-3504.