How to buy gold bullion

There are many different ways to buy gold bullion or physical gold. We've put together a guide of what to consider and where to buy gold bars and coins.

Gold bullion: bars and coins
(Image credit: © Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

There are many ways to invest in gold, from gold ETFs to gold funds, but the simplest way is to buy gold bullion, or physical gold, outright. 

You can buy gold bullion in two main forms: coins or ingots (bars). The advantage of gold coins over gold bars is that they allow you to be more flexible. After all, it's easier to sell 20% of your gold if you own ten gold coins rather than if your whole investment is in one gold bar. By the same token, given this flexibility, you'll probably find that coins are more liquid (easy to sell) than big bars. That said, if you want to buy a lot of gold, then bars might be a more practical proposition.

The benefits of gold bullion

The benefit of owning physical gold is that you can keep it close to hand in the event of a crisis – if you are concerned about a financial or societal breakdown, for example. Not so long ago the idea of such a breakdown would seem far-fetched. But then we had the global financial crisis. And in more recent times, Brexit, a global pandemic, and now wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East – it seems a little more likely these days than it did not so long ago. 

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We've always described gold as "insurance", and if you think things could get to the point where all financial assets are essentially worthless, then having access to gold coins would be useful.

Where to buy gold bullion

Gold dealers make their money like anyone else – by selling for more than the market price, and buying for less. The difference (or spread) can vary widely depending on the quantity and type of bullion you buy, as well as who you buy it from and the current state of supply and demand.

The worst deals come from gold vending machines. These serve a purpose for people keen to turn cash into gold fast, but most investors should go nowhere near them. They are rare in the UK, so you are unlikely to come across one.

Hong Kong is still widely acknowledged as the cheapest place to buy gold coins. Go to Queen's Road in Hong Kong's Central District, and you'll find well-known banks shifting gold coins for as little as 0.2% above the spot price.

But given that a flight to Hong Kong isn't cheap, the best option for most UK investors is to buy from large, established British dealers. They will deliver it straight to your house, through trackable insured couriers. It's better to go with a well-known, large firm with a good record. There are a range of options and we've outlined a number of them below.

When it comes to selling your gold, you'll find yourself at the wrong end of the gold dealers' spreads once again. Depending on the dealer, you could find yourself getting up to 5% less than the market price.

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Leading gold brokers
Company nameYear foundedBuy in branchBuy by phoneBuy onlineBranch locations
The Pure Gold Company2012YYYLondon
Bullion By Post2008YYYBirmingham
Physical Gold Ltd2008NYYLondon
The Gold Bullion Company1993NNYBirmingham
Coin Invest Direct2007NNYLondon
GoldCore2003NYYLondon & Dublin
Baird & Co1967YYYLondon
ATS Bullion Ltd2002YYYLondon
Atkinsons Bullion & Coins1990NYYBirmingham
SA Bullion2005YYNCape Town
Sharps Pixley2010YYYLondon
The Royal Mint1968NNYWales
Gold Investments1981YYYLondon

How to store physical gold

A problem with taking physical delivery of gold is that you will need to store it securely. A home safe, or a bank safety deposit box, is the most obvious option for storing your physical gold close by. Remember, if you do plan to store your gold bullion at home, you will need to tell your insurer. Depending on how much gold you have this could significantly bump up your premium.

Buying gold online

An alternative way of buying physical bullion and having it stored for you is using an online firm. The trouble with that, of course – depending on why you're buying your gold – is that you can't take physical possession of it (or rather, you can, but it will cost you dearly) and you must have utmost trust that whoever is holding your gold is holding it securely. And indeed, that it does actually hold the gold that it says it does.

One of the best-known firms is Britain's BullionVault. It offers the option to buy gold which it stores in its vaults in Switzerland, London and New York. It conducts a daily independent audit of its holdings, and will also allow you to take physical delivery of your gold if you so wish. A similar service is offered by GoldMoney. Both of these companies are featured in our table of leading gold brokers above.

At MoneyWeek, we've been tipping gold since 2001. Successful investing is about the diversification and management of risk. We believe it makes sense to have part of your wealth invested in gold.

Marc Shoffman
Contributing editor

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in business, personal finance and property. His work has appeared in print and online publications ranging from FT Business to The Times, Mail on Sunday and The i newspaper. He also co-presents the In For A Penny financial planning podcast.