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Gold bars and coins vs. gold stocks: Which is better for investors right now?

Gold bullions on the background of the growth chart.
There are certain types of gold investments that could make more sense to buy into in today's economic environment.  Getty Images/iStockphoto

The price of gold has been on a tear in recent weeks, surging to new heights and captivating investors in the process. After languishing around $1,900 per ounce for much of last year, the spot price of gold is now hovering just under the $2,400 per ounce mark, driven by a potent combination of persistent inflation, elevated interest rates and heightened demand from investors seeking a safe haven for their funds.

This latest gold rush has prompted many to re-examine their investment strategies and weigh how to best capitalize on the precious metal's price ascent. And, with a diverse array of gold-based assets to choose from, including physical gold bars and coins, gold individual retirement accounts (IRAs), gold futures and options and gold stocks, the question of which option makes the most sense in today's economic environment has become increasingly relevant.

Considering that physical gold and gold stocks are two of the more popular gold investing options, it makes sense to determine which one is the right move in today's unusual economic environment. 

Explore the benefits of adding gold to your investment portfolio today.

Gold bars and coins vs. gold stocks: Which is better for investors right now?

So, do gold bars and coins or gold stocks make more sense for investors right now? Here's what you should know.

Why physical gold bars and coins could make more sense today

For investors seeking more tangible and direct exposure to gold, physical bars and coins may be the way to go. Unlike gold-linked financial instruments, physical gold offers the reassurance of direct ownership, with the ability to hold the metal in your possession or store it in a secure facility.

One of the primary advantages of physical gold is its perceived status as a time-tested hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty. As the value of traditional currencies erodes due to rising prices caused by inflation, gold has historically maintained its purchasing power, providing a measure of stability and security for investors. So, in the current climate of high inflation and economic uncertainties, this attribute has become increasingly appealing if you're seeking to safeguard your wealth.

And, physical gold is not subject to the same counterparty risks that can plague financial instruments like stocks or ETFs. When you own gold bars or coins, you are not relying on the performance of a company or the stability of a financial institution to maintain your investment's value. This can be particularly reassuring in unusual economic climates, when trust in other assets may be shaken.

However, investing in physical gold also comes with certain drawbacks. Storing and securing the metal can be a logistical challenge, requiring specialized storage facilities or home safes, which can add to your overall cost of ownership. The liquidity of physical gold may also be lower than that of gold-linked financial products, as selling bars or coins may involve more friction and potential transaction fees. So, it's important to keep those factors in mind when making a decision.

Learn more about the gold investing options available to you here.

Why gold stocks could make more sense today

If you're more interested in the potential for capital appreciation, gold stocks may offer a more compelling option right now. By investing in the shares of gold mining companies, you can potentially benefit from the underlying rise in gold prices, as well as the operational and financial performance of the companies themselves.

One of the key advantages of gold stocks is their ability to provide leveraged exposure to the gold market. As the price of gold rises, like it is today, the profits and share prices of gold mining companies tend to increase at a faster rate, potentially delivering outsized returns. This can be particularly appealing if you're seeking to maximize your gains from the current gold rally.

Moreover, gold stocks can offer a degree of diversification that physical gold may lack. By investing in a portfolio of gold mining companies, you can spread your risk across different geographic regions, production profiles and management teams, potentially mitigating some of the idiosyncratic risks associated with individual gold mining companies.

And, gold stocks may offer greater liquidity than physical gold, as they can be traded on public exchanges with relative ease. This can be beneficial if you think you may need to access your capital more quickly or if you prefer the flexibility of being able to buy and sell your holdings on a regular basis.

However, investing in gold stocks also introduces a different set of risks. Unlike physical gold, which maintains its intrinsic value, the performance of gold stocks is heavily dependent on the operational and financial success of the underlying companies. This means if you're investing in gold stocks, you must not only navigate the volatility of the gold market but also the specific challenges and risks facing the companies you've invested in.

The bottom line

Ultimately, the decision between investing in physical gold bars and coins or gold stocks will depend on your risk tolerance, investment objectives and personal preferences. Both options offer unique benefits and drawbacks, however, and if you are focused on building a well-diversified portfolio, you could also incorporate a combination of these gold-based assets to achieve a balance between stability, growth and risk management.

In either case, it would be wise to carefully weigh the merits of each approach, ensuring that your investment strategy aligns with your long-term financial goals and risk appetite. By doing so, you can position yourself to capitalize on the current gold rush and potentially weather the economic storms that may lie ahead.

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