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Should I buy gold coins and bars online or in person?

Buying gold coins and bars online and in person both come with pros and cons to consider.  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Gold has had tremendous price growth so far in 2024. On January 1, 2024, the precious metal was trading at $2,063.73 per ounce. Fast forward to today, and the price of an ounce of gold has climbed to $2,361.66. That's a more than 14% climb, year-to-date. 

With such strong growth in the price of the precious metal, it wouldn't be surprising if you decided to invest in it. Doing so is as simple as buying gold coins, bars or both and enjoying future price growth. 

But, there are multiple ways to buy gold coins and bars. You could go to your local coin and precious metals dealer and some local banks might make gold coins and bars available. You can even find the precious metal at big box stores like Walmart and Costco or through countless online retailers. 

But that begs the question, "should you buy gold coins and bars online or in person?"

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Should I buy gold coins and bars online or in person?

Amid the ways to buy gold coins and bars, two of the easiest are online and in person. But, which is better? As with most financial questions, there's not a one-size-fits-all answer. 

There are some benefits to working with online gold dealers. Online companies typically have fewer overhead expenses than brick and mortar companies. And, with fewer overhead expenses, they may be able to offer gold at lower prices than local shops can. Online dealers may also have a larger inventory than local retailers, giving you more options to choose from. 

But, there are some benefits to buying in person as well. First, when you buy gold in person, you're able to hold the tangible metal and ensure quality. And, purchasing gold from a local dealer gives you a way to support your local community and economy. Not to mention, you'll take possession of your gold as soon as you buy it.

There are times when buying gold coins and bars online will be your better option and others when buying them in person makes more sense. Below, we'll detail when each option can be beneficial.

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When you should buy gold coins and bars online

If you're looking for the lowest cost on your gold coins and bars, buying them online may be your best bet. "Large online dealers can typically beat the cost of smaller shops with a large-scale operation and agreements with major suppliers," explains Steve Azoury, ChFC and owner of the financial planning firm, Azoury Financial. 

And, you may have access to gold coins and bars that are in better condition when you work with online dealers. That's because, "your shipment comes directly from the source of production, unlike the local dealer who sells products bought from other customers," says Azoury. However, some online dealers may offer items purchased from customers as well. 

Buying online also makes sense if you want to choose from a larger inventory of gold products as online dealers may have larger selections than local shops. 

It's also worth noting that if you'd like to own gold coins and bars on a derivative basis, you may want to make your investment online. "If you're just looking to own gold as part of a mutual fund or in an exchange-traded fund (ETF), then it can be a lot more convenient and cost-effective to buy it online," explains Dana J. Menard, CFP, founder and lead financial planner at the financial planning firm, Twin Cities Wealth Strategies. 

When you should buy gold coins and bars in person

If you'd like to be able to inspect gold coins and bars before you buy them, "you should do it in person since they should allow you to physically inspect and touch the bullion to verify its purity, weight, and authenticity," says Menard. 

It may also be a better option if you want your gold as soon as you buy it. "Buying in person could be beneficial," says Azoury. "With a local dealer, you will get your purchase immediately and if there are any issues, you know where to go."

The bottom line

Buying gold online and in person both come with their own pros and cons. If you want the best price and largest selection to choose from, buying gold online may be your best option. On the other hand, if you'd like to personally inspect the gold before you purchase it, support your local economy and get your gold as soon as you buy it, a local shop may be a better fit. 

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