Where Do You Keep Your Gold?
by the editors of BIG
Mar 5, 2009
You've bought some physical gold - congratulations! We think you've made a wise decision. And yes, we're referring to physical gold that you've taken possession of - not electronic gold, ETFs, Perth Mint Certificates, etc. Those are all good choices, but your portfolio is incomplete until you have some coins or bars under your direct, physical control.
Personal possession of real gold adds to your security by giving you privacy and portability. It's gold that no one has to know about, and you can carry $50,000 worth of it in one hand.
But where do you keep this best-of-all type of gold without undermining the advantages?
Let's assume that you've bought the gold over the counter, for cash, from a coin dealer, probably in a nearby town, who doesn't know you. So you are starting out with absolute privacy - no credit card charges, no canceled checks, no shipping records.
1. Safe deposit box
The easiest, simplest way to store gold is in a safe deposit box at your local bank. That's not necessarily a bad idea, but consider the disadvantages:
A safe deposit box restricts your access. You can only get to the gold during regular banking hours.
Safe deposit boxes are not insured against robbery.
A safe deposit box compromises your privacy. It provides a generous clue for the government, in case it ever decides to repeat FDR's 1933 confiscation of gold.
If you do decide to use a safe deposit box, go to a local bank. You want to be able to get to the gold in an emergency, which is one of the reasons you own it in the first place. So don't keep it in a different state or a distant city. Keep it close.
2. Bury it
This is where the term "midnight gardening" comes from; people bury their gold at night, when others won't notice the digging. The alternative is to find a separate reason for the excavation, such as fixing a pipe or removing a stump, and work in the daylight.
Either way, before those of you who are used to clean fingernails pass on this method, consider its advantages... you don't have to worry about losing your gold to a burglar or having it damaged in a fire. A lot can happen in the world that won't disturb buried gold.
A few practicalities, if you decide to go the shovel route. First, use the right container, something airtight and waterproof. This is especially important if you are storing numismatics or if you are burying silver in any form. We've been told those water bottles that hikers use work pretty well, but choose one heavy enough to stand up to years of erosion and persistent insects. Another choice is a small section of PVC pipe from your local hardware store; cap the ends and then bury it in a shallow puddle of cement. Don't use a coffee can, since the color on the metal can bleed.
To protect from scratching, put each coin in a plastic baggie or something similar.
So where do you bury it? Your location should be neither too easy nor too difficult to find. Not too easy, so that the gold won't be found by a thief. But not so difficult that years later, you or your heirs have trouble locating it. Complicated instructions (including treasure maps) can get muddled with time and create the risk your gold will never be dug up.
Find a place, on property you own, that you'll always remember but that isn't obvious if someone learns that you've buried something valuable.
Keep in mind that modern metal detectors can operate to a depth of about 4 feet. There's also ground-penetrating radar, used primarily by forensic investigators, that can detect where digging has occurred, as well as satellites that can pinpoint where ground has been disturbed.
3. Hide it in your house and/or use a home safe
Indoor storage is particularly attractive for smaller quantities. You can probably think of dozens of places in your home where no one would think to look. Avoid any place obvious, such as a jewelry box or cookie jar. The disadvantage of this method is the exposure to fire and flood.
Consider using a safe, ideally one secured to the floor. As one dealer told us, "A safe can be brought in on a two-wheeler and taken out on a two-wheeler if it hasn't been attached to a building or at least hidden."
To research safes, talk to a bonded safe company. Or look for safes online with tags like "floor safe" or "personal safe" or "home safe." Sentry is probably the leading brand, but there are dozens of options. And they don't have to be expensive; prices start at around $150.
If you choose a floor safe, locations for it include the garage, under a refrigerator, or anywhere you can place something over it. We recommend installing it yourself, and some of the kits make it easier than you it might expect. We wouldn't hire a contractor.
Leave the Right Trail
However you store your gold, let exactly one person know the details. It needs to be someone in whose honesty and discretion you have complete confidence. It will be that person's job to access the gold if you are incapacitated or die. If you are using a safe deposit box, his or her name should be included in the box registration, and they should know where to go to get the key.
Tell one person, but only one. No one else should know. This is especially important if you are using home storage. You don't want to come home someday to find your house turned upside down because someone heard you're living in a treasure chest. Even worse would be to come home and find your friendly local looter waiting to have a chat with you.
There's just no other way to say it: keep quiet about your gold.
Unless you've reached a point in life where you are depending on your children for help with your affairs, a child is not a good choice as your gold storage confidant. Kids talk, and you don't know whom they might tell or how far the story might travel.
But you do need to tell someone, regardless of your storage method. We've heard of an old miner who - no kidding - left a treasure map for his kids, to help them figure out where he'd hidden his gold. But someone else found the map - and his kids never got their inheritance. And what if the kids had received the map but weren't very good treasure hunters? We've read similar stories about descendants who knew that gold had been left for them but had no idea where it was.
The choices boil down to three: store your gold in a safe deposit box; bury it; or hide it indoors. Each method has pluses and minuses, so you'll need to decide for yourself which is best for you. While you're deciding, don't overlook the possibility of using more than one method.
It is no accident that gold is currently trading at around $980 again. Physical gold is a hedge for troubled times - in an economic crisis, the gold price is bound to go up dramatically and so are, by extension, stocks of major gold producers and near-producers. If you want to preserve, and multiply your assets, BIG GOLD is the go-to advisory for all things gold-related. Click here to learn more.