Image: Berlin's First
Sean Gallup  /  Getty Images
A hostess holds a one gram bar of gold that she bought from Berlin's first Gold To Go gold bar dispenser in Germany. The German company is installing a similar machine in Boca Raton, Fla.
By
updated 12/17/2010 1:36:58 PM ET 2010-12-17T18:36:58

Shoppers who are looking for something sparkly to put under the Christmas tree can skip the jewelry and go straight to the source: an ATM that dispenses shiny 24-carat gold bars and coins.

A German company planned to install the machine Friday at an upscale mall in Boca Raton, a South Florida paradise of palm trees, pink buildings and wealthy retirees.

Thomas Geissler, CEO of Ex Oriente Lux and inventor of the Gold To Go machines, says the majority of buyers will be walk-ups enamored by the novelty. But he says they're also convenient for more serious investors looking to bypass the hassle of buying gold at pawn shops and over the Internet.

  1. More must-see stories
    1. The Hartford Courant, Political
      Wild Wall St.

      Has the market volatility got you nervous? These cartoons may give you a little comic relief.

    2. Cyber-thieves create fake Kelley Blue Book site
    3. US says Reebok toning shoes don't really
    4. Can you live on $9 an hour? Play the game

"Instead of buying flowers or chocolates, which is gone after two or three minutes, this will stay for the next few hundreds years," Geissler told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The company installed its first machine at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace hotel in May and followed up with gold ATMs in Germany, Spain and Italy. Geissler said they plan to unroll a few hundred machines worldwide in 2011. He said the Abu Dhabi machine has been so popular it has to be restocked every two days.

The gold-leaf-covered machine at Boca Raton's Town Center Mall sits outside a gourmet chocolate store and works just like the two cash ATMs beside it. Shoppers insert cash or credit cards and use a computer touch-screen to choose the weight and style they want. The machine spits out the gold in a classy black box with a tamper-proof seal.

Each machine, manufactured in Germany, carries about 320 pieces of different-sized bars and coins. Prices are refigured automatically every 10 minutes to reflect market fluctuations. At prices from one point earlier this week, a two-gram piece cost about $120, including packaging, certification and a 5 percent markup. An ounce cost about $1,470.

Buyer beware: A gram of the heavy metal is much smaller than you think, about the size of a fingernail. An ounce is a little larger than a quarter.

Owners said the machine, which will hold around $150,000 in cash and gold, will be flanked by an armed bodyguard for now. Several live security cameras are fixed inside and outside the machine.

The popularity of gold is cyclical, but it's riding high these days in part because of fears stoked by financial collapse.

Story: It's a great time to be rich
Major Market Indices

Geissler, who plans to open a machine in Las Vegas by the year's end, said the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment firm was the impetus for the flashy ATMs. His customers refused to buy bonds, stocks and other funds from the financial industry, so they focused on precious metals.

As investors continued to lose faith in the global finance market system, the company worked on the gold-leaf finished ATM, banking that the protection of purchasing power found in gold would lure market leery customers.

"Gold always comes back to its real value," Geissler said. "It's not diamonds, it's not silver, it's not real estate. It's just gold."

Dave Jones, who brokered the deal to bring the machines to the U.S., predicts gold will become a parallel currency in the next five years. He said they plan to install about 40 more machines at upscale malls and hotels around the U.S.

"Gold has a place in everyone's portfolio," said Jones, of Boca Raton-based PMX Gold. "It's a good hedge against inflation and it's a good comfort level."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vote: Would you trust buying gold from an ATM?

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 4.74%
$30K home equity loan FICO 5.25%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.56%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 10.91%
10.91%
Cash Back Cards 16.36%
16.36%
Rewards Cards 15.96%
15.94%
Source: Bankrate.com