You cannot make this stuff up. Even as of last summer, there were reports that gold at retail was priced at a hefty premium, often 20% or more, to professional prices. Greater convenience comes with a greater markup. The German gold vending machine reportedly update prices every few minutes and add a 30% upcharge.
The flip side is that observers who believe gold to be a good long-term bet still think a correction is overdue, given the decline in non-investment uses, meaning jewelry. Are the machines a short-term contrarian indicator?
From the Financial Times:
Germans will soon be able to sate their appetite for the yellow metal as easily as buying a chocolate bar after plans were announced on Tuesday to install gold vending machines in airports and railway stations across the country.
The venture by the TG-Gold-Super-Markt company, based near Stuttgart, aims to build on soaring retail interest…
A prototype vending machine on display in Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday appeared to be a converted version of the dispensers typically used to sell snacks. For €30 airport shoppers could buy a 1g wafer of gold, with a larger 10g bar priced on Tuesday at €245 and gold coins also on sale.
When the Financial Times bought the cheapest product it was dispensed in an oblong metal box labelled “My Golden Treasure”, with a certificate of authenticity signed by Mr Geissler but no receipt and the wrong change. Mr Geissler said he hoped to have a more advanced prototype available this month.
Gold prices from the machines – about 30 per cent higher than market prices for the cheapest product – will be updated every few minutes.
A camera on the machine monitors transactions for money laundering controls…
Interest in gold has soared during the financial crisis and Germany was last year the “star performer” in retail physical investment in gold – coins and bars – according to GFMS, the London-based precious metals consultancy. Retail demand reached an estimated 108 tonnes in 2008, up from 36 tonnes in 2007 and 28 tonnes in 2006.
Jens Willenbockel, an investment banker who saw the machine while passing through the airport, said he believed there could be a market. “Because of the crisis there is a lot of awareness of gold,” he said. “It is also a great gift for children – for them getting gold is like a fairytale.”