The outdated nature of physical gold and silver is one of the most attractive features of metals. They can't be tracked electronically, and in this era of government surveillance, that's increasingly important. A gold ingot itself can be tracked using the serial number printed on it, linked to the refinery that manufactured it. Certain minted bars are also sealed in a package that includes a holographic identification chip.
For those looking for a more comprehensive comparison, a Gold IRA comparison chart can provide an overview of the various options available. Although physical gold ingots themselves can be traced back to their manufacturer, the origin of gold cannot be reliably traced. As explained in the “Reportable Purchases” section, purchases of precious metals are not declared unless the cash reporting thresholds are exceeded. Investors who want to avoid reportable sales should buy American Eagles. Gold bars, gold bars or gold ingots are essentially a mass of refined gold formed in the shape of a flat bar, brick or card.
Once gold enters the process in which it is molded into objects other than gold ingots, such as jewelry or watches, gold has undergone so many changes and mixtures that it is practically impossible to trace it. While it's fairly easy to trace a gold ingot back to its refinery or manufacturer, and even to its owner using the serial number or holographic chip, it's much more difficult to trace real gold back to its original source mine. However, if gold has been refined, these trace elements and impurities can be removed through the refining process, making it nearly impossible to trace the gold back to its original source. Don't fund your precious metals IRA with fractionated gold or silver, as they are also unnecessarily expensive.
For example, Johnson Matthey gold bars contain the distinctive Johnson Matthey logo in the form of crossed hammers next to the initials JM, followed by “JOHNSON MATTHEY ASSAYERS & REFINERS”, the fineness of the gold (test), the weight in Troy ounces and then a six-digit serial number if available (source). Over the past decade, approximately two-thirds of all investments in gold were made through the purchase of gold coins or ingots. Although some of the least refined gold has what is known as a “gold footprint”, a gold ingot often doesn't have it because a refinery has melted it. Any gold expert cannot answer questions about the origin of their gold ingot, but must have qualifications and, ideally, experience.
While the U.S. currency has been backed by a government decree instead of gold since 1971, gold is still a sound investment. Some add identifiers to the gold they produce to guarantee their buyers that it is obtained ethically, responsibly and legally. Gold can be scratched or dented if handled too roughly or improperly stored, so care must be taken when handling gold ingots.
In addition, large criminal organizations often fraudulently stamp serial numbers and logos on gold ingots to launder illegal or contraband gold. While serial numbers help us track gold ingots, it's difficult to trace real gold from an ingot to its source mine due to the refining process and the fact that gold from different sources is often fused together. If you buy large gold bars, when the time comes to sell them, you'll liquidate a very large and valuable asset all at once, since you can't break a gold ingot.