Throughout history, investors have often regarded gold as a safe haven — an asset that can, at the very least, keep its value over time. In the past, a number of currencies, including the U.S. dollar, were backed by the gold standard, under which money was freely convertible into gold. The precious metal also has various uses, in jewelry, technology and medicine.
However, gold is also a controversial investment. While some may see the precious metal as a safe asset and protection against inflation, others may view it as a highly volatile bet. The price of gold in recent years may prove both points of view right. Gold prices surged during the Great Recession. But as the world economy began to stabilize and more recently recover, gold prices reflected the changes, dropping 24% in the past 12 months.
Gold investments can take on a variety of forms, such as physical gold bars, futures contracts and coins. However, in recent years, more and more investors have turned to exchange traded funds (ETFs) as a way of gaining exposure to gold. The SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEMKT: GLD) is among the largest gold-related ETFs, with more than $31 billion in gold assets held in trust.
One of the advantages of ETFs is that investors do not have to take physical delivery of gold or store it. There are disadvantages as well, as many investors would rather hold physical gold — such as in the form of bullion — than hold shares in a trust.
As gold prices have fallen, however, many investors have begun to actively seek alternatives from among the many possible choices available today. And with an ever-expanding universe of ETFs, it is easier than ever to find and invest in alternatives to gold.
One of the most common alternatives to gold is silver, which can offer inflation protection and is also widely used in industry. Other alternatives for investors interested in commodities, especially metals, include platinum and palladium, both of which have industrial uses and are, like gold and silver, precious metals. Investors can find ETFs for all these metals, as well as a fund for rare earth metals.
Other alternatives exist for investors interested in mining. Gold miner stocks are widely traded, and there are a number of ETFs that invest in mining companies, with some funds that focus on smaller, early stage miners.
These are five unusual alternatives investments to gold.