gold bullion bars and coins

How to Research Gold Spot Prices

Whether you’re new to buying precious metals or a seasoned veteran, industry terms like “spot price” and “bid/ask price”, not to mention “troy oz” and “good delivery,” can be confusing. Isn’t the price of gold just the price of gold, plain and simple?

Well, no.

In this article, we’ll cover what you might want to know about spot pricing for gold, silver, and other precious metals, particularly when it comes to bullion products. Some of this is quite technical and may not apply to you as a buyer, but it’s interesting to know the background.

What is Spot Price?

The spot price is the cost of gold and other precious metals at the current moment rather than a date in the future or the past. Spot prices are tied to the weight of precious metals and are usually quoted in USD.

How is Gold Measured?

The troy ounce, usually abbreviated as “t oz,” is the standard unit of measurement for the weights of gold and other precious metals. The troy ounce differs from the standard ounce that you might use for goods like sugar or flour in that it was specifically developed for assessing precious metals. The name likely derived from the French trade market town of Troyes and became the official standard for gold and silver in England in 1527. Today, at 31.103 grams, a troy ounce is heavier than a standard ounce (28.35 grams).

Sometimes, however, kilos and grams are used to measure the weight of gold, and spot prices will vary accordingly. Fortunately, the metric system is used widely around the globe, and metric weights are easily converted to troy ounces. Thanks to standardization, a troy ounce (or kilo or gram) of gold here is the same as a troy ounce of gold elsewhere, so spot prices will have the same basis regardless of your location and the currency you’re using.

What is the Bid/Ask Spread?

stacked gold coins with gold price chart

Another technical point of interest is bid/ask spread. This concept isn’t unique to precious metals and it’s really there for the information of traders – it scarcely affects a retail purchase, but you’ll often see it on the internet, and again, it’s good to know what it means. Whether talking about stocks or assets, the bid/ask spread is the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay for something (bid price) compared to the lowest price a seller is willing to accept (ask price).

For example, if the ask price for something is $1,001, and the bid price is $1,000, then the bid/ask spread is $1. Bid and ask prices vary daily and are quoted alongside spot prices and other fluctuating statistics for assets.

What is Good Delivery?

Maintained by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), “good delivery” is a set of rules governing the qualities of gold and silver bars. As the name suggests, the goal of this set of rules is to ensure bullion is produced at a standardized and high level of quality. The rules involve a variety of physical specifications, including:

  • Gold bars must have a minimum fineness of 995.0 parts per thousand
  • Gold bars must weigh between 350-430 troy ounces.

This size of bar is most commonly used by central banks and government treasuries, and it’s not a “consumer” product, as such, for obvious reasons, but now you know what’s meant by the term.

It’s worth saying that the gold bars that Rosland sells, though rather smaller, exceed the “good delivery” fineness specifications, so you can rest assured there.

How Do I Research Gold and Silver Prices?

Depending on your needs, you can research spot prices by the minute, but most buyers check spot prices less frequently, such as weekly or monthly. You can quickly determine the spot price for gold and other precious metals through Google or by checking the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) or COMEX.

The gold available for retail purchase won’t be at spot price – and beware of anyone who says they can “Beat spot” or give you some “1% over spot” deal.

There are bullion dealers who act as wholesalers, buying directly from government mints in huge quantities and largely serving the trade; there are others who are dedicated to dealing with the public. It’s not unlike any marketplace.

Generally speaking, dealers will try to buy at less than the spot price and sell at more than the spot price as much as possible; it’s how they put food on their family’s table. Knowing the spot price can help you understand the retail price.

Here are a few ways to research gold and silver prices:

Bear in mind that some people prefer to buy premium coins instead of bullion, while historic, “numismatic” coins have enthusiastic buyers as well. Those types of coins are seen to have a value above and beyond their metal content. You’ll want to decide which is right for you.

Buying Gold: Get Informed and Get Started

Like with any other purchase, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into, what reasonable prices are, and exactly what you’re getting for your money. Understanding the spot price of precious metals in comparison to the selling price is a great starting point, but it’s not the end of the story. Keep learning, take your time, and sound decisions should follow.

For more information about buying gold, visit Rosland Capital’s How to Buy Gold guide.

If you have questions about how these things work, we recommend reaching out to a gold specialist who can help you understand precious metal pricing.

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