If consumers visit the Westfield shopping center in West London, or the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, they may encounter a vending machine of unique value. This vending machine does not provide sweets, snacks or beverages. Instead, in exchange for a few hundred dollars or pounds, this machine provides gold—24 karat gold to be precise.
This gold vending machine is a part of a unique set of GOLD to go® ATMs manufactured and operated by a Germany company called Ex Orient Lux AG (translation: Light from the East). Currently the company has ATMs in six countries, ranging from New York to the United Arab Emirates, placed in a variety of high profile hotels, casinos and jewelry retailers. The machine allows consumers buying gold to choose from a few different sizes of bars, each etched with an image unique to the location in which it was purchased. For example, in the Westfield shopping center in London, the 2.5-gram bar has the London skyline engraved on the back. The bars (or in some cases coins) can also be designed with the consumer’s choice of a maple leaf, or even a kangaroo. When purchased, each gold bar or coin arrives in a flat matte black gift box, sealed in plastic with a hologram anti-counterfeit sticker.
Complete with a touchscreen and money and card slots with which to make the purchase, the GOLD to go vending machine’s case is also finished in gold leaf, giving it a “golden” distinction beyond just its product offerings. The price of gold is updated every ten minutes with the current spot price, ensuring that customers get the market rate for the gold they are purchasing from the machine.
Other than serving as a rather pricy souvenir, buying gold from a vending machine has become a new means by which consumers can exchange their currency for harder assets, providing stability in a time of significant exchange rate fluctuation. With the uncertainties surrounding the events of Cyprus and the European Union, the new golden ATMs now give consumers 24-hour access to gold exchange, without having to visit a traditional store to buy the gold they need.
Yet the success of these golden ATMs may be put in danger by the very crises that made them successful. Many consumers and investors converted their assets to gold in order to avoid the uncertainties present in current currencies. However, as these same consumers and investors have liquidated their gold holdings to provide income during these economic downturns, the supply of gold has increased in the market, driving down its overall price. Now many market analysts are concerned that gold prices may fall even more as investors “jump of the gold band wagon,” selling their gold and converting their assets into stocks and bonds in the hopes of gaining better returns.
Therefore the future success of the golden vending machines might be in devising a way to exchange gold for cash, rather than the other way around. In that way, the machines provide a means for consumers to buy gold before their currencies lose value, and a means to sell that gold when they need to buy groceries.