December 19, 2010 in Business

ATM offers upscale mall-goers a golden opportunity

Kelli Kennedy Associated Press

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Shoppers who are looking for something sparkly to put under the Christmas tree can skip the jewelry and go straight to the source: an ATM that dispenses shiny 24-carat gold bars and coins.

A German company installed the machine Friday at an upscale mall in Boca Raton, a South Florida paradise of palm trees and wealthy retirees.

Thomas Geissler, CEO of Ex Oriente Lux and inventor of the Gold To Go machines, says the majority of buyers will be walk-ups enamored by the novelty. But he says they’re also convenient for more serious investors looking to bypass the hassle of buying gold at pawn shops and over the Internet.

“Instead of buying flowers or chocolates, which is gone after two or three minutes, this will stay for the next few hundred years,” Geissler told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The company installed its first machine at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel in May and followed up with gold ATMs in Germany, Spain and Italy. Geissler said they plan to install a few hundred machines worldwide in 2011. He said the Abu Dhabi machine has been so popular it has to be restocked every two days.

The gold-leaf-covered machine at Boca Raton’s Town Center Mall sits outside a gourmet chocolate store and works much like the cash ATM beside it. Shoppers insert cash or credit cards and use a computer touch-screen to choose the weight and style they want. The machine spits out the gold in a classy black box with a tamper-proof seal.

Each machine carries about 320 pieces of different-sized bars and coins. Prices are refigured every 10 minutes to reflect market fluctuations. On Friday, a two-gram piece cost about $122, including packaging, certification and a 5 percent markup. An ounce cost about $1,442.

Owners said the machine, which will hold around $150,000 in cash and gold, will be flanked by an armed bodyguard for now. Several security cameras are inside and outside the machine.

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