Vending machines are usually ideal for grabbing a snack or treat for a couple dollars. But two machines installed in Singapore at the end of September dispense a product slightly on the pricier side: pure gold.
The Smart Gold ATMs dispense a range of 24 karat gold items such as gold bars (ranging from 1 to 10 grams in weight), ingots, and gold coins that can be customized using seven designs including the Singaporean icon of the Merlion and symbols from Chinese zodiac.
The two ATMs are located at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Resorts World Sentosa, both luxury spots catering to wealthy residents and visitors from all over the world.
The machines offer support in Chinese, German, Russian and Arabic and take both credit cards and cash as payment (though, as customers are advised, the machines won’t give change).
The prices of items dispensed by the machines are adjusted once or twice each day based on market prices. At the machines’ launch, a 1-gram pendant cost the equivalent of approximately $80.
Swiss company PAMP, which uses 999.9 purity gold, is the maker of all items sold in the machine.
The Asian Gold Market
Asia Gold ATM, who owns the machines, pointed to the overall popularity of gold in Asia as its reasoning for the placement: “We chose Singapore because it’s the center of Asia, which is the center of world gold consumption,” said director Kong Kok Chee.
The statement refers less to Singapore’s physical location, and more to its status as a finance and business hub for the region. The nation has increasingly vied for gold business is recent years, and the launch of a physically deliverable gold contract on the Singapore Exchange is expected at some point this month.
As Chee noted, more than 63% of global gold consumption last year — including bars, jewelry, collectives and coins — was accounted for by Asia.
However, gold is bought and sold for both investment and collectible purposes all over the world.
In the U.S., people often sell or trade in old gold jewelry and coins for melt-down purposes.
Consumer demand for gold, however, has risen as gold prices have tumbled to multi-year lows over the past several months in the face of a strengthening U.S. dollar.
“Gold bars in vending machines would not be a U.S. trend right now; the Americans are reserving spending because of our economy,” says Licia Gray, Owner of Cash N Gold.
Asia Gold ATM, meanwhile, is already planning the launch of two or three more machines. Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia have all been tipped as potential sites.