Investment

How to Store Precious Metals in 2024 (6 Ways)

Concept art of an article about How to Store Precious Metals: safety deposit boxes in an private bank vault (AI Art)

If you’re wondering how best to store your precious metals, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about five different proven options from simplest and easiest to more expensive but with the best security.

Along the way, you’ll learn the pros and cons and pick up some tips from a group with more than four decades experience in the wealth protection business — no matter the form that wealth is held.

1) Store Precious Metals In Your Home

Perhaps the lowest profile way to store precious metals is at home. The most secure way to do so is with a home safe installed in the foundation of your home and encased in concrete.

A word of caution: Insider theft is a recurring issue with home safes. The installer returns some months or even years later. He knows the safe’s location and perhaps even its combination if you haven’t changed it. Protect yourself by buying a safe only from a reputable company that uses bonded installers. And change the combination from the factory settings or the one set by the installer.

You might also want to install a “dummy safe.” This will be the safe you let robbers know about if you’re confronted at gunpoint in your home. It will also be the one that burglars find first when you’re away from home. Keep some cash and inexpensive silver coins in the safe that you don’t mind parting with.

If you don’t want to buy a safe, every home is full of places where you can hide a lot of valuables—100 ounces of gold is only two handfuls of coins.

If thieves come into your home, they won’t want to spend much time looking for the goods. Anything you do to delay them will lessen the chances that they’ll find anything valuable.

Six of the best suggestions we’ve seen when it comes to storing precious metals at home:

  • Light switch or electrical outlet. Choose an inaccessible outlet behind furniture. After turning off the electricity, remove the faceplate and disconnect the electrical wires. Remove the tape or wire nuts. Next, remove the metal box inside attached to the wall. This will provide access to the space inside the studs. Place your valuables in that space, make sure they won’t interfere with the wiring, and then reattach the box, wiring, and faceplate.
  • Houseplants. You can also hide valuable within a one plant of many in your home. That will make it less likely to be found. A plant that doesn’t need much water is your best bet to spare your valuables from getting soaked. In that case, a sealed plastic container will work. Otherwise, you’ll need to build a sealed false bottom into the pot. Be sure to drill a hole in it with a plastic tube inserted to carry water off from around your sealed container.
  • Coffee mug stash. Buy an oversized coffee mug. Place your valuables in the bottom of the mug and insert a circular cardboard cutout on top of them. Fill the remainder of the mug with baking soda and place in your refrigerator. The mug will appear to be absorbing odors rather than hiding money or jewelry.
  • Closet stash. Find a long-sleeve shirt, jacket, or coat you never wear and sew one cuff shut. Drop in lightweight valuables like cash and hang the garment with the sewed-shut sleeve facing inwards.
  • Toothpaste tube stash. Take an empty tube of toothpaste and cut off the flat end. Clean the inside with hot water and a dull knife. Place your valuables in the tube and fold the end down a few times. The result is what appears to be a tube of toothpaste that’s been partially used.
  • Brick stash. A client of ours came up with this one. He bought 500-ounce silver bars and painted them to look like bricks. He then interspersed the bars in an outdoor patio he constructed from actual bricks custom-designed to be the same size as the bars.

2) Storing Precious Metals with “Midnight Gardening”

If you have a large yard or live in a rural area, you might consider storing some of your precious metals outdoors.

One way to do it is to bury them in waterproof PVC containers designed for long-term storage. We’ve heard these containers referred to as “midnight gardeners,” perhaps referring to the time of day when you bury them. You can make your own containers from materials you’ll find at any hardware store.

A foot of 6″ diameter PVC pipe will hold about $100 face value US 90% silver coins. For every container you plan to make, buy one round cap end and one screw-top end. Be sure to buy plenty of PVC pipe cement and Teflon sealing tape.

Cut the PVC pipe to a handy length, not more than 18″. Prepare the surface of the end and the inside of the cap with steel wool, apply PVC cement, and stick the closed cap on one end. Prepare the surface of the other end, apply cement, and cement in place the screw-top closure. Let it sit 24 hours, and your midnight gardener is ready to use.

Before you bury it, be sure to get rid of all the moisture (very important for silver). Turn your oven on to its lowest temperature and place your midnight gardeners in it for about 15 minutes. After they’ve cooled, put your coins in and screw down the closure. Put Teflon tape on the threads before you screw down the closure.

Now you are ready to store your previous metals. But how will you remember where you buried it? Best to plant a bush over it, or measure an exact distance and direction from some landmark not likely to move, i.e., the corner of your house, a fence post, etc.

Bury it at least three feet down. Cover it with eighteen inches of dirt. Place some old scrap metal in the hole. A junk alternator is perfect. Then fill the rest of the hole. If anyone with a metal detector searches your place, he will dig and find the alternator, and, you hope, give up.

In addition, we suggest burying several additional scrap metal objects randomly all over your yard at different depths. Now the searcher is looking for a needle in a haystack. Obviously, midnight gardeners aren’t appropriate for storing items you might need frequently or often.

To an untrained eye, midnight gardeners look a little like pipe bombs. When acquiring materials to make them, hardware store clerks may ask you what you’re making with them. It’s best to have a ready explanation, such as creating an airtight container for old documents that degrade in an oxygen atmosphere.

3) Domestic Safe Deposit Box

Another way to store precious metals is in one of about 25 million bank safe deposit boxes available for rent across the US.

But please note that if your valuables disappear, you’ll discover you have little or no recourse against the bank you trusted to look after them. In the event of a loss, you’ll find the contract you signed when you first rented the box almost certainly contains language such as:

“The bank’s liability for any loss for whatever reason shall not exceed ten (10) times the annual rent charged for the box.”

You agree not to place items with an aggregate value in excess of $10,000 in the box at any time. When it comes to storing precious metals away, that can add up very quickly.

Based on court filings and news reports, one expert estimates the contents of more than 33,000 boxes are stolen, damaged, or destroyed by accidents or natural disasters per year.

Strategies to protect the valuables you keep in a safe deposit box include:

  • Don’t keep all your valuables in a single box. There’s no magic threshold. However, once the value of the items in your box exceeds the limits in the boxholder agreement, consider renting an additional one.
  • Rent the smallest box available. Try to get one at the top or bottom of the vault, as thieves target boxes at eye-level.
  • Discard the envelope the keys to your safety deposit box came in with the name of the bank imprinted on it. If someone steals the keys, the thief won’t know the location of your box.
  • Take digital photos of everything you place in the box and upload them to a secure file storage location. (The Nestmann Group uses one called Tresorit.)
  • Stay in contact with the bank where you have a safe deposit box and if possible, visit it at least twice each year. This ensures that if the bank branch where the box is located closes (very common), you’ll have advance notice, and the bank won’t be able to seize the box contents under state abandoned property laws. Before you leave, take a date-stamped picture of the items it contains.
  • Set up autopay with the bank or vault where you hold a box to avoid missing a rental payment if your address changes. This isn’t a good choice, though, if you want to keep its existence a secret. In that case, mark your calendar each year to make the required payment with cash or a money order. Or pay for multiple years in advance.
  • Keep receipts or other proof of ownership of every item you store in the box. Cash is problematic from this standpoint, unless you can prove that the cash in the box corresponds exactly to withdrawals from a bank account. For this reason, it’s safer to keep cash at home rather than a safe deposit box.
  • Make certain the beneficiaries of your estate know about your safe deposit box. At your death, it will be sealed under state law. Most states allow the executor or personal representative of your estate access to the box to retrieve estate planning documents. However, all other items must remain in the box until the probate court issues an order authorizing distribution of the estate to beneficiaries. An exception may apply if you have a co-signer on the box or if you hold the box in the name of a legal entity, such as an LLC.
  • Buy insurance for your safe deposit box. We suggest not using the same company that provides your homeowner’s insurance coverage, because the existence of the policy would easily be discoverable in a lawsuit. Instead, look for a company that specializes in this type of coverage. One we use ourselves is the Safe Deposit Box Insurance Company (SDBIC).

4) Store Your Precious Metals in an Offshore Safe Deposit Box

Many non-US banks also offer safe deposit boxes for rent. In most cases, though, you won’t be able to rent a box unless you have an account at the bank.

Since most non-US banks don’t permit US citizens or permanent residents to hold accounts, this limits the choices available. Not only that, but non-US banks have slowly been phasing out their safe deposit business because they are often less profitable than other banking services.

There is one significant exception: Canada. It’s still relatively easy for a US citizen to open a bank account in Canada, and many Canadian bank branches still have safe deposit boxes available.

A common situation in our consulting practice is for a client to move physical metals they purchased in the United States to another country. This can be problematic due to security, legal, and tax concerns.

Need Help?

Over the past 40+ years, we’ve helped thousands of clients build a better wealth protection plan. A surprising number of them have involved gold, silver, platinum and palladium — buying, selling, moving and storing them internationally. If you’d like some help building the best wealth protection plan for you, please don’t hesitate to book in a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our associates.

Canadian banks, like US banks, strictly limit their liability in case of theft from a safe deposit box. This is of special concern when it comes to storing precious metals. For that reason, you’ll want to take similar precautions as we suggested in the section on domestic safe deposit boxes. In particular, you’ll want to look into insuring the holdings in your safe deposit box.

Alternatively, you may wish to consider renting a safe deposit box at an offshore private vault.

5) Domestic Private Vault

A safe deposit box at a private vault provides significantly greater privacy and security than a box at a bank. When it comes to precious metals storage, this is an attractive combination.

For banks, safekeeping of valuables is not their primary business. As a result, security protocols in bank safe deposit box vaults may be weak.

While a safe deposit box at a private vault is typically more expensive than one at a bank, secure storage is the primary and often only business in which a vault is engaged. (Some vaults also buy and sell precious metals.) Employees at private vaults tend to be better trained and more diligent with security protocols.

Private vaults also aren’t financial institutions and thus aren’t regulated as such. If banks are ever closed to prevent bank runs as in 1933 during the Great Depression, private vaults shouldn’t be affected. And unlike financial institutions, private vaults aren’t required to report “suspicious transactions” to the US Treasury.

Also unlike banks, private vaults aren’t on the asset tracking “radar screen,” which means snoops and creditors will find it almost impossible to learn that you have a relationship with one.

While private vaults are typically more secure than bank safe deposit boxes, they’re not immune to theft. For that reason, when it comes to storing precious metals, we suggest taking the same precautions mentioned in the section about domestic safe deposit boxes.

You should also know that private vaults generally won’t seal your safe deposit box at your death. Your executor or personal representative should be able to gain access to your valuables so long as you’ve notified the vault of their identity.

Since private vaults aren’t considered financial institutions, in some cases, you can rent a box anonymously. While we’re advocates for maximum privacy, in this case, the potential cost outweighs the benefits, because private vaults offering anonymity are being targeted by federal law enforcement agencies.

Private Vault: Anonymous or Registered

The number of firms offering anonymous vaults has dwindled greatly in the last few years. That’s because, although the idea of being truly anonymous has strong appeal to many clients, it comes with a few notable risks to both the client and the provider.

On the client side, insurance can be a challenge. If there’s no owner on file, it can be difficult to make a claim if you ever need to make one. Most insurance policies also require you to pre-register the assets held in the box. Obviously, this chips away at your privacy.

But the bigger issue is that private vaults offering anonymity have increasingly been targeted by federal law enforcement agencies.

In 2021, for instance, agents from the FBI and DEA raided.

US Private Vaults (USPV) in Beverly Hills. The company had advertised it could provide anonymous safekeeping for its clients. The agencies confiscated the contents of nearly 1,000 of their clients’ safe deposit boxes. They filed civil forfeiture claims in federal court to assume ownership of more than $85 million in seized property including precious metals. While it appears most owners who can prove they obtained the assets stored in their boxes legitimately will be able to reclaim them, others have been unsuccessful in asserting their claims. For this reason alone, we don’t feel anonymous safekeeping is worth the risk.

Obviously, a company providing vaulting services does not want to invite such a raid. It introduces a lot of reputational risk. Private vaults don’t want to be seen as hiding criminal assets. It has been shown that any proceeds of crime make up a very small, if any, part of the private vault’s clientele. Obviously, a raid interrupts their business. And it draws unwanted media attention.

The most secure private vaults are built for to store precious metals and other valuables. They can be built for purpose or adapted from a bank vault. A good strategy to find one is to search online for “private vaults” and then focus on vaults in your geographical vicinity.

It’s worth making an appointment in advance and asking for access to the vault. While some private vaults discourage visitors to secure areas, you should ideally be permitted to visit the vault where safe deposit boxes are located, if not other secured areas. Ask an employee to explain the vault’s security features. Ideally, the vault doors will be rated Class 3, the highest security standard. The vault will have CCTV in all areas, except for private viewing rooms, and both onsite and offsite monitoring.

It’s also worth checking the vault’s operating hours to ensure you’ll be able to visit it when you have time to do so. Make sure to review the company’s purchase and storage agreements, paying special attention to any disclaimers in circumstances where your valuables are stolen. We also suggest reviewing the vault’s theft insurance policy and if necessary, purchasing your own safe deposit box theft insurance. Also, follow the strategies we discussed in the section about safe deposit box resources to reduce the risk of theft.

Allocated vs. Unallocated Storage

Banks or private vaults that store your metals in a common area (i.e., not in a safe deposit box) use two storage options: allocated and unallocated storage.

  • Allocated storage means a bank or private vault has set aside specific coins or bars that you own. There’s also semi-allocated storage, in which you have a fractional ownership interest in a specific bar of precious metal.
  • Unallocated storage means that rather than owning specific coins or bars, you have a fractional ownership interest in a pool of precious metals.

While unallocated storage is significantly less expensive than allocated or semi-allocated storage, it’s also riskier. Since you don’t own specific bars or coins, you have no way to inspect your actual holdings. Some companies that offer unallocated storage don’t even permit redemption in metal – you must accept a cash settlement. This can have unpleasant tax implications if you have substantial unrealized gains in the metals as they will be deemed sold, even if that wasn’t your intention.

As well, if a vault is forced into bankruptcy, metals in unallocated storage may become part of its balance sheet, potentially exposing your holdings to its creditors.

Precious metals you store in a safe deposit box (domestic or offshore) at a bank or private vault (domestic or offshore) are neither allocated nor unallocated. The metals are your property and shouldn’t be part of the vault-owner’s balance sheet (but be sure to check). But unlike allocated or unallocated storage, the vault isn’t responsible for safekeeping a specific quantity of metals on your behalf. In most cases, the vault won’t know what items you keep in your box and will charge a flat fee regardless of their value.

6) Offshore Private Vault

When it comes to storing precious metals, a safe deposit box at an international private vault provides the best features of domestic private vaults but with even more benefits.

Specifically, an international private vault gives you the added advantage of being outside the domestic surveillance infrastructure.

As an added bonus, the existence and contents of a foreign safe deposit box — whether it stores precious metals or other valuables — is non-reportable. This is important because nearly all non-US investments with an aggregate value of more than $10,000 must be reported to the US government.

Not all companies that advertise as “international private vaults” offer safe deposit boxes, but an increasing number do. We’ve found them in many countries, including Austria, Canada, the Cayman Islands, New Zealand, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Why Store Precious Metals Internationally?

The United States is just a single country on a global map – one that is increasingly intrusive, economically volatile, and litigious. Outside its borders, there’s an entire planet’s worth of enhanced asset protection, privacy, and superior wealth-building opportunities.

Holding assets outside the United States, especially in an international structure provides a stronger defense against creditors, government seizures, and economic volatility at home.

With that said, there are three potential reasons for storing precious metals outside the United States:

  • The possibility of the enactment of a law or executive order confiscating precious metals or banning their ownership. Such a measure might not exempt precious metals held outside the United States, but metals held internationally would be more difficult to confiscate.
  • The enactment of a law or executive order imposing foreign exchange controls, limiting, or denying your ability to move money – including precious metals – outside the United States.
  • A civil forfeiture or other administrative action taken against your property, including your precious metals. Again, such measures are much more difficult to enforce against property held internationally.

In short, if you own enough precious metals and have reasons to be concerned about any of these outcomes, you might want to consider buying and storing them internationally. However, we don’t suggest storing all your precious metals internationally. That defeats the main purpose of holding precious metals – to have them readily available in case of an emergency.

Generally speaking, the best way to choose an international private vault is to visit it first. This is more challenging than visiting a domestic vault. You may need to wait until you take a vacation or business trip to the country in which it operates. It’s worth making an appointment in advance and asking for access to the safe deposit box vault.

Ideally, you should have full control over the box, taking it out and putting it back in its rack. Some private vaults will insist on bringing your box to you while you wait in a secure area. However, we prefer direct access to ensure that the box is non-reportable.

Otherwise, we suggest following the recommendations in the section about domestic private vaults. This will help you find a secure and reputable offshore private vault.

Important Considerations Before You Choose An Offsite Precious Metals Storage Facility

When you buy metals from a company that stores them for you, there’s always at least a small chance of loss from theft or other risk. During the 1970s precious metals bull market, many investors were defrauded by dishonest dealers. The dealers offered to store investors’ metals but took the money and ran. One company, the Fort Lauderdale based International Gold Bullion Exchange, purchased bar-size wooden blocks and coated them with gold paint.

To avoid losses from theft or fraud:

  • Buy only from well-established precious metals dealers with an unblemished reputation. A starting point would be to check if the Better Business Bureau has received complaints about the company.
  • Spend time reviewing the company’s purchase and storage agreements.
  • Find out where your metals will be stored. Ideally, it will be in a vault with the highest security ratings (Class 3) for vault doors.
  • Ask for a copy of the vault’s theft insurance policy to ensure that you’re covered against insider theft. If not, find another company.

How do Gold Coins compare to Gold Bars?

Generally, gold bars are less liquid than gold coins for the same size. But the same sized bars also tend to have a lower premium above the value of the gold itself, making them more cost-effective. What’s right for you depends on your goals and budget.

Considering buying gold coins or bars for investment as well? Here you can find more information on best gold coins to buy and best gold bars to buy.

Some Final Words of Precious Metals Storage

Over the past 40+ years, we’ve helped thousands of clients build a better wealth protection plan. A surprising number of them have involved gold, silver, platinum and palladium — buying, selling, moving and storing them internationally.

As it relates to storing precious metals, you now have the knowledge to figure out what’s best for you.

But if you’d like some help building the best wealth protection plan for you, please don’t hesitate to book in a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our associates.

On another note, many clients first get to know us by accessing some of our free publications, courses and reports on important topics that affect you.

Like How to Go Offshore in 2024, for example. It tells the story of John and Kathy, a couple we helped from the heartland of America. You’ll learn how we helped them go offshore and protect their nestegg from ambulance chasers, government fiat and the decline of the US Dollar… and access a whole new world of opportunities not available in the US. Simply click the button below to register for this free program.

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