Gold Certificate Definition. A Gold Certificate is a certificate of ownership that gold investors use to purchase and sell the commodity instead of dealing with transfer and storage of the actual gold bullion itself. It has both a historic meaning as a U.S. paper currency (1882-1933) and a current meaning as a way to invest in gold. The note issued by the U.S. was at one time redeemable for gold coins for the face value. Issued between 1893 and 1922, these certificates are all still worth their face value, but can no longer be exchanged for gold. Other countries have issued notes redeemable in gold from time to time. Banks may issue gold certificates for gold that is allocated, non-interchangeable, or unallocated, interchangeable or pooled. Unallocated gold certificates are a form of fractional reserve banking and do not guarantee an equal exchange for metal in the event of a run on the issuing bank’s gold on deposit. Allocated gold certificates should be correlated with specific numbered bars, although it is difficult to determine whether a bank is improperly allocating a single bar to more than one party. Various bullion storage companies exist that safeguard gold bullion and provide transfer services for a commission.
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