Vending machines have a long and storied history—going back all the way to ancient Greece where the first century engineer and mathematician Hero of Alexandria invented a device that dispensed holy water for the cost of a coin, operating on the principle of counter-balance of weight.
Vending machines did not reappear in history until the 19th Century when the first such machines in existence in England dispensed greeting cards. The first US vending machine dispensed chewing gum. The 20th century saw an explosion in the number, and types of vending machines—and by the end of the century, an increasing number of machines offering an astonishing array of products were to be found.
Introduction of the Gold Vending Machine
The 21st Century has seen the next generation of vending machine innovation: the Gold Vending Machine. A German company, TG Gold-Super-markt has brought the idea of investment in gold out of the exchanged and into the shopping mall by its introduction of the “Gold-To-Go” vending machine.
Developed by innovator Thomas Giessler, who had previously brought gold trading to the online platform, the first Gold-To-Go ATM machine dispensing over 320 items was installed in the lobby of the luxurious Emirates Hotel in Abu-Dhabi. It was preceded by a prototype device which was originally installed in Frankfurt, Germany in 2009. 2010 saw the first Gold-to-Go vending machine on U.S. soil installed at a location in Boca Raton, Florida.
Giessler was inspired by what he termed the “endless supply of traditional toiletries” available at airports, train stations and other transportation hubs. He was also inspired by a desire to make the idea of investment in gold accessible to the general public. Towards that end he exhaustively researched vending machines as an innovation to the process which had been handled previously and predominantly via person to person contact and on commodity exchanges
So What Does a Gold Vending Machine Look Like?
The vending machines are distinctive in look—covered in gold leaf and featuring touch screen technology, as well as lighted display cases of the items on offer. Gold-To-Go vending machines accept both cash and credit cards in payment and require users making a purchase greater than 100 Euro to scan identification. Single users may not access the machine more than three times in one day and are prohibited after hitting that ceiling from using the machine again for 48 hours. These restrictions are an attempt to prevent attempts at using them for money laundering purposes. As might be expected considering the value of the items on offer and the amounts of money taken in by the machines, they are highly resistant to theft—designed not unlike an armored car. All transactions are recorded via built in surveillance cameras.
Items Offered By Gold Vending Machines
The items offered by the Gold-To-Go vending machines vary from market to market. The Gold-To-Go Website lists the following products as available to customize franchisee installations:
- Gold Bars 2,5 g
- Gold Bars 5 g
- Gold Bars 10 g
- Gold Bars 20 g
- Gold Bars 1 ounce
- Gold Bars 50 g
- Gold Bars 100 g
- Gold Bars 250 g
- Krugerrand 1/10 ounce
- Krugerrand 1/4 ounce
- Krugerrand 1 ounce
- Kangaroo 1/10 Unze 15 $
- Kangaroo 1 Unze 100 $
- Maple Leaf 1/10 ounce5 $
- Pamp Cobra Gold 5 g, Pamp Cobra Silver 10 g
- American Silver Eagle
Depending on the location, Gold-To-Go offers what they call an “alternative product portfolio”. They guarantee that all products come from well known manufacturers and established mints, and that any item in their inventory may be exchanged for its equivalent in currency “at any time worldwide”.
The Gold-To-Go vending machine is available as a franchise investment opportunity. Licensees pay $28,000 for the machines and pay TG-Gold-Super-Market to supply and service the machines. TG-Gold has announced plans to place 500 machines in airport and rail station locations in Germany and Switzerland. Locations in the United States and Great Britain can apply to host one of the machines; the first such installation in the U.K. took place in a shopping mall in Westfield, west London.
Prices for the individual items for offer in the machines vary—depending on the size and weight of the coin or bar dispensed. The machine electronically adjusts prices for items every ten minutes—keyed to the latest gold value information on the world market. Products available as noted above range from a quarter ounce coin to a 250g bar which costs –give or take depending on fluctuations on the world market--$10,000.
While the idea of a gold vending machine may seem like an idea whose time has come, the proliferation of the machines is hampered not only by the depressed economic climate throughout much of the world, but also the entrenched idea that something as expensive and valuable and venerable as gold should be traded in a more secure environment and with a human touch.
Only the future will reveal if the gold vending machine is here to stay---or gone tomorrow.