It's a novel twist on the vending machine: in go the coins, out comes a nugget of gold.
TG-Gold-Super-Markt, a company based in Reutlingen, southwestern Germany, is developing a machine to dispense pieces of gold as small as one gram in ornamental boxes for about euro30 ($42).
CEO Thomas Geissler said Thursday that he will deliver the first machines to sites in Germany in three months. He has talked to potential buyers in Asia, the Middle East, Britain and the U.S.
Geissler said he came up with the idea of gold dispensers just before Lehman Brothers collapsed in September and was further convinced by a heightened interest in the precious metal as a hedge against inflation as the financial crisis rippled around the globe.
"People do not believe that the worldwide financial changes will have a good end," Geissler said. "So I say give the people what they like to buy."
The machines will serve as an advertisement for INFOS, an online fund trading program Geissler owns and that expanded to include precious metals in May. The largest nugget dispensed by the machine will be 10 grams, a size "only suitable for gifts," he said. The smallest nugget that could be considered a real investment, said Geissler, is 250 grams, about the size of a travel tube of toothpaste.
Geissler's business plan is to undersell banks, which he said have an "oligopoly" on precious metals in Germany.
Wherever the machines are placed, said Geissler, they will communicate with headquarters in Reutlingen via internal computers to update the value of gold every two minutes and maintain the lowest possible price.
A gold machine sounds like a robber's dream, but Geissler said they will have "no chance." He contracted a company that produces armored cars to burglarproof the gold dispensers by testing the prototypes with dynamite.