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There are a lot of ways that you might have stumbled upon the concept of "IRA approved gold." Maybe you were looking for gold to purchase with your personal savings, but you found companies offering IRA services instead. Maybe you were looking to buy gold with your retirement funds, but you weren't sure how to do it. Maybe you already know everything about gold IRAs and are just narrowing down your options.
So what is IRA approved gold? What does that mean?
The definition is actually very simple. If a gold product is IRA approved, that means that you can keep it in your retirement account. But only one specific type of retirement account, and only with the proper paperwork, storage, and custodianship.
The IRS has strict standards and rules with regards to what kind of gold can be put into your retirement account. While this may seem frustrating, it's actually a much greater level of flexibility than people had three decades ago.
Let's take a look at more of the regulations surrounding gold IRAs and their approved products.
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IRA Approved Gold Products
First, we'll take a look at the specific regulations and details that the IRS has written regarding gold products for your retirement. Then we can look at some of the specific products that are approved for use in an IRA.
Figuring out which products are IRA-eligible can be stressful, especially for people who aren't super familiar with the regulations. That's why it can also be helpful to enlist the assistance of an expert. There are gold IRA companies that sell approved gold and help you with your account paperwork on top of that.
There are four precious metals that can be kept in an IRA: gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. All four have slightly different requirements. These requirements pertain to gold, rather than the other three options.
Gold needs to meet a specific purity standard. It must be tested and proven to be at least 99.5% pure, with the certification and paperwork to show it. This standard is the same regardless of whether you're buying gold coins or gold bars. Typically, gold rounds will not be eligible to put in your IRA.
Then there are further nitpicky requirements. This is where people can start to get tripped up. Your account custodian should be able to tell you whether your purchase is compliant with IRS regulations, but again, it's better to know ahead of time.
The vast majority of collectible and numismatic coins cannot be used. Their value is speculative for the most part, based around how rare and valuable they might become in the future. These coins are typically priced much higher than their melt value, which makes them a weighty risk. The IRS doesn't want people to put collectibles in their accounts when instead you could invest in much more stable, lower risk bullion.
You can get proof coins for your account. But each of the coins needs to come with a certificate of authenticity, and it needs to be in a capsule and in uncirculated mint condition. There should be no indication that this coin has ever been handled or damaged.
Non-proof coins don't need to be in capsules or given certificates of authenticity, but they have to be brilliant and uncirculated. Circulated coins have been handled by many people and lose their value over time. The oils from your skin and the friction of rubbing against other objects will cause the coins to lose their fine details, shine, and overall quality.
Gold bars need to be produced by an accredited or certified refinery, though there are many different certifications that count. Many of the top refineries in the country are certified. They basically just need to have a third party organization verify that they do create quality products and operate with transparency and integrity. Alternatively, the bars need to come from a sovereign mint somewhere in the world.
You can also only keep gold bars of certain weights in the account. If the gold bars are small, then they need to be crafted to the exact weight specifications. For example, they need to be exactly one gram, ten grams, or a hundred grams. Or they need to be exactly one ounce.
Specific Accepted Products
Now let's take a look at some of the specific products that are accepted. There are coins from multiple sovereign mints, which are available in a variety of sizes. Similarly, gold bars are available in a variety of sizes.
The gold coins that can be kept in an IRA include:
If the coins have been certified, graded as numismatic rarities, or slabbed for collection, then they cannot be held in an IRA. Most of these coins also can't be held in an IRA if they are proof coins. American Eagles are among the only gold coins that can be kept in an IRA as proof coins.
There are many, many gold bars that are eligible to keep in your retirement account. Since these don't need to come from a sovereign mint, the possibilities are functionally unlimited. They just need to be sourced from a refinery with a certification, and they need to meet the 99.5% purity requirement.
These are the accreditations that make a gold bar eligible:
Just one of these certifications is enough, although some refineries have received accreditations and certifications from multiple different organizations. All of the accrediting organizations are experts in the precious metals industry with authoritative analysis of different refineries.
What Gold is Not IRA Approved?
The list of gold that isn't IRA approved is much longer than the list of gold that is. It's hard to buy products that meet the right specifications. That's why so many companies specialize in gold IRAs and specifically stock products meeting the requirements. It makes it easier for customers to compare deals and finalize their purchases.
First off, maybe you already have a gold coin collection. Maybe some of the products on the approved list are already in the collection, and they're in the right condition to keep in your account. You might be wondering: can't I put my approved coins into my retirement account? Wouldn't that count as a contribution?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. You are not allowed to put products that you already own into the account, even if you want to. Even if they meet all of the requirements otherwise. You are legally obligated to buy new gold using the liquid cash in your retirement account.
One option is to liquidate your coin collection by selling it. Then you can enter that money into your retirement account, as long as you don't hit your annual contribution limit. Then use that money to buy the same products. It's a roundabout method, but it complies with the IRS tax deferrals and guidelines. The one drawback is that because there's a spread between buy and sell prices, you probably won't be able to buy as many of the products as you sold initially.
As mentioned, pure bullion coins from sovereign mints can go into an IRA, but only some of them. Anything that counts as a collectible numismatic is off the table. Anything that has not been pre-approved by the IRS is off the table. Most bullion coins made more than a decade or so ago are off the table. Historic coins and non-bullion foreign currency cannot be kept in the account either.
Also as mentioned, basically all proof coins except American Eagles cannot be stored in the account. If you do have approved proof coins, they need to be sealed and have special certifications. Without the proper paperwork and packaging, they are no longer eligible for your account.
Anything except for pure bullion cannot be kept in the account. Similarly, anything except for bars and coins cannot be held in the account. This includes, but is not limited to:
Again, if you have scrap gold that you'd like to put into your retirement account, your next best bet is to liquidate it and use the cash as a retirement contribution.
Opening a Gold IRA
Let's say that you've decided that you want to put gold into your retirement account. That's great!
There are numerous benefits to investing in physical precious metals. They are tangible assets that tend to retain their value over time, they have been traded for thousands of years, they increase in price when the stock market struggles, and they hedge against inflation and economic struggle. In today's uncertain times, more people than ever are thinking about safeguarding their retirement.
But then the question is how to go about doing this.
Our main advice would be to look for your gold dealership first. Specifically, look for a company that specializes in gold IRAs. We've compiled a few top recommendations at the bottom of this article. Since the company already specializes in the products, you don't have to worry about sifting through a ton of inventory. Not only that, but the customer service teams tend to be very helpful.
Most gold IRA dealerships have already partnered with at least one custodian and storage depository. So they will connect you to the custodian and to the storage vault without you needing to go searching. That saves a lot of time, hassle, and fuss. Instead of narrowing down three different companies, you simply narrow down one and streamline the rest.
Then there's a fairly simple process for setting up your account. Depending on the level of service that your company offers, they may help you with all of the paperwork. Some companies, like Goldco, might even call your custodian and coordinate all of your package deliveries without you needing to do a single thing.
Let's take a look at the steps.
1. Create the Account
Your first step is to create the account.
Every self-directed IRA is managed by a custodian. Your custodian is a financial institution, often a private company, that manages your assets and reports to the IRS for you. They handle all of your tax paperwork and advise you about any legal liabilities and obligations. Oftentimes, you'll have an online account where you can access all of your information at once.
Not all self-directed IRA custodians are the same, though. Being licensed to operate an IRA doesn't automatically mean that you have good policies. Sometimes custodians will garner bad reputations for things like hidden transaction fees, lack of transparency, slow service, and frustrating bureaucracy. You want an option that works without all the red tape.
One choice that partners with all three of our top dealership picks is Equity Trust. They have been awarded the top self-directed IRA custodian in the nation for several years in a row. While many of their services focus on real estate, they do also have accounts specifically geared toward setting up and maintaining a gold IRA.
You will fill out an application to create an account with your custodian. This application will involve basic details about your personal information, your finances, and your retirement account expectations. If you work with a gold dealership, you can ask your representative if any of the fields give you trouble. But these applications tend to be fairly straightforward, only consisting of two pages or so. It should take about ten minutes to fill out.
Once the application is submitted, you wait. Sometimes it can take up to a week for the account to be created, but the most responsive custodians typically manage it within 48 or even 24 hours.
2. Fund the Account
Now that the account exists, you need to put some money in it. You should have a sense of how much you want to spend on precious metals. Most investors recommend that you secure anywhere from 4% to 20% of your holdings in gold, depending on how secure you want your profile to be. Some people with a large portfolio will put even more than that into gold as a way to guarantee that they'll have income to live off of in retirement.
Because your account is self-directed, you don't have an investment manager picking the assets for you. Nor do you have anyone deciding what asset percentages and allocations are best. This is totally up to you. That's why it's often helpful to peruse free online guides, eBooks, and other information about precious metals investing. The more you learn, the more informed and considered your decision will be.
There are a few ways that you can fund the account. One is by making a direct contribution using your savings. Most Americans don't have enough savings to manage this, and you have to keep in mind that there's a contribution limit. The limit typically changes from year to year, but most recently it was $7,000 or $6,000 depending on the investor's age. Depending how much you want to invest, that might not be enough to cover your initial purchase.
As mentioned, if you have an existing coin collection or other gold items, you can liquidate them. Shop around for offers and make sure you check them against the spot price. Look for companies either online or locally that have a reputation for fair and honest dealings. Then, once you've been paid, you can put that money into your retirement account like a savings contribution.
The other option is to roll over some of the funds in another retirement account. For most people, this is the most viable way of funding the account. You might not have a ton of excess money in savings, but you do have extra assets that won't be accessible until you reach retirement age.
The paperwork to roll over the funds is a little more intensive and time consuming. You'll need information about your current and previous account custodians, the accounts themselves, the amount you intend to transfer, and your personal information. Then you'll need to coordinate between the custodians. All of this needs to be complete within 60 days or you'll be financially penalized for the transfer.
Plenty of people don't have time to chase down their custodians on the phone, and even more people would simply rather not. That's yet another reason why working with an experienced IRA dealership is a blessing. Your account coordinator will handle all of that for you, so you can sit back and relax. Sometimes your dealership will even waive the first year of fees for your account.
3. Buy Products
Now that the funds are in the account, you can use them to buy the precious metals of your choice. Your best bet is to talk to a representative at a reputable dealership about your options. They can discuss your goals, worries, long term risk tolerance, and other important factors.
Some of the things they might take into account in their recommendations are the available products in their inventory, the best price for gold by weight, the best price for gold by quality, the easiest products to liquidate, the products with the most staying power over time, and the products that are most patriotically aligned with the US.
Your goal should be to use your funds to buy gold products that you feel good about. You should be able to hold onto them for multiple years and then liquidate them without much trouble. To that end, it's a good idea to look for dealerships that have buyback programs or buyback guarantees.
Once you've chosen the products, you need to choose your depository. You have to keep your items in a secure vault that adheres to the security standards put out by the IRS. There are dozens of these vaults not just in the US, but all over the world. So you can decide which is best for you based on region, tax sheltering, or other long term planning. The Delaware Depository is the largest vault in the US and the most commonly used by top industry players.
The package will be shipped to the depository, and your custodian will receive it. Once they've inspected its contents and confirmed the authenticity, they will place the items in your account. You'll receive ongoing updates and reports about the value of the holdings.
Our Top Gold IRA Companies
If you want a company that will coordinate your entire account creation and purchase process, you want Goldco. Their experts handle all of the third party communication, so you literally never need to talk to a single person except for your dedicated representative.
An alternative for those with some extra money to spend is Augusta Precious Metals. If you meet their minimum of $50,000, you'll get streamlined setup services, plus you'll have a lifetime of customer support. This includes newsletters, insights, market warnings, and answers to any questions whenever you want.
We also really like American Hartford Gold, especially for people on a budget. They will set up and streamline your account process totally for free, and there isn't even a minimum investment requirement. The only potential drawback is that their inventory tends to be a little more limited.
If you are looking to invest, don't forget to checkout our highest recommended companies!
Currently our #1 recommendation is offering up to $10,000 in free silver!