Precious metals are more popular than ever these days. Not convinced? The country’s first gold ATM just started dispensing bullion today. If you want to be a part of this run, forget buying your own coins or bars. Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are one of the easiest ways to get your exposure.

More and more frequently, I’m being approached by investors who want to know just one thing: how do I buy gold?

A slew of physically-backed metals ETFs have come to market this year, both in the United States and abroad. Why providers are lining up to launch them and investors are in line to snap them up is an easy question to answer: there is simply no easier way to own precious metals.

Case in point: if you choose to buy bars yourself, you’ll have to store them for safekeeping and pay any related costs. Buying an ETF with a similar amount of exposure, on the other hand, involves one thing: buying the ETF. Storage, security and transfer of the metals is all handled for you. [We Compare the Gold ETFs.]

You can certainly go the route of owning coins or bullion yourself, but if you want convenience with your exposure to spot prices, then consider an ETF. Investors have to get past the notion that owning the gold yourself is the only viable option, because the premium you pay to do so isn’t worth it. [Gettting Exposure to Metals With ETFs.]

For now, physically-backed ETFs are restricted to the precious metals space. A number of providers have physical aluminum and copper funds in registration, though, so this segment of the ETF space could see even more growth in 2011:

  • SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD)
  • iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV)
  • iShare COMEX Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU)
  • ETFS Physical Platinum (NYSEArca: PPLT)
  • ETFS Physical Palladium (NYSEArca: PALL)
  • ETFS Physical Swiss Gold (NYSEArca: SGOL)
  • ETFS Physical Silver (NYSEArca: SIVR)

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.