Gold ETFs

Humans have been hoarding shiny flecks of gold for ages, but investors are beginning to shift from physically stashing away gold under their mattress to gold-related exchange traded funds.

U.S. Mint’s gold-coin sales have fallen to 753,000 an ounce, or 25% lower from 2011, reports Myra P. Saefong for MarketWatch. It was the third straight year of declines.

In contrast, golds in global gold exchange traded products rose about 44% over the past three years as investors sought an easy way to hedge against inflation, the falling dollar or even a breakdown in the financial system. [Gold ETFs Could Strengthen Ahead of Chinese New Year]

The demand for gold futures has also lifted gold prices to their 12th consecutive annual gain. Gold currently sits at about $1,680 an  ounce. Consequently, some observers believe that the higher cost of gold has constrained physical gold coin hoarders. It was much easier to buy gold coins when gold was a couple of hundred bucks.

On the other hand, investors can now choose among a variety of physically-backed gold ETFs, including SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), iShares COMEX Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU), ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL) and ETFS Physical Asian Gold Shares (NYSEArca: AGOL).