This Wednesday saw the official opening of the world’s first permanent gold-dispensing vending machine. Created by German company TG Gold-Super-Markt, the GOLD To Go ATM is located (unsurprisingly) in the lavish Emirates Palace Hotel, in Abu Dhabi. Gold has strengthened 13 percent in 2010 following nine straight annual gains, so now when hotel guests want to exchange their cash for something a little more economically-stable, they won’t have to bother with gold store clerks or business hours.

A computer inside the ATM keeps track of gold prices in real time, and prices its gold accordingly. Because it has less overhead costs than a store, TG Gold-Super-Markt claims the machine is able to offer “very competitive prices.” Besides dispensing 24-carat gold bars in 1, 5 and 10 gram sizes, the ATM also offers gift boxes of gold coins bearing symbols such as the Krugerrand, a maple leaf, or a kangaroo - perhaps market research showed that South Africans, Canadians and Australians like gold? Interestingly, there’s no American eagle.

The machine is finished in gold leaf, making it a “gold vending machine” in more ways than one. It has all the features of regular vending machines, including a touchscreen, cash and card slots, and an illuminated showcase. To keep it from being used for money-laundering, any one user can only access it three times within 24 hours, and must then take a 48 hour break. For purchases over 1,000 €, a scan of the user’s personal identification is required.

The Gold To Go ATM was field-tested in Germany before being installed in the Emirates Palace. TG Gold-Super-Markt plans to install up to 200 more machines in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

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