Note: This article was originally published May 31, 2015 and updated May 5, 2016.
Gold's alluring characteristics have fixated mankind for centuries. The precious metal's strength is such that it can resist attacks from acid and it is resistant to corrosion. Because of this, it maintains its glistening shine, which catches the eye. It's a powerful combination that led the metal to become a holder of wealth throughout the centuries.
It has also become a popular metal with investors, who seek it out to hedge against inflation and create more wealth. Investors these days actually have several options to profit from what many expect to be a continued long-term rise in the price of gold, which, until recently, had risen steadily for more than a decade:
Here are four of the best gold stocks to invest in for those looking to ride a potential rebound in the price of gold.
The gold standard
There are two main ways to invest in gold. An investor can invest directly in the physical metal or seek to profit alongside the companies that dig it up. One of the best ways to invest in the metal itself, aside from buying gold bars and locking them in a safe, is to buy the gold standard in gold exchange-traded funds: SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEMKT:GLD).
The SPDR Gold Trust's only asset is gold bullion, so it tracks the performance of the price of gold minus the Trust's expenses. It provides investors with a secure, liquid, cost-effective, transparent, and flexible way to invest in gold. That combination makes it an easy way to gain exposure to the movement in the price of gold.
Mining for gold
The other option investors have is to invest in a gold mining stock, which can offer leveraged upside to gold prices. The leading gold producer is Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD), which produced more than six million ounces of gold last year. That's more than a million ounces ahead of the No. 2 gold producer, Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM). As the two largest gold producers, both have the size and scale an investor would want in a gold mining stock, making them among the best ones to invest in for upside to gold prices.
Both companies have their strengths and weaknesses. Barrick Gold's greatest strength lies in its high-grade reserve base. As the slide below shows, its core mines have nearly double the reserve grade of its competitors, including Newmont Mining.
Meanwhile, Newmont Mining's strength lies in its industry-leading debt metrics, with its net debt-to-EBITDA less than 1.5 times, while its competitor average is more than 2.0 times.
The downside of miners is the cost overruns the industry is known for when building new mines. Barrick Gold has been particularly stung by costs in the past. For example, its Pascua-Lama mine cost the company $5 billion so far, but has been mothballed due to weak gold prices. Meanwhile, Newmont's production costs are higher as its all-in sustaining costs were about $898 per ounce last year, well above Barrick's $831 per ounce.
All of that said, both offers leveraged upside to the price of gold thanks to their potential to grow gold production.
Streaming for gold
Gold bugs do have a third option to invest in gold, which is similar to gold mining stocks, but without the risks that come from cost overruns. This option is to invest in gold streaming company Sandstorm Gold (NYSEMKT:SAND).
The company owns a portfolio of 134 royalties and streams, of which 20 of the underlying mines are currently producing gold, providing it with cash flow as a non-operating gold producer. What Sandstorm and other streaming companies do is put up an up-front investment in a gold mine development in exchange for the right to buy the future gold production at a fixed price. This gives streaming companies like Sandstorm Gold access to low-cost gold, so it can enjoy the upside from gold prices without the downside from cost overruns.
Investors in a gold streaming company like Sandstorm benefit not only from rising gold prices, but also rising gold production from the investment in new mines. This gives investors leveraged upside, much like gold miners, but without the downside from cost overruns.
Gold investors really have a lot of solid options to choose from depending on their preference. Those seeking pure upside from gold prices need to look no further than the gold standard in gold ETFs. Meanwhile, investors looking for leveraged upside could choose to invest in one of the top gold producers, or go with a gold streaming company. All offer different levels of risk and reward, but each puts investors in a position to capture the upside to the price of gold.
Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.