Those looking at the AMEX's biggest percentage gainers today will notice five gold stocks: Bema Gold (AMEX:BGO), Gold Reserve (AMEX:GRZ), Golden Star Resources (AMEX:GSS), Wheaton River Minerals (AMEX:WHT), and Cambior (AMEX:CBJ). What's up? Well, gold's up.

Trading for $410.40 an ounce, gold is up $3.40 for the day and up 5.2% over the last year -- and 4% below the March 31 multiyear closing high of $427.90 an ounce.

What is interesting is that all these stocks are far from their 52-week highs. In fact, except for Wheaton River making its 52-week high on the same day that gold peaked in March, all the others peaked in early December after gold had risen steadily for two and a half years.

From its 52-week high, Wheaton River is down the least -- 22%. But this is not the old days when gold stocks sold for unbelievable price-to-earnings ratios because investors were hoping for much higher gold prices. Wheaton River trades for a reasonable 13 times earnings.

The biggest percentage loser, at 44%, is Golden Star -- the cash-rich member of the group. Although there are many news events that could account for the previous peak and today's lower price, the news here is similar to that of Wheaton River. Based on the 2005 earnings estimates of the six analysts who follow the company, the stock is trading at a less-than-stratospheric 24 times forward earnings.

Not surprising is that the only exploration company in the group, Gold Reserve, is down a sharp 40%. When gold prices make new highs, exploration companies soar. When gold is churning below a high, as it is now, the glow of exploration riches can and does fade.

The quality name in gold, Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), is still expensive. Newmont trades for 40 times trailing earnings and 33 times 2005 estimates. Even Canadian giant Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX), with only 16% of its production hedged, trades for 48 times 2005 estimates.

Here is the bottom line: If the world's problems are making you itch to own the yellow metal, the second-tier companies on the AMEX are value priced even after today's gains.

For more that glitters, see:

For those wanting to discuss more than gold, try the Mining and Metals discussion board. For those looking to talk stocks, there are Wheaton River and Newmont -- and thousands of other stocks -- on The Motley Fool discussion boards.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.