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Boca Raton's Gold Machine: The Rainbow Ends Here

Meris Kott has a thing for gold.

The Boca Raton woman wonders if her daughter would like gold for her birthday. She studies gold use in other countries. She's got one of those old-timed gold obsessions we hear about in stories -- in which pirates whisper there be GOLD -- but rarely see manifested in contemporary life.

And now, Kott, 53, has taken her zest for gold and made it tangible, recently opening the first American credit card-operated gold vending machine in the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton. It's a quest, she says, to bring gold to the American common man. People crowd around it, she says, and coo: "Wow. Gold."

But these aren't customers, she says -- they're investors.

"The affluent investor may buy a small trinket," she said. "It may be a present. Or a souvenir, or an investment. But this isn't only for the affluent investor."

Maybe. Maybe not.

The most inexpensive item the machine offers is a small one-gram gold bar for $99. While the most-expensive hunk costs $799. Unlike an earlier German-made iteration, which also sat in the Boca mall but only took cash, this thing takes Visa.

The idea was very intentional. "The machine was not very good for the American public. It was a cash machine, and we live in the United States and here cash creates the idea, 'Where did you get that cash?' "

Kott expressed confidence that her gold machine, which screams GOLD on its side, will attract lots of support. So far, roughly 20 customers have bought her gold every day she said, declining to discuss profits. "We're a publicly-traded company," she said.

Gold, Kott said, has lost its relevance in modern American life. India, for example, swims in the stuff. The Indian government recently announced fresh taxes on importing gold to capitalize on the booming market -- and last week, traders sucked up 30 metric tons of gold in a race to beat out the duties.

But in America (unless you're a Ron Paul supporter), gold is antiquated. "If my daughter received gold as a birthday present, she would say, 'Where can I turn this in and put it on my debit card.'"

So will Kott's gold machine bring back gold? She says the economic trials of today might do most of the work for her.

"If you had gold during the recession, you would have been fine," she said. "You can't go bankrupt with gold."

Follow the writer @terrence_mccoy.

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Terrence McCoy

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