NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- Gold prices popped $17 Thursday, which has many investors wondering if it's too late to invest in gold.

Gold prices -- which are trading at $1,216 an ounce -- have climbed more than 8% year to date, with many analysts predicting a big rally in September. Frank Holmes, CEO of U.S. Global Investors, says gold prices historically move 2.5% higher as India and China enter their wedding and festival seasons, which boosts gold jewelry demand.

Many predict analysts gold prices can rise to their inflation-adjusted price of $2,300 within a few years. Others like author Mike Maloney argue that gold will cover all the money in circulation, including credit, and climb to $15,000 an ounce. Some are more conservative. Scott Redler, chief strategic officer of T3Live.com, is looking for $1,300 gold while James Rogers is looking for prices at $2,000.

Despite intermittent profit-taking as investors look to sell gold to raise cash, the trend points to long term four-digits prices. "Every day we stay above $1,000 the stronger that floor becomes," says David Morgan, founder of Silver-Investor.com. "I just don't see gold with all this going on in the markets right now, worldwide, globally getting below the $1,000 level. I think high prices are there to stay."

Not all analysts are gold bugs. If you take out the speculation in gold, many analysts believe gold is worth $800 an ounce.

Michael Crook, vice president and strategist at Barclays Wealth, believes that prices will fall to $800 once the crisis premium comes out of the market, and investors buy equities rather than gold.

Regardless of gold's price range, most portfolio managers recommend an investor have 3%-10% in gold. More bullish managers recommend an allocation as high as 20%.

There are many ways to buy gold. For most, investing in gold isn't a quick trade, but insurance. It's a hedge against inflation, currency debasement, and global uncertainty. Here are the top four ways you can invest.

1. Gold Bullion

Buy physical gold at various prices: coins, bars and jewelry. Some of the most popular gold coins are American Buffalo, American Eagle and St. Gauden's. You can store gold in bank safety deposit boxes or in your home. You can also buy and sell gold at your local jewelers. Other companies like Kitco.com allow you to store gold with them as well as trade the metal.

When you buy gold coins or bullion, avoid big premiums. You want to buy gold as close to the spot price as possible, or a 10% premium at most. The higher the premium, the higher the gold price will have to rise in order for you to profit.

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