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When I was little, it was fairly common to get US Savings Bonds from relatives. It introduced me to savings, financial instruments, and the idea of delayed gratification. I know there are 529 plans, a rather cumbersome "replacement" method via treasurydirect.gov, and other arduous methods (trusts, custodial accounts, etc).

In 2012, the US Treasury stopped issuing paper bonds. Before that, you could go into most banks and simply buy a savings bond in someone else's name, hand it to them with their birthday card, and that was that.

Is there any type of bond (or similar instrument), held as paper, and redeemed rather simply? Buying a tangible and appreciating investment seems so much better than some cash or consumer gift card. I'm aware of the risks to things like bearer bonds, but I think in my case the issue is moot. Any physical asset would share the same risks.

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If you use your tax refund to buy them, you can still get paper I bonds.

https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds_ibuy.htm

Also look for form 8888 from www.irs.gov.

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