There are a number of physical formats you can consider when buying gold:
As a general rule, you should look at buying legal tender gold coins wherever possible. This will almost certainly include less overhead and premium than other formats, and be closer to the true spot price of gold.
Purchasing rare gold coins should be avoided unless you really know what you're doing. Some subjective measures of value are easy to misjudge, and may result in you getting taken advantage of.
Gold owned through a commodities exchange, or "on paper" is no substitute for physical bars, coins, or jewelry. Exchanges are heavily leveraged, which means if everyone tried to "cash out" at once, there isn't enough physical metal to go around.
Moreover, precious metals are typically meant as a hedge against the complete collapse of the traditional banking infrastructure. If you wind up needing it, you'll want to have it close at hand!
Buying gold on credit or speculating on the future price can lead to getting yourself in a significant financial jam.
Instead, put some money to the side that you're sure you're not going to need in a short time horizon, and use that to invest.
Having liquid gold on-hand and ready in the event of a crisis is the best hedge. Being invested in gold ETFs is fine depending on your objectives, but if you're truly hedging against unforeseen market collapses, you want physical metal in your possession.