Michael Mackay addresses importance of gold plates (even when hidden while Joseph translated).

Michael Hubbard Mackay

Michael Hubbard Mackay, Prophetic Authority: Democratic Hierarchy and the Mormon Priesthood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2020), 15-16

University of Illinois Press
Michael Hubbard Mackay, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Reading Public

[T]he gold plates themselves demonstrated Smith’s authoritative claims. The translation process legitimized the gold plates, even though they remained a hidden object; they were rarely used or even kept in the same room with Smith when he translated them through the seer stones. Because the translated words presumably appeared on the seer stones, translation could occur via the seer stones while the plates remained apart. But the mere fact of the gold plates themselves instilled confidence in Smith and his scribes that the text appearing on the stones was truly from an ancient record. As Ann Taves argues, even if they were not ancient, they still became sacred and represented something deeply important to Mormonism. Without the translation, the plates were a lump of metal, lifted and hefted by others, yet in context the plates became the object of inspiration—the proof of prophet-hood—that prompted a belief in the historical reality of the Book of Mormon text. Without the plates, the text of the Book of Mormon was nothing more than modern revelation, but the combination of the translated text, the plates, and the seer stones elevated all three, placing them in a complex relationship that knit the sacred word with an earthly physical reality.

Citations in Mormonr Qnas
Copyright © B. H. Roberts Foundation
The B. H. Roberts Foundation is not owned by, operated by, or affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.