We study the adsorption behaviors of rhodamine dyes on gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) depending on their surface charges. Rhodamine 6G (Rh6G) dye is tested comparatively for positively and negatively charged Au NPs prepared by the reduction of chitosan and citric acid, respectively. The adsorption of Rh6G is found to be weaker on the positively charged Au NPs, whereas more substantial aggregation is found on negatively charged Au NPs. An increase in the concentration of Au NPs enhances the surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) intensities only for the Au(−) NPs, whereas the Au(+) NPs do not exhibit any strong SERS signals. Our findings suggest that SERS and reciprocal fluorescence measurements of Rh6G can be used to estimate the surface charges and atomic percentages of Au NPs less than ∼5 ppm. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.