Who to Believe When it Comes to Getting the Gold (Part 2)

The question "Who can you believe" is just as appropriate to the small-scale gold mining community as it in the world at large. There's lots of mining-related info out there, but cutting your way through all the hype and hustle is not always as easy as it seems.

3) Be wary of those who "salt the works." I don't want to get into a protracted discussion here (yet again!) about the phonies who spice up their TV shows, YouTube videos, or DVDs by making false representations of their gold finds and recoveries. Just know this...these types are definitely out there. Why they choose to salt the works is open for debate but I suspect it has to do with money first and ego second. What other reasons are there? Oh, "Educating the unwashed masses" you say? Perhaps, but I doubt most of those doing the hustling and hyping are that altruistic at heart. My advice? If you are committed to learning as many of the "ins and outs" of small-scale gold mining as you can, these sorts of venues may be fun to watch on occasion, but they aren't going to further your knowledge much. Even if they did, they still present such an unrealistic and over-dramatized view of mining in general as to be borderline absurd. My advice? Avoid them if you can and if you can't (like the proverbial moth drawn to the flame) keep a jaundiced eye peeled.

The Good News

OK, so much for warnings. Now it's time to talk about what's good out there when it comes to mining-related info...and yes, there is lots of good too. Let's take a look:


Honestly speaking, I haven't purchased a new gold mining or prospecting book since the early-to-mid 1990s. It's not that good ones haven't been written since then, but I'm somewhat biased when it comes to my own knowledge and mining experience, not-with-standing the fact I still intend to write the "Mother of all gold mining books" at some point down the road. Anyway, here are some worthwhile print efforts from past days:

Gold Prospector's Handbook (by Jack Black, sells for around $12.00 USD):

Despite the fact it was written 26 years ago this is still one of the best basic treatises on gold prospecting and mining that ever came down the pike. The author knows his stuff and says what needs to be said without hype or hyperbole. One of my favorites back in the day, I highly recommend this book for novice gold miners and prospectors as well as those who already have journeyman skills.

Bacon and Beans from a Gold Pan (by George Hoeper as told by Jesse Coffey, sells for around $20.00 USD if you can still find a mass-produced copy. Otherwise you'll pay dearly for this out-of-print gem.):

This revealing little book is an absolute classic and a must for any gold prospector or miner's library. Those of you who've always been curious about what it takes to make a living at small-scale gold mining have a very good answer here, albeit in an era in the United States when you could still access many gold areas and even build a cabin nearby. Depression-era "down and outers" Jesse and Dot Coffey left the big city soup lines for the Motherlode of California determined to make a go of small-scale mining come hell or high water. In the end they not only managed to put "bacon and beans" on the table but emerged from one of the harshest economic climates in American history with their heads held high.

The Tertiary Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California (by Waldemar Lindgren, sells for around $20.00 USD in paperback or as much as $400.00 USD for a hard-bound copy like the one I have in my mining library.)

This scientific study by the famed geologist was published in the early part of the 1900s but remains the "go-to" treatise when it comes to Tertiary gravels and the gold they contain. Although Lindgren's focus was in Northern California at the time, this book applies to most Tertiaries and is the "bible" of ancient river channel placers. I don't recommend this book for novices or for those with a limited understanding of gold geology, but once you've moved forward a bit in your mining knowledge and expertise, this great work should find a secure spot on your bookshelf.

Follow the Drywashers, Successful Drywashing, Nuggetshooting Dryplacer Areas, Advanced Prospecting and Detecting for Hard-Rock Gold, Magnificent Quest (by Jim Straight, sell for anywhere from $9.95 USD to $30.00 USD.)

They don't come any nicer or "straighter" than Jim Straight...he's one hell of a good guy as well as one of the most knowledgeable old timers out there. Trained as a mining engineer, Jim has been at this mining thing since the mid-to-late 1950s and he's an expert when it comes to gold ores and how to get desert gold. Some of his works are in pamphlet form and despite their brevity they are chock full of solid info. Other works are compilations or in full book form. It's been a while since Jim and I exchanged mining pleasantries, but he represents all that's good about gold prospecting and mining (that's very high praise coming from a hard-ass like me!). Good, solid info from a real old-school gentleman who always has time for you.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (by B. Traven, sells as cheaply as $4.00 USD in paperback and up to $20.00 USD for a hardbound copy.)

The best adventure, treasure hunting, and gold prospecting/mining novel ever written, bar none. B. Traven roamed the oil fields and mining regions of Old Mexico back in the 1920s and 1930s and wrote some excellent short stories and novels about what he saw, experienced, and knew in a realistic, straight-forward, and somewhat sarcastic style. Later adapted into a must-see movie starring Walter Huston and Humphrey Bogart, this book tells the tale of two Depression-era "down and outers" who decide to become novice gold miners and eventually team up with a crusty old timer who, after much travail and hard work, puts them onto the riches they dreamed about. This novel has it all...action, adventure, greed, betrayal, insanity, murder...oh, and let's not forget gold!

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. Thank JR, Most of the books I've found go on and on about how to pan for gold,then fill in the rest with useless info. The ones that are not that way use ten dollar words and are so confusing you can't understand what they are talking about. If you can....you don't need that book! I have found very few that are worth looking at. One of the better ones,(and the last one I've bought) is by Dave McCracken "Gold Mining in the 21st Century". Covers most of the good stuff and it doesn't take a PHD to understand it! On a personal note, that trouble I told you about...They have postponed it another 60 days! I'll have ulcers long before that.....I'll let ya know how it pans out....Thanks again Gary

    1. Dave Mack's New 49ers prospecting club is pricy but he gives good value for the money. So no doubt his most recent book is a good one as are his dredging videos/DVDs. Keep me posted on the other BS Gary... J.R.

  2. Jim, After watching the many of the newer "Gold" shows....now very popular on TV with many a novice, it's not hard to figure out the end of that shows episode..is it?

    Again in my TV broadcast career working behind the scenes...we knew what had to be done. We were ultimately responsible to sell advertisement slots and find sponsors.....so we could continue the show. More viewers....cause higher prices...attract sponsors....increases revenue. It's that simple. How do you think they can give the hosts the money to buy the outrageous equipment we have seen over the last few years? It wasn't from what showed up in the bottom of the pan...now was it?

    I remember a popular host of a current "Gold" show telling me...he wasn't a miner...he was an "ad" salesman. Sad but true! Fishing / Hunting shows are just as bad.

    So in order to attract more viewers....and ultimately sell more "ads"...we would do whatever needed to be done....including "salting" the pan...or the sluice box for the camera. Now this show makes money by attracting "newbie" miners to their club and their prospecting sites....of course located all across this great land of ours. The inside joke was...."we were making T.V. here....not mining". Sad as it is...it's the bold truth...as you explained above.
    So...suspicious minds...your correct. Don't quote me as I don't want a lawsuit...but it's all true.

    Now let me state....NOT EVERYONE is this business is "money hungry". There are great clubs and organizations...and they have their place in our community. Don't get me wrong. Just look with a jaundiced eye alright!

    Love the books and recommended reading above... have a couple will pick up the rest at your trusted suggestion. Just my thoughts and observations...hope it helps all of your readers! Be safe out there!

  3. Thanks much for the terrific comments and great insight here. You've validated what I long suspected. I also agree that not ALL miners sell out this way...thank God for small favors in that regard! Yes, I guess I'm still an idealist and purist when it comes to all things mining. Therein lies my problem. Best, J.R.

  4. JR, WELL....I bet I can guess what show he is talking about! In a way you can't blame them though, who's going to watch a show about gold mining that dosn't find any gold? It is misleading,and a bit dishonest even, but I understand the "why" behind it. The bad thing is that when new folks don't find as much as easy, they are more likely to quit. Adios, Gary

  5. All things said and done Gary, real miners never give up...it's in their blood. I understand their frustration, but newbies who give up the ghost without sticking it out over the long haul don't really have color in their veins. True...Best to you, J.R.

  6. If it is only about finding gold to make a house payment you will give up. As we all know that is hard to do. But if you love the land and the history, the gold will just be a bonus. The real gold will be the friendships developed along the way.


Post a Comment