Turning the Mining Behavior of the Old Timers to Your Advantage (Part 3)

 (My hat's off to them all.)

Although very good at what they did in general, some of the mining behaviors of the old time gold prospectors and miners left opportunities that can be exploited today by those of you who are savvy and willing to put in the time and effort.

Before I get to the heart of the matter in this post, I'd like to reach back a bit and reiterate a statement I made in Bedrock Dreams some years back. Here it is, posed as a question:

"What did the old timers have that we didn't?" Good gold ground. Here in the Lower 48 as well as Alaska. It's as simple as that.

The old timers surely didn't have access to the sheer amount of gold prospecting and mining information and knowledge that we do today. Nor did they have the sort of large-and small-scale mining gear and equipment that we can bring to bear these days (when we're allowed to, that is). So never underestimate the importance of good gold ground, especially virgin ground.

Gold Prospecting 
Gold Pans
Gold Concentrators

This takes nothing away from the old timers and their abilities. Finding that good gold ground (placer or lode) and working it was not an easy task. But the old timers struggled, endured, and learned what they needed to know and after all was said and done, they paved the way for all who followed, including you and I. My hat's off to them all.

Everything's Relative

Let me remind all of you that gold prices when the old timers were doing their thing were nowhere near what they are today. During the period from 1849-1940 (which I consider the old timer period) gold prices ranged from $16.00 a troy ounce on up to $35.00 an ounce. By the way, this "high" gold price didn't show up until late in my self-designated old timer period. As you read in my previous post, in 1904 the spot price of a troy ounce of gold was only $18.96.

 (Aussie Hard-rock miners posing in front of their workings during the Victorian rush.)

Sure everything's relative and the cost of living was much lower back then, but that's a deceptive argument. You see, prospectors and miners were universally "gouged" for high dollar amounts by the dream merchants and purveyors of supplies, gear, and equipment back in the day. Want a few examples? How about:
  • $40 for a pound of coffee
  • $10 for a pound of beans
  • $16 for a can of sardines
  • $15 for a gold pan
  • $50 for a miner's pick
If you put these prices in today's terms that pound of coffee would cost you around $3,000 and that miner's pick almost $4,000. That meant the old timers had to get a lot of gold just to survive in most mining districts. It's also good to remember that they were, in essence, a "captive" audience held in bondage by their exploiters.

If you're wondering what all this has to do with tips on turning the old timers' mining behavior to your advantage, please bear with me. I'll get there eventually. What I'm attempting to do right now is educate you a tiny bit and set the stage for the real bacon and beans in my next post.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2013

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


  1. J.R. Those look like the current prices in Alaska. $10 for a gallon of milk....if you can get it. Anyway....looking forward to the next post. Thanks again....stay safe out there!

  2. Holy moly...that's exorbitant for milk, to say the least. I hear everything's more expensive up there as well. No real surprise I guess. Any way, thanks for commenting my friend. J.R.

  3. Jim, That is part of the reason my great grandad Thomas gave up looking for gold and became a hunter for the mining camps. He could sell moose meat at a good price, and it was a sure thing compared to gold....maybe. He did do some prospecting, but never found enough to make it worthwhile.....runs in the family I reckon.... Gary

  4. Well there's little doubt that those who supplied the mining camps tended to make more $$$ than the miners themselves. But don't sell yourself short on the gold thing. You never know...J.R.


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