"There's Gold in Them Thar Hills"
Over the course of my 67 years on earth I've come across collectors of all sorts and I myself have collected uncirculated U.S type coins for over 33 years now (almost as long as I've been gold mining and prospecting). There's something about collectors that's hard to pin down, but one thing is certain...once they sink their collecting teeth into something they rarely let go.
A Solid and Tangible Link
There's an entire subset of collectors out there these days whose sole interest lies in the realm of collecting old mining artifacts. In fact, "There's gold in them thar hills", if you can provide the right artifact at the right price to an avid collector. Hell, sometimes you can even name your price if the mining artifact you have for sale is rare or highly desired among collectors. So see? Gold is where you find it and where you find it isn't always lying in a streambed or dry wash or scattered along a hillside or terrace. Nope. Sometimes it comes in the form of old mining artifacts.
(Miner's tin wick can.)
What makes people collect mining artifacts? Well, if they're anything like me they have a high level of interest in mining history or history in general. After all, mining artifacts are a solid and tangible link to our past, a past replete with gold booms and busts, rich strikes and humbugs, and the best and worst of mankind's behavior. It's all there in those old mining items like tools and implements, ore carts, surveying instruments, gold pans, mining gear and equipment, candle holders, hats and helmets, carbide lamps, oil cadgers...you name it. There are also many associated items sought by collectors such as mining union badges, old signs, advertising pieces, pins, ribbons, watch fobs (especially gold watches with "nugget" fobs), safety awards, mining stock certificates, old claim paperwork, statues, commemorative items, and so on. In fact the list goes on and on and on. And each and every one of these items is worth money.
Know Your Stuff if You Buy or Sell
Just how much money is always open for debate. In most collecting realms (including coins), the two main drivers are rarity and condition. Ditto for mining artifacts. The rarer the item and the better its condition, the more money it'll be worth to a potential collector. On the other hand, a small percentage of collectors aren't happy with items that have been excessively cleaned, burnished, welded, repaired, or altered in any way and would rather have them as is...dented, rusted, missing parts...whatever. This, of course, isn't typical. Most collectors of mining artifacts want items that are in pristine natural condition or as close as they can get to that as possible. That said, however, I do know of some artifact suppliers who always refurbish their finds no matter what and sell those items to collectors who find refurbished artifacts acceptable and even desirable. A good rule of thumb? It's whatever the collector wants and how much he or she wants to pay. That's the bottom line.
(Old mine candle holder.)
Some mining artifact collectors focus solely on one type of item. For example they may only collect ore carts, or gold pans, or watch fobs. Others will only collect groups of tools or gear like old picks, shovels, or pry bars, or various types of lamps, candle holders, or any other item associated with lighting. These are what I call "cluster" collectors because they only like certain groups of mining items and don't collect every little thing that comes down the pike. Then you have the "Gimme everything you got!" type of collector who wants it all and will settle for nothing less than that. Whatever the case and whatever the type of collector, remember this key point. Collectors aren't stupid. They know what they want, how much its worth in the condition it's in, and are very aware of the many fakes and reproductions of old mining gear out there. Yep, fakes and repros are more popular these days than you might think and the potential for getting ripped off is probably higher than its ever been. So you better know your stuff if you're buying or selling mining artifacts.
What can you expect to be paid for those old mining artifacts you may have gathering dust in the shed or the garage? Well, here are a few examples:
Candle holders for illuminating mine walls: $25.00 (USD) to $50.00 if they're common and in good shape. Very rare examples of mining candle holders can go as high as $1,000.00 or more though.
"Teapot" style mine lamps typically bring about $50.00 each if they're in very good condition.
Carbide mine lamps (models from the 1920s going back in time) run about $20.00 to $40.00 each.
Ore carts are a very popular mining artifact for collectors and are very hard to find these days. Even beat-up, rusted out, and generally trashed ore carts can bring hundreds of dollars while carts in better condition can be worth thousands.
Wooden dynamite boxes start around $50.00-$70.00 and can go up from there depending on their condition.
Old mine stock certificates can vary widely in price (watch out for fakes or reproductions). A really good certificate can bring you around $30.00 to $40.00.
Blasting caps tins are highly sought after by collectors. Examples in very fine condition can bring, at minimum, $25.00 to $50.00.
Old miner's picks (double pointed ends) start around $20.00 and can be pricier depending on their age and condition.
Metal gold pans and sieves (classifiers) Start as low as $30.00 and go up from there.
So you see, gold comes in many more forms than you may have previously thought. You might want to start dusting off all those old mining artifacts you've picked up over the years...they may be worth more than that little bit of placer currently occupying space in your poke!
Best to all.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org