Ultimately, Size Doesn't Matter

I know what you're thinking and you're about to school me up on the fact that just the opposite is true! But despite the suggestive title of this post, I'm not here to talk about anything else but small-scale gold mining. You see, when it comes to getting the gold size really doesn't matter.

 Common Sense

The easiest way I can present my case in this regard is by simply stating a phrase I've used countless times during my small-scale mining career: "I'd rather recover an ounce of fine gold than a five-gram nugget any day of the week." This may sound like heresy to some of you because coarse gold, "chunkers," and nuggets are typically the most sought-after forms of placer gold by small-scale miners everywhere in the world. I have to agree that finding larger pieces of placer gold, including nuggets, is one of the most exciting and satisfying results you can experience as a small-scale miner. Hell, I still remember when I found my very first placer nugget (over 30 years ago, by the way). It was a great, great day for me and I felt I'd reached a real milestone in my prospecting and mining career. I've found quite a few nuggets since that time and there's no doubt they're always beautiful to look at and heft in your sweaty palm, but size is not the main qualifier or driver for what you do. Or at least it shouldn't be. Although it may not be as exciting to recover and look at, that ounce vial full of fine gold is, from a strictly dollars and cents standpoint, much more valuable than that five-gram nugget I mentioned earlier. You may (or may not) know this but quality is not much of a factor in small-scale gold mining since only larger and rare placer nuggets can be sold for premium prices as specimens to private collectors or museums. The larger or more unique a nugget is in shape, the greater the price it will eventually command. But, having sold a number of my larger nuggets as specimens or to jewelers, I can tell you that road takes a lot of time and energy, and will try your patience accordingly. But if I need to pay the bills or upgrade my equipment, I want QUANTITY, not quality. I also want gold in a form that will make it easy for me to "cash in" and do those things I just mentioned. All in all, it's just common sense, right?

 (All things considered, I'll take lots of fine gold.)

Name of the Tune

The point I'm attempting to make here applies to greenhorns and newbies, as well as to some miners with reasonable amounts of experience under their belts. Fixation on size can be a real hindrance at times in your mining efforts and if not that, well...it becomes something akin to a delusional obsession. Sure, you should always "go for the gold" but the truth of the matter is that a troy ounce of fine gold is just as valuable as a troy ounce of nuggets (unless you can sell those nuggets at a premium). From a gold buyer's standpoint there is absolutely no difference at all between that ounce of fine gold and that ounce's worth of small nuggets. Nuggets or fines, you're gonna get paid the same per troy ounce melt value by most, if not all, buyers. That's the name of that tune. On the other hand and all things being nearly equal, if I had my 'druthers, I'd rather be pulling in lots of coarse gold and nuggets to fill those vials or jars simply because the troy ounces rack up faster with heavier gold than with fine or flour gold (unless you're digging or dredging that fine gold by the shitload). You see, it's all relative in the final analysis. Nuggets and coarse gold are certainly more exciting finds for a small-scale guy or gal, but I have absolutely NOTHING against finding copious amounts of fine gold instead. And if you examine your own small-scale mining career honestly and carefully, you'll have to admit that the majority of the gold you've recovered has been small, as opposed to large in size. Correct? Now don't try to bullshit me (or yourself). You know this is true. Sure, there are certain spots or locations that contain larger or coarser placer gold as opposed to fine or small stuff, but those types of small-scale mining heavens are rare indeed and if you own a claim like this or are working this sort of ground, hang on to it for dear life. Chances are, however, that this isn't the case for most of you out there.

 (Nuggets sure are pretty though...)

The Implication?

I'm probably going to piss someone off here (and ladies forgive me), but what the hell. I've never been known for my diplomacy with others. You know, just because some folks drive one of those huge "Ram tough," (or Chevy or Ford) pick-up trucks with over-sized tires, cab exhaust stacks, hitches and winches, and welded steel screens to protect the cab's rear window doesn't mean their pee-pees are bigger than the next guy's. By the way, that seems to be the implication here in Northern New Mexico where I live. The bigger and badder the pick up you drive, the more macho you are...even if you're barely over five feet in height and need a step ladder to climb down from the truck cab. Again, that's the area I'm in, which is sometimes known as the Appalachia of the Southwest, a reflection of the least attractive aspects of this otherwise beautiful locale. Anyhoo, big-dick truck or not, size doesn't really matter when it comes to small-scale gold mining.

What does matter? I could say quantity over quality again, but what truly matters is what sort of miner and person you are.

There it is...

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

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


  1. I'm with you J.R., I have a claim up in one of the old hydraulic mines in sierra county cali and the first thing people ask me is "did you get any nuggets" I tell them no and am just happy to get a few grams of fines as from my understanding the majority of gold from those mines was fine gold. I do get a couple of nice pickers every now and then but I'll take what I can get. Glad you're back on line. Ray T.

  2. Aesthetically, I actually have a preference for the small flakes in vials than sizable nuggets. One thing I might add is that I think a bystander who happened upon your activity or someone who saw your find would not be as impressed with a vial of flakes, but might get a little daring if they saw you or heard you had a nugget. That might be an entirely different topic worth tackling. I love promoting my hobby of coin collecting, but there are certain people you don't share it with or tell it to.

  3. I'd rather have it coming in quantity. Nuggets are beautiful but are scarce. I'd take an ounce of fines versus one half nugget any day of any week.


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