Know Who You're Dealing With (Part 2)

In small-scale gold mining and prospecting it's important to have a good line on the folks you deal with along the way. To that end, I have more "bewares" coming your way that will hopefully keep you from ending up on the brown end of the stick.

Beware those who would sell you what you don't need: As many of you already know, this is a recurrent theme of mine here in Bedrock Dreams. This repetition on my part has a method to its madness, so please bear that in mind as I ramble on yet again. You newbies, greenhorns, cherries, and FNGs to small-scale gold mining should pay close attention to what I have to say since you're the folks who need this info the most.

OK, when you get into this thing of ours you're gonna start buying gear. Gold pans, classifiers, metal detectors, dry washers, sluice boxes, crevicing tools, highbankers, suction dredges (where they're allowed, that is) digging tools, and every other device or system that the dream merchants can sell you. I reserve that term for certain purveyors of mining and prospecting gear, especially those who make it their life's work to sell you shit you really don't need. Why do the dream merchants do this? To get the money from your wallet into theirs. It's as simple as that. They really don't care if you NEED what they're selling you...they just want to sell you and they'll lay every bit of their honey-coated bull shit on you to get you to part with your money. Dream merchants can be found in retail and online stores, as purveyors of books and digital disks and videos, claim sellers, and even acting as the de facto leaders of certain prospecting and mining clubs. The bottom line? They're snake oil salesmen. However, to temper what I'm saying a bit, please understand that the overall "population" of dream merchants out there is small compared to the upstanding, forthright, and imminently honest mining gear purveyors and mining club honchos who form the bulk of the folks you'll come into contact with when you need mining gear. But like everything else in this life, there are some bad apples out there.

You newbs and greenhorns to small-scale gold mining and prospecting DON'T need tons of expensive gear when you're just starting out. Hell's bells folks, you gotta learn to walk before you run, right? That's why the dream merchants tend to target greenhorns or the less experienced or uninformed among us. They already know you don't know enough about mining yet to debate their sales pitches and are prime prey for hustles, over-sells, and scams. I've said it before and i'll repeat myself yet again. As a newcomer to small-scale gold mining and prospecting all you really need is a few basic items to get going and start gaining the field experience that will eventually transform you from a know-nothing into a journeyman (or woman) miner. Trust me on that. However, if you don't know who and what you're dealing with in this regard you're gonna get fleeced, sure as hell. It's the name of the game and just because you're involved in one of the most interesting and exciting outdoor pursuits that ever came down the pike, that doesn't mean everyone you meet in the mining community has your best interests in mind.

 (Don't get fleeced.)

So how do you know who's running a game on you and who's shooting you straight? Here's an answer some of you won't like. Ultimately you don't. But there are poker tells and other indicators that should raise little red flags in your mind's eye. Usually those things sound too good to be true. Buy this book or piece of gear and you'll get an ounce of gold a day. That five hundred dollar electronic box you just bought will detect gold deposits from fifty miles away. Purchase this dude's maps to ancient rivers of gold and you'll have the key to Fort Knox. Join this club or that, pay the steep fees or dues, and you'll be striking it rich in no time. Think I'm joking here? Nope. Each of these examples is based on real people and real situations that are out there right now. On the other hand, a decent seller of mining gear will try and gauge your level of experience and hook you up accordingly. At times they'll recommend that you NOT buy a certain piece of mining or prospecting equipment if they think you'll be getting in over your head buying it from them. Those are the folks you need to be dealing with, not the jerk offs who are throwing kerosene onto the gold fever fires burning brightly within you.

(Learn to manage your gold fever.)

Use your common sense. The universe gave you that common sense for a reason. Be smart, be wary, and become a excellent judge of character. Learn to cut your way through the smoke and mirrors and the overblown promises the dream merchants will throw your way. Again, most folks in small-scale gold mining community are as honest and direct as the day is long. You're in good company for the most part. But as John Wayne once said, "Life is tough but it's tougher if you're stupid."

Do your research up front and know who you're dealing with when it comes to getting what you need to mine and prospect. Save yourself pain, grief, and an empty wallet, OK?

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Excellent advice, as always. I got fleeced once on a plastic sluice box. Oh it was the best ever for those small streams and creeks, practically made the gold jump in for the small price of $65.00 in the mid 1990's. Needless to say it was garbage. I've bought 2 keene sluices since. I'd still have the original if my buddy hadn't backed over it after that third beer. Of course if I hadn't left it lying there on the ground.....lesson learned in both instances.

    As an aside I put some miners moss in the new one, and really haven't seen much improvement over the original carpet, but then again I haven't been humping near the amount of material I did 20 years ago. I'm hoping maybe this weekend or the next to give it a more thorough work out. Thanks again, Jim, for looking out for all of us small scale miners! God knows there's damn few who will rise to the task! It is appreciated!


  2. JR, you are so right on this one! There are all sorts of "New and Improved", "Latest and Greatest" gadgets out there it boggles the mind. Some are really good ideas, some are not. All too often, they are designed to catch the "gold" in your pocket more than in the ground. Lots of odd looking gold pans of all shapes and sizes.....all promise to "find more gold" The truth of it is, that gold being so heavy, is not that hard to keep in a pan. An old tin plate will work just as good as the fancy, high teck, new and improved plastic one.....if you know what you are doing. You can't find anything if it's not there. That is the reason these things sell. It is easy to blame your equipment and not yourself or the ground you are working. My homemade road sign sluice catches as much gold as my friend's Keene. My old tin pan works as well as his plastic one too. At the end of the day each of us have about the same amount of gold. This is not limited to prospecting either. As you know, I hunt and trap fur in the winter months. Coyotes are one of my favorite animals and I only hunt them when the pelts are prime. Again, you can't get them if they are not there. I have talked myself into new rifles and that magic coyote call, or bottle trapping lure, time after time. Truth of it is, any of my guns would work just fine and that new magic call isn't any different then the other two dozen that promised to "Bring 'em running". Same with the trapping lure. If you want to know the truth,....I've called more coyotes with my dog's squeaky toy than those high priced calls!!


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