The Madness of Pay Dirts and ROI

I want to take another break in the lode gold series since the material in that series of posts can be a bit humdrum, albeit informative. At least that's my read. In this post I'll be talking in general terms about "pay dirts" know those gold concentrates sold on eBay and by various other sellers and online merchants.
The Nature of the Game

I have to admit I have pretty mixed feelings about purchased pay dirts in general. In truth, the only types of pay dirts I'm truly interested in are the ones I mine myself. Have I ever purchased a pay dirt bag? Yes. One Christmas I bought a two-pound bag from Alaska for my son to pan when he was a little guy (he's now 26, a father, and not much into mining like his old man is). Although my son enjoyed panning out his gold, buying that pay dirt bag wasn't a very cost-effective purchase on my part. In fact, the return on my investment (ROI) from a monetary standpoint was downright disappointing.  But hey! Isn't that the nature of the game? Any seller of goods or services has a righteous expectation to make a profit, even if that profit ends up being a bit outrageous at times. Or, in other words, a borderline rip off. That fact stated, the ROI in terms of the excitement on my son's face when he panned that pay dirt out was priceless, however. So that's the sum total of my experience with buying pay dirts. In other words, I'm no expert reviewer as so many seem to be on venues like good ol' YouTube.

 (Just look at the concentration on those young faces!)

On the Up and Up for the Most Part

If you do a quick search on YouTube for pay dirt reviews you're probably going to be surprised by how many hits you'll get. I know I was. Many of these good folks call themselves prospectors, miners, or allude to the fact they have some sort of gold mining related enterprise going on. Whether their claims (no pun intended!) are factual or not I can't say. Nor can I state with absolute certainty that they have mining and prospecting experience. All of this is OK in a general sense...after all, you don't have to have 40 years worth of mining experience and be an old burn out like me to pan a bag of pay dirt you bought on eBay. It is what it is. Undoubtedly there are probably a few "shills" in the works on YouTube as well but that's only another assumption on my part. You know, the super-positive and enthusiastic dude who buys a certain brand of pay dirt, opens it up before your eyes, gets all sorts of gold from it, and then waxes poetic about this particular brand of pay dirt being the absolute best gold producer in the known universe. For the most part, however, the majority of the reviews I've seen on YouTube seem to be on the up and up, with some pay dirt brand names producing a pretty decent (but always negative) ROI and others failing miserably in that regard.

(A pan of "unsearched" pay dirt.)

It's ROI Madness!

One thing you'll pick up on very quickly with these online pay dirt reviews is the total fixation of the reviewers on the ROI they get from various brands. This is as to be expected since you want to get a gold amount as close to the price you paid for that pay dirt bag (plus shipping) as is humanly possible. But here's the thing that drives me crazy about all this. If you were truly concerned about getting the best possible return on any investment you make you'd be aiming for the black ink, not the red! In other words, I'm not going to invest $100.00 (USD) to get an absolute certain return of $60.00 or $80.00. That's sheer financial madness in my book. I want that $100.00 investment to at least bring me back a dollar or two, right? So all this reviewer talk about ROI is, in essence, just an exercise in futility since it's a foregone conclusion that they're gonna come up short each and every time they buy a bag of pay dirt. It's full-on craziness from a ROI standpoint, and making videos and talking like an expert about ROI ain't gonna change that fact. To me, it's just silly, if not plain stupid. Imagine a stockbroker or investment counselor trying to "turn you on" to an investment that can only produce a negative ROI! I saw one video where a young guy paid $1000 for some sort of so-called "nugget bucket" of pay dirt and received a princely gold ROI of between 400.00-$500.00! Lord above help us all...

(ROI? Hell, you might be better off playing a slot machine.)

It's All About "Other" Things

Yes, you're absolutely right. There is another dynamic to all this. It's the dynamic that I mentioned about my son at the beginning of this post and it has nothing to do with ROI but with other things. Things like some old timer ensconced in a wheel chair who can no longer get out there and do his (or her) thing dry washing, panning, sniping, or dredging. Things like a child's eyes lighting up when they spot the first glimmer of gold in the pan from the pay dirt bag Mom or Dad bought them. Or things like some average Jane or Joe who doesn't want to be a full-on miner but really wants to try their hand at gold panning. Or any number of other things of a similar nature. It's all good in that regard because you aren't crazily obsessing about an ROI that really doesn't exist in practical terms in the first place.

And finally, even though I realize getting an idea about the amount of gold contained in a given pay dirt bag can be useful to some folks, anyone who goes on and on about ROI being something meaningful in these pay dirt review vids needs to have their head examined.

 (Get that thing examined before it blows up on you.)

There! I finally said it. Now I'll await the inevitable backlash!

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. As far as I can see Jim, you are 100 percent right on this. Selling anything for less than it's worth would be stupid, yet selling something for more than it's worth, is pretty smart. I would not be surprised either if certain folks with the ability to "spread the word" don't get an extra pinch or nugget thrown in. If someone doubles their money on a $100 bag.....that's pretty cheap advertising, provided he will spread the word near and far. Soapy Smith had that figured out!
    Outside of the things you mentioned, like getting kids interested in prospecting, someone that is trying to learn to pan, and not confident in it, this could be well worth the price as a confidence booster. They could practice just as well with lead shot, but maybe they don't know that, or just want to try the real thing.
    Personally, I'll stick to the creeks, but if folks want to buy this, more power to 'em!
    And as for the folks selling it, that $1,300 an ounce price just jumped to $2,000 an ounce. As long as they are fairly honest with the way they advertise it, I don't have a problem with that either.

    1. You know your mining history Gary! For those that don't know this,"Soapy" Smith was a gold boom town hustler and con man until his karma got leveled in a shootout on a Skagway wharf! Like yourself, I don't have a real issue with the pay dirt thing...only with this BS talk about ROI.

  2. Learning about literal paydirt.

  3. I was amazed the first time I attended a "gold show" convention. Paydirt was for sale everywhere, seemed like just about every other booth was hawking it. The only thing more prominent than the bagged concentrates was the raffle tickets! As Muskrat mentioned I'm surprised one of these paydirt brands doesn't advertise something like 1 out of 5 bags has double gold or something of the sort. Combining the appeal of pay dirt and the raffle ticket draw.

  4. You're right on with your assessment here Jacob. Some pay dirt vendors do go the route you talk ounce nugget in ever so many bags, etc.

  5. I have only bought "pay dirt" when I was at Crow Creek Mine in Alaska. It was my first opportunity to "prospect" in a river. I took the experience to heart and I thoughly enjoyed my trip there. I dug around in the river but the only gold I found was from the bag. But I am a greenhorn so maybe next time.

    1. Stay with it Chris. You'll find that yellow!

  6. I call them "Pocket Miners". Folk's trying to mine the gold in my pockets. Ain't gonna happen.


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