<Revised on 16 October 2006>
The easiest way to make money on gold claims is to sell them!
I'm a beginner gold prospector who lives in sunny Arizona and likes go out on the weekend prospecting for gold. I have a nice (expensive) metal detector and a sluice - eventually I will be getting myself a dry washer as well. During the winter I prospect in the desert and during the summer I go up north to Prescott National Forest. I figured I would give you a little background because most of the postings for gold claims are by people who have been doing it for a long, long time. I'm a beginner - so what the heck do I know? Let's see...
I'm getting ready to stake my own claim, but for giggles, I decided to look on eBay to see what claims might be up for auction. There seems to be a lot of claims up for sale and the prices are obscene. Here are my key learnings that I would like to pass onto you...
- Most auctions for Gold Claims have a huge amount of text (mostly about the history of gold production in that general area) and a bunch of photos associated with them. Do you think the seller is trying to help you with all of this information? I doubt it. From my experience in life, the bigger the brochure, the less substance there really is.
- Many auctions for Gold Claims are for 160 acre claims. Holy smokes! 160 acres is a whole quarter-section (1/2 mile on each side). Do you really think you need that much area? Do you think you can cover that much area digging and sampling if you are a weekend prospector? Why the magical 160 acres? Everyone is permitted a 20 acre stake for a placer mining claim - if you combine two people on the same claim you can have 40 acres - all the way up to 8 people getting 160 acres on a single claim. Let us pause for a moment. More is better, right? Possibly
- Here is some new information that I uncovered. For a mining claim to be valid, a discovery of valuable mineral deposit exists within the claim. For our discusion, to withstand any challenges, the locator must not only find gold on the claim, but be able to demonstrate that it can eventually produce a profit. Also, each 10 acre aliquot part of a placer claim must be mineral in character. Does the BLM check for this when filing your claim? No. In fact, they don't even check to make sure you have staked off the claim and created a monument. So, if someone is selling a 160 acre claim, do you really think they have demonstrated these requirements to ensure an airtight claim? You might want to check because the claim you are buying might not stand up to a challenge.
- Another Point: I can assure you that if someone is selling a 160 acre placer mining claim that is of high value, it surely must have been in their family for a long, long time. Right? After all, we are talking 1/4 square mile - there can't be that many valuable ones just lying about waiting for someone to claim them, or are there? That leads us to the next point.
- Before you can apply for a gold claim with the BLM, you have to first have to make sure you are not jumping someone elses claim. The BLM has a lovely website for this at geocommunicator.gov that you can use to check out the who/what/when of claims about anywhere in the country. The website is not the easiest to use, but once you come up to speed, you can find out where active claims are, where inactive claims are, who staked the claim, when was the claim staked, etc, etc... After you are sure the area you want is clear, you can follow the BLM guidelines for staking the claim - then you have to go to the county recorder and give them notice of a mineral claim. There are other things you have to do as well, but the point is, if you go to the website, you can see if the claim that is for sale is even listed (and when it became active). If it's not on there, you are not necessarily being scammed - it takes 2-4 months for the BLM to input all the information. It's safe to say that the claim has been recorded though... ...find the website of the county recorders office for the county that the claim is in. So what's my point? Most of these claims that are up for auction are VERY fresh! They have just been staked and are up for sale. This is where I tie into my first statement - the best way to make money off a claim is to sell it. That's what some of the pro's seem to be doing. It makes me sick.
- Some claims are teensie - I've seen some 1 acre deals. Some claims are like timeshares - you get to share the claim with others. Read carefully and judge for yourself. Remember, the average claims are in multiples of 20 acres.
- Last Point: One of the most attractive areas for gold claims in Arizona is Rich Hill. I have yet to see a meaningful Rich Hill Claim come up for auction on eBay. Why is that? One reason is that these claims still have great potential for gold recovery and they are highly coveted. The other reason is that almost the entire area around Rich Hill already has active claims on them - there is no available area for one of these scam artists to quickly stake and sell.
So let's do a quick review. Most of the claims for sale on eBay are ones that have been recently staked and someone is trying to make a buck off them. Do they have gold on them? Most likely, but it's not really that hard to find places in these areas that don't have gold. The saying goes, "Gold is where you find it". You want to take a stab at it? Go to the website I provided in the text above - look for areas where mining claims have lapsed (no longer active) - go out there to that area and do your prospecting - you don't have to stake a claim to prospect on unclaimed public land (Disclaimer: Check your local laws! State lands have different rules. Private property is a no-no without prior permission. Use common sense).
Please remember, I'm a beginner at this. I've been dabbling for about a year and have done a fair amount of research. I haven't found a lot of gold either, but enough to keep me interested. After all, it's not the destination that counts, it's path you chose to take that adds the most value. My motivation for this post is to help educate the buyer - it's upsetting to see that claims are being staked and sold purely for money instead of their true purpose - propecting for gold!
Above all, do research! There is a ton of information our there for the taking.
P.S. - If you are an out of state person looking for that ideal claim to park your RV on, any unclaimed public BLM land is fair game for you to park for up to two weeks while you vacation and prospect. Who knows? You might like where you park enough to stake your own claim - it costs less than $200 to do.