The Story of the Ballarat Nugget
Wednesday January 16th started as any other working day, in sunny Ballarat.
Our shop, The Mining Exchange Gold Shop in the centre of Ballarat was open for business. What we didn’t expect was what was coming our way.[split]
We have been established natural gold nugget buyers for more than 20 years and have come to know hundreds of gold prospectors.
One of them came into The Mining Exchange Gold Shop at about 12.30 on January 16th.
We had a general greeting and then he looked at me with a smile and a glint in his eye. He said, “Mate, I found a good one.”
Now, I knew that the largest nugget that he had found before was about 8 grams, with lots of other smaller ones. So I asked, “How Big?”
He smiled and said, “Mate, on my scales it goes 5.4.” I said, “Grams?”
He said with smile, “No Mate.” So I said, “Five point four ounces?”
He smiled and said with another smile, “No Mate.”
I thought to myself, ‘he can’t mean kilos’ but I asked, “I don’t suppose you mean Kilos?” and he said “Yes Mate.”
I was stunned and thought he got it wrong, but he showed me photos on his phone and it wasn’t until I saw the one where he was holding it, I realised how big it was!
Congratulations and excitement were shared with great vigour!
I then asked him how he weighed it, and he said “on my bathroom scales!”
More than we bargained for
I told him we had to do a more accurate weighing, and he disappeared and came back with it. We locked the doors to the shop, and weighed it, checking the weights a number of times. I said to him, “Mate, it’s not 5.4 kilos, it’s 5.5 kilos.” His reaction to the extra 100 grams made me laugh. He frowned and said “That’s not good mate, that means I am heavier than I thought I was.”
We talked about the find, and he talked openly because he knew that Kate and I could share and keep, the details of his secret while at the same time letting others know bits about it.
He had bought a Minelab GPX 5000 metal detector in 2012, and used house hold funds to make his purchase, which was something his wife wasn’t really wrapped about, but she let him saying, “As long as you find enough gold to pay for it.”
He had started off by finding some small ones, and a lot of ferrous ‘junk’. He was working goldfields near Ballarat that had historically been rich, and well worked by early time gold miners, and about 30 years worth of prospectors with metal detector operators having gone over the areas, (me included!)
Each time he came home he would proudly show his wife any gold he might have found. Normally super small pieces of about 0.1 – 0.5 gram. Then he found a little area and got a few nice pieces up to 8 grams. He said his wife was fast catching on to the idea that it was going to take a while for him to cover the GPX 5000 costs.
The day he found this big nugget it was hot, and he was out early. He had been told to dig up all noises, and to clear an area. He had also been told to get a ‘Rooster Booster’ and a ‘Nugget Finder, Sadie’ mono loop coil, which he did. He was using these on this Wednesday morning, in the rising heat, in ‘hard’ ground.
He cleared some ‘rusty’ targets and then got a good, but ‘deep’ sound, and moved about 4 inches (100mm) of accumulated eucalyptus leaves and branches from the ground to reveal the bare soil. A quick swing with the detector said the target was still in the ground – Good!
I wide hole was begun and the ground looked like it was in its original undisturbed state, with loamy topsoil, then down into gravel sub soil, and it was looking less and less like being rust buried deep, but that chance remained. At about a foot’s depth (30cm) from the start of the soil layer the hole was quiet wide, and the ground continued to look like it had never been disturbed. He waved the coil over the hole again and he said it was like waving a coil over the bonnet (hood) of a car! The noise was so loud!
Time to go and get the crow bar! Once that was done, the detector was used to determine where around the target the signal was NOT. More good looking original gravelly soil came out as the ‘fringe’ hole was dug, down more than another 30cm.
At this point the prospector said that he was down on hands and knees trying to be gentle in removing the soil above the target. He said he was very carefully removing the gravels and clays and at the same time thinking and hoping, “This could be an ounce nugget!” and at the same time thinking, ‘I hope this is not rust”. Finding his first one ounce nugget was a ‘threshold’ that he had been aspiring to. When some clay and gravel was gently removed he got his first glimpse of gold, shining for the first time in the sun!! Oh what a sight! It looked bigger than an ounce. More gentle cleaning showed more gold, then more gold, then more gold, then even more gold!!!
It was exposed but still resting, flat on its ‘back’ in the hole. OMG!!!! It was huge, a quick look around, “Who is watching?”, “Is anyone watching?” heart pounding, “No one in sight -Good!”
His hand went into the hole and gently stroked the nuggets length and then gently started working his fingers under it. “How thick is it?” More gentle and excited work, and his fingers were under it.
Now pick it up, right? Wrong!
It was so heavy - definitely a two handed job to lift it, with back bent and elbows locked to the side of the hole, it came out. “How heavy are you?” He nursed it like a baby, careful not to drop it. Still attached to his detector, he got it to his car and put it on the front passenger seat. Then stood back and looked at it again. WOW!!!! He gathered up his gear and went home.
“As long as you find enough gold to pay for it.”
When he got home he came into the house and his wife was busy doing things in the kitchen. He said, “I got one”. Without looking around she said “That’s good” in the way only wives can. He said “Have a look at it”. She stopped what she was doing and looked around. His two hands barely covered it, and he took them away quickly.
She was speechless for a moment, then exclaimed, “That’s not gold!” both as a statement and a question. He assured her that it was. The weight proved it was. “What do we have to weigh it with?” The kitchen scales couldn’t handle the weight, so the bathroom scales were used. These scales said it was 5.4 kgs!
A quick cuppa, a few hugs of excitement, then “What do we do with it? What’s it worth? Who can we trust?” They decided it was best thing was to come and see me at The Mining Exchange Gold Shop, because they knew that I am totally trustworthy, I am a professional, and most importantly I could turn it into dollars quickly for them.
An arrangement was made with the prospector when he brought the nugget into our shop, and he went back out detecting, hoping that this one might have been “The Small One” and an even bigger one might be lurking nearby, plus he had to fill in his hole – after he checked it again with his GPX 5000. No more targets in the hole, and no more targets immediately beside it, but then again he was a bit ‘jumpy’ that afternoon.
When he was in The Mining Exchange Gold Shop talking with us, I asked him what was important to him. It came down to 3 basic achievable things. His identity must remain a secret, where he found the nugget must remain a secret, and he wanted us to sell it quickly for him – for a fair price.
A golden future
For him, it is fair to say that finding this nugget means a house for him and his family. He will keep his day job, and is looking forward to finding more gold, but knows he has already been very fortunate and doesn’t expect to find a bigger one, although ‘Hope Springs Eternal’. Finding this nugget also means that he has fulfilled his promise to his wife to repay the cost of the detector in gold! She is happy, so he is happy. He is encouraged to go out detecting now.
The first 2 important points were all about enduring privacy and security, plus the need to be able to get back out detecting his favourite spots without hassle. The third requirement was because he knew this was a windfall, and it was a means to an end. Having no experience in this, he asked us to represent his best interests.
To get the description of the nugget out to potential buyers, Kate used my iPhone to film a 23 second clip of me holding the nugget and rotating it through all angles. Try holding a heavy, valuable nugget while rotating it. It’s got to be done carefully!
I tried to send the image to my clients from the phone, but this just didn’t work, so our son put it on YouTube and I sent emails out with the link to the site. I imagined that 50, maybe 100 people would see it. At the time of writing this, the 23 second video has been viewed well over 1,000,000 times, worldwide and has attracted all forms of media coverage, all over the world in languages I will never be able to read or speak.
The nugget moves on
In accordance with the prospector’s wishes, we sought to finalise a sale as reasonably quickly as possible. To make a deal that works, the buyer and the seller have to be happy, and in this case we sought expressions of interest from interested parties, by a certain date. This way the ‘market’ would set the price. Which it did.
How much did it sell for? The only answer I am giving is, “It means a house to the prospector.” I am not able to give details of who bought it, except to say that the sale has been arranged in Australia. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer should be very happy with the GST component, we all hope they will spend it wisely.
Cordell Kent, The Mining Exchange Gold Shop, Ballarat.