Half Baked Idea: Panning for Gold

Four US quarters together add up to approximately one ounce in total weight. Meanwhile, one ounce of gold is approximately the same size and shape as two US quarters.

Current spot price for an ounce of gold is above $1200 an ounce. You would need to find a place to sell it and you can assume you will be selling it for less than spot price, probably around 80 percent of that price, according to what I have been able to determine. That would still put $1000 or so in your pocket for every ounce of gold found.

You can start researching this for free online by googling up gold panning videos as a means to educate yourself. You probably need to learn about two basic things: 1) panning technique and 2) where to look for gold.

The only actual equipment you need to get started is a gold pan and something to store the gold in (we used a freezer weight Ziploc bag - but I have no idea if that is actually a good idea).

Gold pans are lightweight plastic. They sell for about $4-$6 plus tax at places like Walmart and sporting goods stores. They come in two sizes: 10" or 14". The smaller one is more backpack friendly.

You will also want appropriate clothing, such as water friendly shoes with shorts or galoshes with jeans. This may be a bit challenging to arrange as a homeless person, but was not a show stopper for us.

Although this is hard physical labor, you can do it whenever you choose. You can also take breaks as you see fit. There will be no boss to report to.

You also will need to find a place that buys panned gold. I have no idea if those "Cash for gold" places will buy this kind of gold. I found one place online that said they bought gold. So if selling online works for you, that is potentially do-able.

This is a half baked idea because we have only partially verified that it can, in fact, be pulled off by a homeless person by doing pieces of it ourselves. We have done a lot of the research and we have bought gold pans (more than once) and one of my sons has gone and tried his hand at panning a few times.

However, so far, we have found no gold and made no money. So, it is still "theoretical" in that it hasn't actually paid off for us.

In other words, we have field tested pieces of this and determined that a homeless person can do some research online and can readily buy a gold pan for very little money. But we haven't actually hit pay dirt.

In theory, if this works, you can make good money this way and potentially get yourself off the street with it. But it would be one part research, one part hard physical labor and one part luck. It is a bit of a gamble and you would need to be in a position to put in the time and effort with no guarantee of immediate payoff.

The research I have done also suggests that humans have only found about 5 percent of the gold on the planet and that gold is in high demand as a material used in our fancy modern electronics. This demand is likely to go up, not down.

Because the environment is a hot topic and sensitive issue, from what I gather, this is a job not likely to be taken over by automation any time soon. It appears that they are cracking down on automated processes for dredging streams for gold because it has too much negative impact on the environment. So, this is likely to remain an opportunity for small time operators for many years to come.

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