Sunday 20 January 2013

I only ever found a bent penny...

So yesterday evening, as the sun began to sink here in Auckland, I watched it all red and hazy through the high smoke from the dreadful bush fires in Australia; and then on the news there was an item about a huge nugget that had been found near Ballarat by an amateur with a metal detector. 'Huge' is pretty accurate: 5.5kg, or 177oz, making it the biggest ever found in the area, well eclipsing the town's previous record-holder, the 4.4kg Goldasaurus. The value of the gold is even more than its weight, which would be around $350,000, because it's such an attractive and unusually shaped nugget. I'd have been happy to find it even if it had been really ugly.

It was only about 60cm deep, too: hardly any work to find at all. Imagine that! The guy who found it was expecting to uncover a car bonnet, the signal was so strong. At the Sovereign Hill gold museum just outside the town, they've got lots of nuggets on display that were literally just lying around on the ground, waiting to be picked up. Some are replicas, but many including Goldasaurus are real - though the biggest of all, found elsewhere in Victoria, is a plaster model. Hardly surprising, since the Welcome Stranger, found in 1869, weighed 62 kilograms and would be worth millions today.

Sovereign Hill is really worth visiting: it's an outdoor museum with streets and costumed staff, a coach and horses, an ingot-pouring display, lots of stuff going on all the time, and a stream running through that is seeded with gold flakes every day for people to pan for and keep if they find. It's fun, but no-one's going to get rich there - unlike the man who took his nugget into the Mining Exchange in Ballarat this week. No prizes for guessing how he's going to be spending all his time from now on.

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