A man with a metal detector and a pick-axe went wandering his property in Nevada County last year and found what is apparently the largest single gold nugget ever discovered in the Sierra foothills, weighing 8.2 pounds (the largest known nugget found in California was in Butte County in 1859, and it weighed 54 pounds). The chunk of gold was recently auctioned off for $460,000, and in the same expedition last year, the property owner, identified as Jim Sanders of San Francisco, found other nuggets weighing four and ten ounces. Assayers are heading in on May 16 with some radar equipment to figure out how much more gold there is on the property, which is in an unidentified, woody location near the town of Washington. Estimates of the value of the potential gold claim are anywhere between $1.5 million and $6 million, though claims throughout California history have turned out to be less than what they initially seemed.
Experts say that Sanders' find is a one-in-a-billion or one-in-a-trillion, since nuggets of this type, created by streambed erosion, and this size are extraordinarily rare. It's worth more as a historical collectible, and won't be getting melted down to make any rings.
Sanders' claims of having found the nugget using a simple metal detector have been questioned by some "If there was a metal detector on Earth that could go down 10 feet for a nugget, I'd buy it," said Tom Nicholson of Sierra Nevada Ground Scan, speaking last year with ABC 7 shortly after word of Sanders' find surfaced in the media.