More Americans On The Hunt For Gold Call them the '09ers. More Americans are hunting for gold, according to the Gold Prospectors Association of America. The group says membership has risen as the economy has fallen; it also helps that the price of gold has risen.

More Americans On The Hunt For Gold

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GUY RAZ, host:

Forget taxes, spending cuts and budget politics. Perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger should get out of his gold sifting pan and head to the hills. There, he might encounter Nancy Roberts.

And Ms. Roberts, do you have room for Arnold Schwarzenegger in your club?

Ms. NANCY ROBERTS (President, Central Valley Prospectors): Do we have room for him? Yes, of course.

RAZ: Roberts runs the Fresno chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America. She says with the price of gold increasing and the economy falling, membership in her group had soared these past two years.

Some new prospectors are looking for a hobby, but others are a little more desperate.

Ms. ROBERTS: I got a phone call from a gentleman in Wisconsin who called me up and said listen, I've lost my job back here in Wisconsin. I bought a claim in California up on the Snake River or somewhere in northern California, and I'm coming out there, and I want to find gold. Do you think it's a good thing to do? And I went oh my goodness. He was ready to pack up and move his entire family and (unintelligible) out here.

RAZ: Wow. So what did you tell this fellow from Wisconsin?

Ms. ROBERTS: Well, after listening to him for a while, I realized he really doesn't know anything about this. He hasn't done his homework, as far as I'm concerned. And that I suggested to him that he join a local club back there and learn a little bit more about this before he comes out to California thinking that he's going to trip and fall over a 500-pound nugget. It just doesn't happen that easy at all.

RAZ: So if you were just a one-man or one-woman operation, you lost your job, you couldn't really turn to gold prospecting to, sort of, save your financial situation?

Ms. ROBERTS: No, not normally. No, not all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Now, I understand you have more than 20 years of experience as a gold prospector. What's the first thing you teach newcomers?

Ms. ROBERTS: Well, the first - the very first thing you teach is, you know, how to season your pan, for example.

RAZ: How to season your pan.

Ms. ROBERTS: Yeah.

RAZ: That's not with salt and pepper, I imagine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ROBERTS: No, no. That's with dirt.

RAZ: I see.

Ms. ROBERTS: And if you don't do that, a lot of times, your gold will get up and float right out and right downstream.

RAZ: So on average, how much, in sort of - in terms of weight of gold do you -would you say you collect every year?

Ms. ROBERTS: Oh, jeez, probably at the most, two or three ounces.

RAZ: How much money do you think you've made off of prospecting? Any guesses?

Ms. ROBERTS: I've made, you know, I would say $6,000, $7,000. Not much, but I have a lot of gold. I keep a lot of gold.

RAZ: So would you suggest that maybe the state legislators go out and start mining for gold and - to see if maybe they can close that budget deficit?

Ms. ROBERTS: Not at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Not at all.

RAZ: They're not going to find enough.

Ms. ROBERTS: No, it's a game of chance. Some days, you don't find any gold.

RAZ: Nancy Roberts is the president of California Central Valley Prospectors. Ms. Roberts, thank you for your time.

Ms. ROBERTS: Well, thank you so much and mas oro, more gold.

(Soundbite of music)

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