Local pawn shops and coin galleries have had more customers investing in gold after a dramatic rise in the price after recent geopolitical events. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
The geopolitical storm of current events has collided with literal weather storms from last winter to bring gold and other precious metals into laser focus in what has been dubbed a “second gold rush.”
The Central Valley played a role in California’s Gold Rush history, with mining in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties — and some prospecting companies operating in the area to this day.
Amateur prospector Reece Rodriguez is the owner of R & R Mining Co., selling mining supplies and “pay dirt” — gravel usually guaranteed to have some gold in it that people can pan for at home.
Rodriguez, a railroad worker, opened R & R Mining in 2021, but started prospecting as a hobby around 10 years ago, inspired by the Discovery Channel reality series “Gold Rush.”
He really caught the bug in 2013, when he and his wife began panning at Pollasky Bridge near the town of Friant, not far from where $7 million worth of gold in today’s value was unearthed during construction of Friant Dam in the early 1940s.
“The first time we didn’t find anything. The second time we didn’t find anything,” Rodriguez said. “The third time I went there, I found specks. And then I was hooked.”
In his first year of gold panning, he found 26 gold nuggets near Mariposa.
Last year, he found a 9 ½ gram nugget in Coarsegold.
Rodriguez tends to keep all the gold nuggets he finds, but sometimes sells them to another pay dirt supplier or sells them online. The smaller nuggets go in the pay dirt he sells.
It keeps people motivate to stick with panning, he said.
He said that after the heavy rains of the past winter, he has seen more prospectors hitting the rivers. He advises any amateur prospectors to do their homework on the watershed they chose to mine.
He also tells them he has found gold in rivers that people told him he would never find anything in.
At the Fresno Hock Shoppe, owner Robbie Van Gronigen said the price of gold has gone up dramatically in the last few weeks.
He attributes the trend to the weakening U.S. Dollar and international strife, including the Hamas and Israel conflict.
“Normally, that kind of stuff tends to make precious metals go up. The fact that the dollar could be worth less makes people invest in gold and silver; that’s what’s showing right now because the prices seem to be going up,” Gronigen said.
On Oct. 9, two days after the attack on Israel’s border, the price of gold stood at $1,862 an ounce. On Oct. 17, the price had jumped up to nearly $1,926.
Gronigen said that more of his customers have been loaning their gold jewelry and other items for longer periods. He sees new customers every day.
He said the shop serves as an “economic indicator.” Signs say money is tight for many and they are using their valuable assets to make ends meet.
Gronigen said that with more people getting into online stock trading, there is also more interest in silver investment to diversify their portfolios.
For investments, people tend to buy gold bars, ingots, coins or stocks rather than jewelry.
Stephen Foster Jr., president and co-owner at Fresno Coin Gallery, said that with gold being in the $1,800-$2,000 dollar range for the last few years, the price is attractive enough for people to recycle old jewelry they don’t use or want anymore.
A more recent trend is people wanting to hold more physical gold. Foster thinks it has to do with feeling empowered.
“There are a lot of people that are concerned about people in power in the world and how their decisions effect their money, and all the overprinting of money that happens,” Foster said. “There is a feeling of sovereignty when it comes to holding physical gold and silver.”