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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 24, June 12, 2011, Article 13

A NEW CALIFORNIA GOLD CONTROVERSY: GOLD NUGGET LIKELY FROM AUSTRALIA

ABC News ran a story this week about a controversy that has erupted over a recently sold colossal nine-pound gold nugget that was said to have been from California. Numismatic author and dealer Fred Holabird, whose firm sold the nugget, is researching the claims. -Editor

Fred Holabird with gold nugget A gold nugget that sold at auction for $460,000 in March may, it turns out, actually be from Australia -- not California's gold country.

Fred Holabird, the auctioneer who sold the 98-ounce nugget in March to an unidentified buyer, had been convinced the nugget was from California's Gold Rush era.

But two prospectors from Australia, Murray Cox and Reg Wilson, who saw a photo of the nugget in a news report, say it shows an uncanny resemblance to the gold they found in a farm field in Victoria, Australia, in 1987.

"Instantly I knew it was the nugget that Reg and I discovered at Rokewood," Murray Cox told the ABC affiliate in Sacramento, KXTV.

A photo of the Australians' nugget from a newspaper article in 1987 shows their nugget has a similar shape to the auctioned one - and shares the same weight.

Cox told KXTV that he sold the nugget to an American gold dealer in 1989.

Holabird said the landowner in Nevada County, Calif., who provided the nugget, is sticking to his story that it came from his property in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

But the auctioneer is assembling a team of experts to investigate the Australians' claims. Holabird, who had been in the mining industry for over 25 years, owns Holabird-Kagin Americana, an auction business based in Reno, Nev.

"We're going to pursue this full tilt using the best science available," Holabird said.

To read the complete article, see: Gold Rush Mystery: War Over $460,000 Gold Nugget's Origin (abcnews.go.com/Business/battle-460000-gold-rush-era-gold-nugget/story?id=13785273)

A later news story got to the bottom of the California "finder's" claim. Here's an old picture of the nugget found in Australia. -Editor

Australian gold nugget The giant gold nugget is real, but the story of how it went to auction in Sacramento is full of giant holes.

James Saunders Grill reported finding the 98-ounce nugget last year on his property along the South Fork of the Yuba River in the Gold Rush-era mining town of Washington.

After the discovery, a Website appeared seeking investors to help develop a commercial mining operation called the Lost Scotchman Mine on the 180-acre property, suggesting the giant nugget was just the "tip of the iceberg."

"Act now and just like the 49ers of 160 years ago, you can experience the wealth and excitement of the Gold Rush," the Website encouraged prospective investors.

The property is landlocked, and federal court documents show Grill, 70, has been involved in a long-running legal battle with the United States Forest Service to gain road access.

What became known as the Washington Nugget fetched $460,000 at a Sacramento Convention Center auction March 16, and the well-publicized event helped lead to the unraveling of the story.

The Arizona gold dealer, colorfully known as Rattlesnake John, later used an image of the Australian nugget on his business cards.

Fred Holabird, the Reno auctioneer who sold the nugget in Sacramento, said he was convinced it came from Northern California because it had the same appearance as others from the area. It also came with a signed affidavit from Grill attesting to its authenticity.

"I got taken as bad as anyone," Holabird admitted.

Holabird said he was surprised that no one recognized the nugget while it was on public display for three months prior to the auction.

Holabird has offered to pay for scientific testing to verify the nugget's origin, but hoped to avoid the expense and wasted time by encouraging Grill to come forward to explain what happened.

To read the complete article, see: Famous California nugget came from Australia (www.news10.net/news/article/140854/2/Landowner-identified-in-giant-gold-nugget-hoax)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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