World Gold Panning Championships

World Gold Panning Championships from Schiff Gold

As we’ve reported before, panning for gold is a fast-growing hobby. I get it. I can see the fun in getting out into nature with family and friends. You get to experience the beauty of the great outdoors, enjoy some physical activity, and of course, there’s always the possibility of striking it rich – however unlikely that might be.

But in my opinion, some people have taken this gold panning craze a little too far. They’ve turned it into a competitive sport. No kidding. This year marks 40th anniversary of the World Gold Panning Championships.

This year, Moffatt, Scotland will host the championships. They’ve actually been doing this since 1977. The first World Gold Panning Championships were held in Finland.

I don’t want to offend any of you competitive gold panners out there, but I just don’t get it.

Here’s how the competition works, as reported by the BBC.

There are a range of different categories in which 30 competitors at a time each receive a bucket of sand and gravel containing a few flakes of gold. They race against the clock to find as many pieces as they can with the quickest progressing to the next round. The winner on finals day is then crowned world champion.”

This is one of those cases where I wish the reporting was a little more detailed. How does this category thing work? I mean, how many different ways can you get flecks of gold out of sand? How do they change it up? Inquiring minds want to know.

Richard Deighton organized this year’s championship. He doesn’t answer my questions, but he does provide a little more insight into the nuts and bolts of the competition.

Each competitor gets maybe 15 kilos of sand and gravel from the local area. There is a sand supervisor who will place between five and 12 pieces of gold into the sand and gravel. It is the competitor’s job to find it in as quick a time as possible and for each piece of gold that is lost there is a three-minute time penalty. So it is basically a speed competition.”

So wait. They put the gold in the sand? Isn’t the hunt a big part of gold panning? Isn’t it all about the thrill of the possibility of striking it rich? They just stick a few flakes of gold in some sand? And they do this for several days? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like knowing the gold is there misses the point. Although, to be fair, it is advertised as a speed competition.

But that even seems like a bit of a head-scratcher to me. Most competitions evolved out of real-world applications. Take running. Primitive humans needed to be able to run fast to keep from getting eaten. Or NASCAR. Those good-ole-boys were originally bootleggers. They had to be able to drive fast to get away from the revenuers. These skills eventually became the basis for sports. But why exactly would you ever need to pan for gold fast? Why is “fast” the emphasized skill here? Again, if I’m panning for gold – it’s for the gold – not to prove to the guy down the stream that I’m faster than he is.

Although, now that I think about it, I probably would want to prove I was faster than the guy downstream. Because that would make me better than him. So – maybe I do get it.

I don’t know. I’m probably over-thinking it. Maybe it’s just fun.

On a side-note, I want to know how one becomes a sand supervisor. Is there like an organization for this? Where do I get the training? And can I get get a certification somewhere. I’m thinking I might like to have that on my resume. “Certified sand supervisor – class I.”

Anyway, back to the Gold Panning World Championships. I have to give credit to Mr. Deighton. He’s enthusiastic about his “sport.”

“It is an absolutely amazing event for Moffat,” he said, adding that the town was being “showcased on a world stage.”

I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to catch this year’s event on ESPN. You know, check out the town. See if maybe Moffatt is my next vacation destination. While I’m at it, I’ll see if I can get some of my local government leaders to take a break from moving Confederate statues around and tune in to the coverage. Maybe they can bid for next year’s championship. They are always looking for ways get on the world stage and boost economic development.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a new sport, check out gold panning. Train hard enough and you maybe you can make it to the world championship. But if you just want own some gold, you can call 1-888-GOLD-160 and speak with one of our Precious Metals Specialist. You don’t even have to do it fast.


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Peter Schiff

Mr. Schiff began his investment career as a financial consultant with Shearson Lehman Brothers, after having earned a degree in finance and accounting from U.C. Berkeley in 1987. A financial professional for more than twenty years, he joined Euro Pacific in 1996 and served as its President until December 2010, when he became CEO. An expert on money, economic theory, and international investing, he is a highly sought after speaker at conferences and symposia around the world. He served as an economic advisor to the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2010.