Everyone knows that Colorado is one of the most mineral rich states in the US. It is a leader in both gold and silver production, and ranks near the top for historical production of both precious metals.
The Discovery of “Tom’s Baby”
“Tom’s Baby” is the largest solid chunk of gold ever found in Colorado. It was found in 1887, by miners at the Gold Flake Mine in Breckenridge. It got its unique name because it was said that the finder, Tom Groves, would carry it around like a baby.
Breckenridge was known for pocket gold, and history tells us that Tom’s Baby was just the largest piece out of a rich pocket that contained nearly 250 ounces of gold!The total weight of the nugget is 156 troy ounces. It is crystalline textured. Unlike the average placer nugget, Tom’s Baby did not spend any time in the water, so it is not smooth or waterworn. It is coarse and raw.
Big Gold is Exceedingly Rare in Colorado
A person might expect that some very nice gold nuggets have come out of Colorado. While there have indeed been millions of ounces of gold mined in the state, nearly all of it is small textured. Most gold in hard rock was just tiny particles that could only be recovered using chemical processing.
Miners digging for placer gold found mostly dust and flakes. Even in the old days, big nuggets were not nearly as common compared to other states like Alaska or California.
Crystalline Gold of Breckenridge
The Breckenridge area was one of the few areas where truly large piece of gold were mined. Miners would hit these rich “pockets” of high grade ore, some containing nice big chunks of coarse gold.
Miners still look for crystalline gold specimens in this area. Most of the mining is long over, but small scale prospectors like to go out and pan the creeks.
Searching old ore dumps with metal detectors
can still be productive. Just keep in mind that there is a lot of private lands and active mining claims to be aware of.
You Can Go See It
This exceptional gold specimen was saved from the melting pot, but it has an unusual history. Following the discovery, it went “missing” for almost 70 years. People in Colorado were working on putting together what would become the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Two prominent collections were donated to this effort, but no one could find the nugget.
In 1972, a researcher discovered it in a bank vault at the Museum of Natural History. It was in a wooden box tucked in the corner of the room, labeled “dinosaur bones.”
It seems crazy that a 156-ounce gold nugget could be lost like that, but fortunately it is back and available for the public to see! Go to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It is on display along with many other exceptional gold and mineral specimens.Next: Gold Mining in Colorado