If You Find a Gold Nugget, Can You Keep It?

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the legality of collecting items can vary depending on the location in which you’re collecting. Before performing any collection tasks, it is ultimately your responsibility to check local and state rules, regulations, and laws to see if there are any legal limitations on what you can collect and how you can collect those items. We are not responsible for any legal consequences that may arise from your collection activities.

Gold nuggets are extremely rare and can earn you a lot of money. Finding a gold nugget is quite rewarding, but are you allowed to keep it? There are many laws and regulations surrounding prospecting, so it’s important to know whether or not you can collect these precious metals wherever you find them.

You can keep a gold nugget if you find it on public lands or land that you own. You need to have the mineral rights to keep the gold nugget, though. Additionally, you’re supposed to pay taxes on the gold you sell. You can’t keep gold you find on someone else’s private property, though.

Throughout this post, I’ll explain what you can do if you find a gold nugget, whether or not you have to report your findings, and how much you’re allowed to keep.

How To Know if You Can Keep Gold That You Find

The best way to know if you can keep the gold that you find is to find out if you got it on private or public land. Gold that’s found on someone’s private property typically belongs to them (unless they give you written permission to prospect on their land). On the other hand, public lands often let you keep the gold you find.

Here’s how you can know whether or not you can keep the gold nuggets that you find:

  • According to Rock Seeker, you can keep the gold you find on public land. This includes BLM land, state parks, national forests, etc. However, you should always check each park beforehand since the rules and regulations may vary. The last thing you want is to get banned from a state park for keeping gold.
  • You’re allowed to keep the gold you find on any land that you own the mineral rights to. Mineral rights are the most important part of keeping gold nuggets that you find on any property. If they exist on private land, you have to own them to keep anything you find below the soil. This allows you to collect all minerals, rocks, metals, and gems.
  • If you own the property and not the mineral rights, you’ll have to talk to the mineral rights owner before you keep the gold. This situation is quite rare since most people sell the mineral rights with the property rights. States with a history of gold prospecting sometimes separate these rights, so it’s worth checking the deed.
  • You’re not allowed to prospect for gold (or keep it) if you don’t have permission from the landowner. Finding gold on land that you don’t own or have permission to prospect is illegal. If you happen to find any valuable minerals, you have to report them to the owner rather than keeping them (or you could ask for permission beforehand).
  • Finding gold on public property (shopping centers, etc.) has to be reported. This gold usually belongs to nearby stores or people who accidentally dropped it. Never keep gold that you find in a busy shopping center since it definitely belongs to someone else. You could end up with legal fees or get banned from the shopping center.

As you can see, there are many situations where you can keep the gold you find. However, it’s better to follow the aforementioned suggestions to ensure you don’t get in trouble with the law. Keeping gold that doesn’t belong to you or that is found on private property can result in fines and many other legal penalties (not to mention the fact that you’ll also have to give up the gold).

What To Do if You Find a Gold Nugget

If you find a gold nugget, you need to make sure you own the mineral rights (or are on public land), extract the gold, then weigh it to know how much it’s worth. Once you have the necessary paperwork showing that you own the gold nugget, flakes, or dust, you can keep it or sell it as you like.

Follow these instructions if you find gold:

  1. Determine if it’s pyrite, gold, or gold combined with another mineral. Pyrite, also known as Fool’s Gold, looks a lot like gold. Furthermore, gold can combine with chalcopyrite, calcite, and many other minerals. Raw gold is worth a lot more when it’s not combined with anything else.
  2. Check who owns the mineral rights. Once you know that you’re looking at real gold, find out if someone else owns the area. Mineral rights include anything underground. Nobody owns the mineral rights to public land, making it free range for anyone who wants to prospect for gold in those areas.
  3. Get the gold cleaned, refined, or extracted (if desired). You can find a goldsmith in your area or contact someone who specializes in refining, extracting, and melting various metals. If you want to keep the gold without selling it, you’re more than welcome to skip this step.
  4. Find out how much the gold weighs. Remember, you have to weigh the gold without other impurities (dirt, debris, etc.). These impurities add weight, which could present false readings and price estimates. It’s better to filter all of the debris out of the gold before getting price estimates.
  5. Decide whether you want to sell or keep the gold. Gold is typically sold by the gram. You can check current market prices to know how much you should expect to get for your gold nuggets, flakes, and dust. If you want to keep the gold, you don’t have to worry about taxes or market fluctuations.

However, there are many steps you have to take if you want to sell the gold that you find. For example, you should get multiple quotes to ensure you’re getting the best sale price. Let’s dive into a few more requirements below.

Do You Have To Pay Taxes on Gold You Find?

You have to pay taxes on the gold you find if you sell it. Mineral sales are considered income, which means you have to pay federal and state taxes (if applicable). However, you don’t have to pay taxes on gold you find if you intend to keep it or give it to a museum or a person for free.

So, what should you know about paying taxes on gold that you find?

  • Your gold taxes are based on how much you sell the gold for. There’s no fixed amount of taxes on gold that you have to pay. It’s a percentage based on sales tax, state tax, and federal tax brackets. If your state doesn’t have income taxes, you still have to pay federal taxes on gold sales. 
  • Gold Refiners claims that you need to report your gold sales when tax season comes around. There’s no way for the government to track whether or not you sold gold without you reporting it. However, if they find out that you didn’t report it, you could be in big legal trouble.
  • Failure to pay taxes on mineral sales will result in a tax penalty or a fine. They carry the same tax weight as traditional income taxes. In other words, avoiding paying taxes on gold sales is equivalent to tax evasion. In the long run, this could lead to jail time.
  • There’s no need to pay taxes on gold that you find and keep, collect, or give to someone else. Collecting gold isn’t the same as income tax, so you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on prospected and kept minerals. In fact, donating gold and other minerals to a museum is grounds for a tax write-off.

It’s always better to pay taxes on gold that you find and sell than to regret it later. Tax penalties are typically higher than the original tax, so why not avoid the additional fee? Rocking WW reports that mineral taxes range between 15% to 20%, depending on your income bracket. This isn’t too much considering the fact that prospecting gold doesn’t cost too much!

How Much Gold Can You Own?

You can own as much gold as you want. There’s no limit to how much gold you purchase, find, or own. However, some public lands have limits on how much gold you can collect per day. This limit is usually around 15 pounds (6.8 kg) per day, which is much more than the vast majority of people collect.

Owning gold doesn’t have any limits, but selling gold requires taxes (even on the smallest sales). In fact, many people purchase gold bars, dust, and flakes to sell later. This process acts as a failsafe for inflation since gold prices steadily increase.

Final Thoughts

Gold nuggets can be worth quite a lot of money. If you find gold on land that you own or public lands, you’re allowed to keep it or sell it. Selling any precious metals or minerals requires you to report it during tax season, though.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of DiscoveryPit.com, a website dedicated to tips on finding and collecting precious items. Inspired by reading countless adventurer reports from the oldtimers, Alex is passionate about discovering hidden treasures and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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