Australian prospector: Nevada County gold nugget a fraud

8:13 PM, Jun 4, 2011   |    comments
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  • Murray Cox poses with another gold nugget
  • Cox provided this picture of the Australian nugget
  • A pre-auction photograph of the Washington Nugget


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Melbourne Sun Article:

READ: Melbourne Sun Article
SEE: Melbourne Sun Article components

SACRAMENTO, CA - An Australian prospector claims a giant gold nugget purportedly found in Nevada County that fetched $460,000 at auction actually came from Australia's Golden Triangle.

Update: Landowner identified in giant gold nugget hoax

Auctioneer doubts nugget's authenticity

PHOTOS: Gold nugget find questioned

Murray Cox, 56, of Geelong, Victoria, contacted News10 after seeing a picture of the so-called Washington Nugget in a gold mining magazine.

"I picked up the magazine and knew in two seconds that was (our nugget)," Cox said.

Cox said he and a friend, Reg Wilson, 62, unearthed the giant nugget in November 1987 in a farm field near the town of Ballarat, north of Melbourne.

Cox provided a 1987 article from the Melbourne Sun newspaper describing the event, along with a Sun photograph of the two men holding the giant nugget they called Orange Roughie because of its fish-like shape.

READ: Melbourne Sun Article
SEE: Melbourne Sun Article components

The newspaper listed the nugget's weight at 98 ounces, the same as the Washington Nugget. 

Cox also provided a picture of the Orange Roughie nugget he said was taken by a hired photographer about a week after the discovery. That photograph, shot from roughly the same angle as a pre-auction picture of the Washington Nugget, shows a striking similarity between the two.

"We know it's our nugget. 100 percent," Cox said. 

He said Wilson sold the Orange Roughie nugget to an American gold dealer in 1989 for AU $50,000, which at the time reflected the value of the actual gold content.

The Washington Nugget sold at auction at the Sacramento Convention Center on March 16 for $460,000, including sales commission.

The sales price was roughly triple the actual value of the gold in the nugget, in part, because it was portrayed as the largest surviving specimen from California's Gold Country.

"The person who bought the nugget has been defrauded," Cox said.

News10 provided Cox's evidence to the auctioneer, Fred Holabird of Holabird-Kagen Americana in Reno. Holabird insisted the photos were faked.

"You are in the process, in my opinion, of having a very serious fraud perpetrated on you," Holabird said.

Holabird said he is an expert at "fingerprinting" gold and he was certain the Washington Nugget actually came from Nevada County.

Holabird said he also contacted the unnamed seller of the nugget, who was sticking to his story.

"The (previous) owner of the nugget is steadfast that he found it on his property. I believe him 100 percent," Holabird said.

Cox, however, said he has access to smaller nuggets that were found near the Orange Roughie nugget, whose mineral content would confirm the Washington Nugget actually came from Victoria.

Cox also said there is another, hidden feature of the disputed nugget that he and Wilson could provide to verify their claim.

When confronted with Holabird's assertion that he is the actual fraudster, Cox pointed out he had nothing to gain financially by making the allegation.

"I just want to set the record straight," Cox said.

News10 tried to contact the Irvine-based Spectrum Group International, the precious metals broker that represented the anonymous buyer in the March auction. 

The company did not immediately respond to an email inquiry.

By George Warren,


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