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Who Stole the Gold? California State Mineral & Mining Museum Heist

Published on: October 02, 2012

Photos left to right: The California State Mineral and Mining Museum displays; the eye-catching, famed 13.8 pound Fricot Nugget seen in a display at the museum.

A modern day robbery not unlike those reported in the wild & woolly days of the  Old West struck California’s “gem” of a museum, the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa. The charming Gold Rush town and gateway to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra mountains houses the motherlode of gold nuggets, a beautiful, famed Fricot Nugget, containing 13.8 pounds of crystalline gold. Here are some places to see gold in California.

Taking  pickaxes and grabbing as they went, thieves stole an estimated $2 million in gold and gems, but they couldn’t get the prized specimen–that precious, priceless Fricot Nugget.

Here’s how it went down: The masked robbers (Old West tradition to wear a mask)  herded employees into the far end of the faux-mine museum building, then went after the famed Fricot Nugget. The nugget is kept in an iron safe in a vaulted room. When the burglar alarms sounded, the doors to the room automatically closed. The thieves couldn’t get into the safe but managed to escape the building with other gold and gems. An inventory is being performed to assess the damage–and a statewide hunt is on for the robbers.

An intriguing twist: The museum’s collection was headed for storage by the end of July 2012, but on July 20,  $54 million in California State Parks funds were uncovered that few knew existed (Sacramento Bee broke the story). The museum stayed open as Gov. Jerry Brown committed the new-found funds to this state park museum and operations for the less profitable in the 276 park inventory. On Sept. 26 he signed two bills, AB1589 and AB1478, to ink the deal and provide mechanisms for future operations.

The California State Mineral and Mining Museum is located at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, 1.8 miles south of Mariposa on historic Highway 49. Call (209) 742-7625 for hours and information.

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