A combination of the credit crunch, house repossessions, job-losses and higher fuel costs, have conspired with a hike in the price of gold to encourage thousands of new prospectors to head for the hills. As stocks and shares have tumbled over the past 12 months, gold has become increasingly attractive to more and more people feeling the pinch. In 2007, 20,000 gold prospectors staked claims with California state officials and the US Bureau of Land Management. That figure last year  was 24,000 - an increase 20 per cent in just 12 months. And it is easy to see why: In early 2000 gold was fetching less than $300 an ounce. By the end of last year [SUBS: 2008], the spot price had risen to almost $1,000.
A good time, then, to invest in some rudimentary equipment and try your luck? Well, yes...and perhaps no. While harboring his dreams of finding a life-changing cache of nuggets, Dan would be the first to tell you that in this gold rush, very few are striking it rich.