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Gold pans are a fast and easy way to spot gold rich gravels and sands.  Load up your pan, shake either side-to-side or in a circular motion.  Occasionally wash off the top layer of materials as you go and bingo; the bottom of your pan will reveal (hopefully) flake and nugget gold.  (Check out step-by-step instructions here).  At least that’s the theory.

After a few test pans in a promising area, you can decide whether or not to setup a sluice box for a production run.

So you’re probably thinking, “If that’s all there is to it you can grab mom’s pie plates and sift your way to riches”…No!  Today’s pans are made deeper and some have built in riffles on the side.  Plastic pans are the most common, usually black in color and this is where you immediately notice the difference in terms of quality.  A lot of pans look the same but if the manufacturer used a cheaper version of plastic your pan will shatter or not hold its shape when used.  This happens a lot with miners just starting out.  Their $4 pan lasts half