"Just the facts, ma'am". That's a line Joe Friday frequently used in the 1950s radio drama, Dragnet. But when it comes to gold in the Yukon, sometimes "just the figures" tell a more interesting story.
Figures for gold production in the Klondike date back to at least 1885. That year, just over 4800 ounces were declared, fetching $100,000. Not bad considering a dollar would buy a lot of grub back then ... at least in the city.
The amount of gold found in the next twelve years fluctuated, reaching 12,000 ounces in 1897, a year after the big strike on Bonanza Creek. Then came the deluge. By the end of 1898, the year of the big rush, over 48 thousand ounces were declared, carrying a total value of 10 million dollars.
But the best was yet to come. In 1899, as big companies bought up large tracks of paying ground, 77 thousand ounces were found for a total of 16 million dollars. But it was in 1900, the turn of a new century, that the motherlode was declared. That year, over one million 70 thousand (1,070,000) ounces turned up in the pans and dredges working the Klondike valley...the largest single year of gold production, yielding over 22 million dollars at a time when gold was $16.00 an ounce.
Production dwindled from then on until 1972, when just over 4,000 ounces were found with a value of $254,000 dollars. After that, there was a steady rise in production as placer miners began going over the old ground with new methods making significant cleanups.
The biggest dollar value in Klondike gold occurred in 1988 when nearly 130,000 ounces resulted in a payout of 68 million dollars.
In the 110 years between 1886 and 1996, over 12 million ounces have been officially declared for a total dollar value of just over one billion. Just the figures, ma'am, just the figures.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin