Case Wallace struck gold during a visit to the Cave Creek Museum with his fellow fourth graders from Annunciation Catholic School recently. The students were at the museum to learn about Cave Creek’s mining history and try their hand at gold panning, a popular activity at the Arizona Gold Mining Experience hosted by the museum.

While sifting through a mix of sand, pyrite (Fool’s gold), black sand, magnetite, garnet, quartz, turquoise, obsidian, and shark’s tooth in hopes of finding real gold flakes, 9-year-old Case emerged as the lucky panner who found not one, but two gold flakes during the excursion!

Erik Anderson, a museum volunteer who assisted the children, notes that Case had an impressive panning technique. Gold, being the heaviest mineral, can often be found in magnetite, a fine black sand. When Case spotted the shiny gold, two dream team instructors verified its authenticity by checking the sample with a magnet—real gold won’t stick to a magnet. To Case’s delight, it was confirmed as real gold! The museum team then placed the gold in a small tube for Case to take home as a keepsake from his exciting adventure.

“He had a very good technique,” says Erik.

Reflecting on his discovery, Case says, “It just didn’t look like Fool’s gold to me because it was flat. The volunteer told us that if the gold was flat, it was most likely real. I ran over to him, and he grabbed a magnet to check the gold I found and concluded it was the real thing. I kept panning and found a second gold flake. It was really cool, fun, and I liked the experience a lot.”

Case, who had been studying Arizona history before the trip, expressed his gratitude to the museum volunteers, calling them “the best volunteers ever.”

The Cave Creek Museum, located at 6140 E. Skyline Drive in Cave Creek, Ariz., is dedicated to preserving the prehistory, history, culture, and legacy of the Cave Creek Mining District and the Cave Creek/Carefree foothills area through education, research, and interpretive exhibits. Open from October through May, the museum can be reached at 480-488-2764, or visit