Todd Hoffman is tired and wants to go home. In fact, he might be on the verge of snapping: "I'm tired and I want to take your tape recorder and I want to freakin' snap it right here in the bar. I want to throw it out the window and get on a plane and get out of here," he tells me. I can't blame him. After months of exhausting work, mining and filming on Quartz Creek, the last place the "Gold Rush" miner wants to be is midtown Manhattan for lunch with a blogger. He's been living out of a trailer for six months in the Klondike and has barely had any time for sleep, let along time to spend at home with his family. Now Todd and his father, Jack Hoffman, are in New York on a media blitzkrieg—talking to Fox News, Katie Couric and others, including myself.
"I have freakin' TV cameras in my face," Todd says. "I have young guys with us. I have a new mechanic. I have me and my dad arguing about things. To be honest with you, it's overwhelming."
Regardless, I ended chit-chatting with Todd and his dad, Jack, about what it takes to hustle and work your ass off for literal paydirt. And yes, shortly wrapping up lunch, the Hoffmans jumped into a cab, rode to the airport, and got the hell out of dodge. Before they departed, though, they left a few words of wisdom on what everyone needs to know about what it takes to hit the mother lode and be a gold mining reality TV star. But first, an exclusive clip from this week's show:
Gold value is (relatively) safe right now:
Todd Hoffman: Look, you probably have a few bucks in your pocket. While we're sitting here, the money that's in our pockets is getting devalued. Think about that. We go up there, we freakin' dig down, we work our asses off, and we get that paydirt that we believe gold is in. Then we run it through our machine and sluice it. And then, at the end of the shift you turn the water off. The first thing we do is run up to look in that sluice box. When you see that yellow gold in there, there's something magical about it. You're leaving this B.S. system that has a lot of B.S. in it and you're moving to another (monetary) system. It's like you're leaving reality and you're moving into something that's more special.
Put this gold nugget in your hand. Be careful with it. It's heavy. That's $3,000 you're holding in your hand. That right there you can take anywhere in the world and it's $3,000. You don't have to exchange it. In fact, today it went up in value. You inject $40 billion a month in paper currency, but you can't do that with this yellow thing in my hand. That's what keeps me going.
When you have little kids, you say to yourself, "What are they going to do?" How much is college going to be for this kid? What's the interest going to be like on that student loan? What are they going to do, besides sit around with all the other kids coming out of college without a job that they desire? We're mining for some serious shit. This ain't no damn hobby for us.
Smart prospectors make money by playing the gold market value:
Todd: I know for a fact there are miners who are storing personally $10 to 20 million dollars in gold. They're sitting on it. And when the market hits, they'll go ahead and liquidate a few thousand ounces at a time.
I'll tell you what. You line up a bunch of gold miners and you line them up, you'll think they're a bunch of hillbillies who are the stupidest guys in the world. But I'll tell you what: They're some of the smartest guys in the world. They're really, really sharp and they're from all over the world. They're from Germany and Holland. There are lots of New Zealanders and Australians. They design their lives around digging for precious metal with big, heavy equipment. They look dumb, but they're not.
Jack: If you're walking down the street and someone hold you up, they're going to say 'Give me all your money.' They want bills They're not going to say "give me all your gold." Your going to see more of that in the future. Everyone recommends you have a quarter of your wealth in gold.
My first time mining, I got over a hundred ounces. At today's price of gold, we would have been just fine. But it was only $400 an ounce then, so it just wasn't enough. But now that gold has gone up, this is a much smarter way to go do it. Current gold price is $1,779. When I first was mining it was at $800, but then it dropped down to $400. Gold is kind of weird. It's off on its own. It gets manipulated, believe me. Some of the really wealthy dudes who have a lot of gold manipulate the gold market and no one can name one individual, just like the stock market. Todd and I have never been into the stock market. We've always been into real estate and gold, since we haven't been into gold very heavy. I think gold is the answer to the future."
Todd: We aren't experts. You're not to take financial advice from the Hoffmans. You're not to take mining advice from the Hoffmans. You want to go on a ride with a couple of guys who are trying to kick ass with limited money and limited ability, they can come on this train with us. You're not only going to learn something, you're going to get some good entertainment.
Want to be a prospector? Expect failures and setbacks:
Todd: There's about an eight percent chance of success at this game. It was a good experience for me (mining with Jack) as a kid, but it wasn't a good time because we lost a lot. When the market started going up and we brought it up with my mom that we were going to go again, you could kind of see the pain in her eyes. It was a tough time for her.
Number one, people don't even realize you can still do it. Plus, back then there were more hardy guys. Now, in today's day, guys don't know how to do a lot of things. It's turned more white collar. There's not as many blue collar guys.
Jack: You expect it. You're fortunate if you make it. We're risk takers. We've taken big risks in real estate. I don't think we've gone backwards on anything. We're on the ragged edge. Todd and I ride snowmobiles right up to the edge through snow banks. I fly. Everything we do would probably scare a lot of people, especially investment-wise. But it's been a great ride, especially with Discovery. We just ride that horse as long as it's standing up.
You have to be willing to get your hands dirty:
Todd: I'd say a lot of guys between 18 and 30 are into more technical things. They didn't end up wielding in the garage with their dads, making crazy shit. Where as, in the 70s and 80s, we did. So, there's not many guys coming out of high school saying, "let's go gold mining," they're saying "let's go drink beer at the college."
Now that's great, but there's a shortage of those kind of jobs. Yet there's a boom up in Canada up in the oil fields and the gold mines. A mining engineer gets paid almost the same wage as someone coming out of Harvard. They're about the same pay scale. If you graduate from Harvard, you're guaranteed about what a mining engineer is making. I just saw that figure the other day.
You don't get as many people right out of college as you think because of how much money it takes to do this. So you can come up and be a reckless fool, but you better have a big pocketbook. Most guys will go do something reckless down on a beach in Mexico than come mine gold.
Jack: They like an adventure and that's what they know they're going to get if they come with us. Most of the guys who are graduating from college now with a mining degree tend to go work for a company, but they'll never go step out and be the guy who owns it.
Most of the guys who contact us now are guys who are in desperate straights. They invested their time and energy into something or worked for a company for a period of time and then the company shut their doors. They come to us and they're desperate. I think they think we're just going to take them on immediately and show them how to gold mine and pull them out of financial problems. It doesn't happen that way.
On hope, hurt, and helping people as a gold-mining TV star:
Jack: We try to bring people along with us who we know might be struggling.
Todd: Here's the reality of helping people: It hurts to help. If it doesn't hurt to help, you're probably not really helping. It hurts to give something up and create a job sometimes. It hurts to open up an opportunity, have someone take the opportunity, then burn you with it. When you stick your neck out there, there are people who want to cut it off. There are tons of people who hate success. There's tons of armchair warriors. Like I say, if you're a hero to your family, those guys can kiss our ass.
Sometimes you find that there's two types of people. People who go out and make shit happen and there's people who go "Wow, what just happened?" We're kind of those guys who will either screw it up so bad that no one will touch it, or we'll get some success out of it. So we just kind of go after it. When you have that type of spirit in you, you can make some catastrophic errors.
I care a lot about my faith and my family. But the show's coming out and I'm hoping that I'm going to get edited to perceive my real feelings: How much I care about my guys, how much I care about my country, how much I care about my faith. Am I being a good dad? Am I being a good husband? That's kind of taking the place of when you're young and you're like, "I want to make a million dollars." Once you have kids, you don't give a crap about that stuff.
Now this being famous celebrity B.S. is just a tool to accomplish those three goals that I told you about. It's just an avenue. It's not "Oh boy, I'm famous. I can't wait to sign autographs." I'm the average everyday guy. So is this guy. We don't give a shit. Having said that, it's just a tool to represent our faith and provide for our family. It's a tool to look out there to average guys and say, "Guys, I'm just like you. I don't have a perfect marriage. I've lost a lot money. Brother don't give up." and offer some hope.
On mining gold around cameras:
Todd: When you have them around every day, you just forget them. If you think of a camera as a mirror, this will drive you crazy in reality TV and in TV in general. If you're continually trying to be the person you want them to see you as and you're not really yourself, you're trying to be this character or persona, that will destroy you in this game. And it's done that to people. It helps if you've never had a desire to be famous. Because if you have wanted to be famous for your whole life and tried to be famous, when you get there, you just become a complete jackoff. Quote me on that. Because that's what they've sought after their entire lives. And now they have it. With us, we care about things that are more substantial. We mine for our family, we mine for our faith, and we mine for hope because there's a lot of other dudes counting on us. This season, it's going to be really good or really bad.
We don't see the show before it airs. We watch them right along with everyone else. We know if we hit our goal and those sorts of things. There's a million things they could point out. It always seems like they try to accentuate my mistakes. Basically Season Three is just watching us attack an outrageous claim. You don't go for trying to mine 94 ounces to claiming you can mine a thousand. We're not a professional mining crew because we're still in the learning phase. Do we back it up or do we fall on our face?
Gold Rush airs every Friday at 9/8c on Discovery