Looking for a new job? Try mining for gold!

In 1848, pioneers in Sutter's Mill, California discovered flakes of gold in a water outflow. Over the next seven years, 300,000 prospectors descended upon the area, desperately searching for gold. In the process, they brought a major influx of warm bodies to California, transforming San Francisco from a tiny town to a sprawling city, creating roads and railways, paving the way for California's statehood, and laying the groundwork for the agricultural explosion that ended up making the state's fortune. While most of the "miner '49-ers" never hit the motherlode, thousands became life-long Californians, helping to transform the state into the economic powerhouse that it is today.

As far as California's gold deposits are concerned, they continued to be exploited for decades, until the cost of extraction outweighed the value of the gold itself. The same goes for Virginia's gold mining, which ended in the late 1940's. The interesting thing, though, is that the cost of gold has a way of fluctuating, and gold that was previously unworthy of extraction becomes a worthwhile pursuit when the cost of gold goes up.

As it is currently doing.