I realize the economy is wigging out and times are starting to get tough again.
Of course, with the price of precious metals back on the rise, you could head out into the wilderness and try to find a stray nugget or two.
Then again, if you aren’t planning on prospecting for gold and silver anytime soon, keep in mind there are plenty of other natural riches out there just waiting to be found that can put a decent amount of cash in your wallet.
Well … assuming you know where to look.
With that in mind, here are five items in nature that have some of the biggest finder fees. Who knows? A couple of these might even be hiding in your own backyard right now:
Bling Meter: Truffles can sell for more than $6000 per ounce. A very large truffle fetched a record $330,000 in 2007.
Why They’re So Expensive: Apparently, truffles are very difficult to cultivate. I assume that’s because they’re fungal fruiting bodies. (Don’t ask.)
Where to Look: Under trees such as beech, poplar, oak, birch, hornbeam, hazel and pine. They’ll be hiding between the soil and leaf litter. Be sure to bring a truffle hog or a dog trained for sniffing them out.
(Reality) Check, Please: While difficult, truffle cultivation is getting easier — and that will eventually lead to lower prices.
Bling Meter: The “red blood” variety can fetch up to $285 per ounce.
Why They’re So Expensive: “Saliva nests” are real birds’ nests that come from a species of cave swift. The nests — a key component of a Chinese delicacy known as bird’s nest soup — are made from a glutinous substance in the bird’s saliva. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough cave swifts in the world to satisfy demand.
Where to Look: Your best bet are the limestone caves of Borneo.
(Reality) Check, Please: At approximately 10 grams each, “red blood” nests on the open market sell for $45.
Bling Meter: The market price for this valuable spice is about $162 per ounce.
Why It’s So Expensive: Extensive labor is required to produce and harvest saffron; in fact, it takes 80,000 saffron flowers to make a single pound.
Where to Look: The saffron crocus prefers locations with semi-arid lands with hot-dry summer breezes.
(Reality) Check, Please: Costco is currently selling a 14-gram bottle for $80. Thankfully, a little goes a long way.
Bling Meter: Lunar or Martian meteorites can bring the lucky finder more than $50,000 per ounce.
Why They’re So Expensive: Not only are meteorites much rarer than precious metals and other stones, but they are also harder to find because they aren’t clustered in veins. Instead, they reside in completely random locations.
Where to Look: Although they can be found anywhere, locations with an arid climate — such as the deserts of the US Southwest — are best because dry air is better-suited for meteorite preservation.
(Reality) Check, Please: There have only been 1600 meteorites ever found in the United States — and only 50,000 worldwide.
Bling Meter: The top grade of beluga caviar can cost $143 per ounce — or more.
Why They’re So Expensive: The beluga sturgeon is an endangered species and, as a result, only 100 or so are captured each year.
Where to Look: You’ll need to charter a fishing boat on the Caspian Sea.
(Reality) Check, Please: The price of caviar is expected to rise even higher in the coming years due to shrinking supplies — which makes me glad that I prefer cheeseburgers.