VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: The ‘World’s Largest Golden Nugget’ is Real

Posted on: March 25, 2024, 08:13h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2024, 01:00h.

“The Hand of Faith is the biggest gold nugget in existence, the second-biggest ever discovered, and the biggest ever found with a metal detector,” reads the copy on the Golden Nugget Las Vegas’ website.

What is believed to be the actual Hand of Faith is shown in Las Vegas on Nov. 28, 2012. (Image: David Stanley, Wikimedia Commons)

That’s all true, as far as we can tell. What’s probably a lie, though, is that it’s on display at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

What is on display below the sign reading “World’s Largest Golden Nugget” — the object that hundreds of tourists take selfies with every day — is, according to casino employees, a replica, a knockoff, a Hand of Fake.

Bad Faith

Kevin Hillier poses with the genuine article in 1980. (Image:

The Hand of Faith, nearly 62 pounds of pure gold, was discovered in September 1980 by Australian Kevin Hillier, who almost didn’t bother digging it up because he thought his brand-new metal detector was malfunctioning.

In 1981, Hillier sold the Hand of Faith for $1 million to Golden Nugget Inc., which placed it on display in downtown Las Vegas, inside what was then the company’s only casino.

Back in 2014, Vital Vegas blogger Scott Roeben got the scoop that the Golden Nugget had transferred the Hand of Faith to its then-new location in Biloxi, Miss. on May 1 of that year.

In the interim, the Las Vegas casino still managed to display a Hand of Faith. A casino rep confessed to Roeben that it was a stunt double, but promised that the real deal would return to Vegas by the end of that summer.

“Apparently, this whole loaning-out process is a pretty common occurrence,” Roeben wrote at the time, “as the same thing happened when a Golden Nugget opened in Atlantic City in 2012.” That location no longer maintains a Hand of Faith display.

So Where’s the Real One Now?

On March 22, 2024, contacted a front-desk agent at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget. She also claimed that the Hand of Faith on display there was fool’s gold.

Asked how she knew for sure, she replied, “because my manager just told me.”

That leaves two other current Golden Nuggets with Hand of Faith displays: Biloxi and Laughlin, Nev. Like the display in Las Vegas, neither has a sign indicating that theirs is a replica. (A fourth Hand of Faith was displayed at the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, La. until sometime last year.) contacted front desk agents in both Biloxi and Laughlin, and that’s where this story took an unexpected turn…

A composite photo made by Vital Vegas shows the real and replica nuggets in Las Vegas. (Image: Scott Roeben/Vital Vegas)

Both agents admitted that, as far as they knew, their Hand of Faiths were also replicas.

What’s Happening Here?

According to Roeben, the real Hand of Faith is still on display in Biloxi because, says his source, no return trip ever occurred. This was due to the larger-than-expected cost of shipping and insuring the nugget’s first trip, which cost more than $1 million.

Therefore, the agent in Biloxi was either mistaken or lying to us.

Instagram user Grayli Hope unknowingly poses for a photo with a probable “Hand of Fake” earlier this year. (Image: Instagram/thenames_gray)

However, it’s also possible that the actual nugget is back in Vegas or that it gets regularly shuffled among the three displays as part of a giant shell game.

As for what customer-facing employees know, perhaps they’re kept in the dark to prevent an inside job. The nugget’s current estimated value is $3.5 million. Though the heat would be too intense to resell the stolen gold in such a familiar form, it could certainly be melted down for an estimated $1.5 million return.

Or maybe, all three exhibits are fake and the world’s largest golden nugget is no longer on display anywhere. Maybe insuring it got to be the world’s largest expense. asked the Golden Nugget’s public relations department to come clean and identify which two, or perhaps three, of its three Hand of Faith displays are liars.

It came as no shock that our e-mail wasn’t returned in time for this story.

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