What bands of faith can impious lucre hold?"
Gold. Those who have it cannot let it go, those who don't have it covet it. There's something about it that gets to people's heads, something beyond its simple monetary value. Characters who come across a trove of gold (or silver, gems, cash or other treasure, but most often yellow gold) will almost inevitably become obsessed over it to the point of near lunacy. This typically manifests as single-minded greed and jealousy, with characters putting their newfound need to hoard wealth above any previous goal or attachment they may have had. The actual source of wealth can be almost anything — a rich mine or deposit, a successful bank heist, buried Pirate Booty, the spoils of war, a dragon's treasure... — but the effect will be the same.
Sometimes, if the characters in question are expecting to gain a great deal of wealth through whichever means, they may consciously try to avert this trope and plan to split the wealth fairly and only take they can be carry or need for a comfortable life. This will all be forgotten the very instant that the wealth is in sight: people will rejoice, stuff bags and pockets with treasure and obsesses over how rich they now are... until it will occur to them that they'd be even richer if they didn't have to share it with all these other fellows...
By the end, you can expect them to forgo anything like sanity or survival instinct as they obsessively try to hoard as much as they can, and lifelong friends to fly at each other's throats for just one more shiny coin...
There's probably nothing that can be more destructive to a circle of True Companions than this, for it is a moral disease as well as a mental one. To be infected with it leaves one vulnerable to the effects of karma and removes all protections one gets from being an upright hero. Fortunately, most heroes infected with Gold Fever realize what dinks they're being and turn back into their own noble, non-greedy selves just in time to avoid killing each other or being crushed by the Treasure Room's bamboo-powered boobytraps. Though sometimes they make off with a teensy partial sum of it if the writer thinks they deserve it.
Villains who have been infected with Gold Fever don't make out nearly as well as heroes. They're almost certain to bump each other off and/or end up tripping headfirst into a Lava Pit while clutching a golden trinket and hissing insanely: "It's mine! ALL MINE! MIIIII—" *FLOOP!* In fact, the main cause of Karmic Death is a villain's own avarice, and their inability to see what danger they're in while they're trying to satisfy it or the inability to let go when it starts to interfere with their immediate chances of survival (like if they're stupidly trying to drag heavy gold bars with them and are thus caught in a Death Trap that they'd otherwise have been able to evade). Even the most brilliant and street-savvy of villains can find themselves holding the Idiot Ball when Gold Fever strikes. And being already insanely wealthy is no protection against Gold Fever. In fact, wealthy characters seem even more inclined to take leave of their senses when Gold Fever strikes, most likely because the existing drive which led them to become wealthy in the first place is a fire that Gold Fever is just adding fuel to.
Don’t expect anyone to give much thought to what they're going to do with all this wealth, how they'll carry it away, or how they'll defend it and themselves from other people with Gold Fever. Foresight is generally one of the first things to go in these situations.
See also Artifact of Attraction, Money Fetish, Prospector and especially Greed. Related is Apple of Discord, where greed might not be the primary motivation, but the end result still turns out to be a free-for-all.
- In Gankutsuou, The Count's revenge plot against Danglars revolves around the latter's Gold Fever. After tricking Danglars into losing all of his wealth in the stock market, the Count lures him onto a spaceship with an interior constructed mostly of gold bars, which he then sends hurtling into the depths of space where Danglars will die a very rich man.
- Jiro Taniguchi's The Ice Wanderer tells the story of young Jack London and his friend being saved by the titular wanderer while looking for gold in Alaska during winter. Jack wants to come back after that but the rest of their team had found gold meanwhile — at the end he's the only one who comes back. Those who stayed die.
- Spirited Away has the bathhouse employees going crazy trying to pick up gold from No Face. It turns out to be just enchanted rocks.
- One Piece:
- Nami has a Running Gag where she will utterly refuse to do something, but then immediately change her mind when money is involved.
- Eneru was already crazy when he arrived on Skypeia, but part of his master plan involves hoarding every last chunk of gold he can get his hands on, not out of greed, but because he has electricity powers and gold is an excellent conductor, allowing him to construct a massive self-powered airship to take him to the moon.
- Gild Tesoro, the main villain of One Piece Film: Gold, had an obsession with gold. Furthermore, his Devil Fruit allowed him to manipulate and shape gold any way he wanted to. Furthermore, he was able to "Awaken" his Devil Fruit, allowing him to do even more with it. His obsession with gold was the result of his Dark and Troubled Past making him obsessed over never being weak and thus equating wealth with power.
- Lupin III: Travels of Marco Polo – Another Page: Gold is mentioned as part of the Another Page treasure. Fujiko is naturally very interested, as are Lupin and Jigen.
- Played seriously in Jinx by Brian Bendis, where the eponymous protagonist carries a deep resentment of herself for once having gone crazy with gold fever, grabbing for flying dollar bills while people laid dead and dying around her.
- The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had an extended storyline where the trio moves to the country, up in the mountains. Their (fairly) idyllic world is shattered when one of them discovers gold (which is just a stray piece of jewelry) and spurs a huge, invasive gold rush.
- A Mickey Mouse comic had Mickey camping with his nephews Morty and Ferdy. The boys accidentally start a rumour of a gold strike which infects all of the other campers with gold fever. Their mad hunt for the gold causes a landslide that traps everyone in the camping ground.
- One Hellboy has a man own a house where he lured Disposable Vagrant into a certain room where they disappeared, after which a few gold coins fell down the stairs. He admits to having done this several times, but asks Hellboy to end it. It turns out to be a trap, as the owner figured a few coins for the dregs of society meant a lot more for the Beast of the Apocalypse. He's right: a rfirgerator-sized block of gold coins crashes down the stairs, crushing him to death.
- In Tomahawk #135, Hawk and his friend Jess go in search of gold, following a Treasure Map that unknowingly leads them into an Indian Burial Ground. When Hawk discovers this, he wants to leave, but Jess becomes obsessed with the acquiring all the gold, and attempts to drive out Hawk and the party of Indians seeking to bury one of their dead. Ultimately this results in Jess suffering a Death by Materialism.
- De cape et de crocs: Cenile's main reason for going to the moon is hearing that gold grows on trees there. This is in fact the case (the Moon is a weird place), and he ends up staying in open ground during a goldstorm, turned into a gold statue.
- Disney's Aladdin:
- The eponymous Aladdin is clearly warned to take "nothing but the lamp" from the cave full of treasure. His pet monkey, however, clearly falls for the Gold Fever as he drools over a large gemstone and grabs it, triggering the cavern collapse. This has the unexpected result of saving Aladdin's life as Jafar was waiting for Aladdin to exit so he could murder him and steal the lamp for himself.
- Taken even further in the sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves, in which Aladdin's father Cassim is searching for the Hand of Midas, a fabled artifact that turns all it touches into gold. The villainous Sa'luk, however, pursues it for himself. When the location of the hand is discovered, Cassim throws the Hand to Sa'luk, who catches it on the wrong end and turns into a golden statue. Cassim eventually overcomes his obsession and allows the artifact to sink into the ocean and be forgotten.
- The plot of Pocahontas is kickstarted by Governor Ratcliffe's Gold Fever, as it's his desire to outdo "the gold of Cortez, the jewels of Pizarro" that gets him to lead the journey to America, and over time he becomes more and more paranoid that the Native Americans are secretly hoarding the gold. He even has a Villain Song about gold, appropriately titled, "Mine, Mine, Mine."
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which has two men joining forces with an old prospector in the 1920s to search for gold. One of them goes bad and tries to kill the others, but is killed himself by Mexican bandits who mistake the gold for worthless sand and scatter it to the wind.
- Played with in The Dark Knight in the Joker's first coup.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has Gold Fever as a driving force for the plot, and one of the most famous songs from the score is called "The Ecstasy of Gold". In the scene the song plays over, Tuco, having realized that he's in the graveyard where the gold is hidden, runs blindly amongst the graves in a state akin to a religious trance, such is his desire for gold.
- The 1942 film Jungle Book is a flashback told by the lone survivor of a Gold Fever Massacre.
- The John Woo movie Bullet in the Head features three would-be gangsters with a bond of brotherhood who try to strike it rich in late '60s-era Vietnam while The War is in full swing. Things go right straight to hell, and Gold Fever, in addition to the hellish experience of the war, is enough to break this bond, which in John Woo's other movies was all but unbreakable.
- Tarzan And The Valley Of Gold sends the villain to his willing end by having him smothered by a roomful of gold dust, triggered when he greedily yanks a golden skull out of the wall.
- Mackenna's Gold, a western about a motley crew of people plotting and backstabbing away in a mysterious valley where you just have to fall in the creek to come up covered in gold dust.
- The movie version of Paint Your Wagon even has a song named "Gold Fever." Although the jealous paranoia was more about a woman than about the gold... at first, anyway. (Gold Fever was not an element of the stage version, which had a mostly different plot.)
- There's also the song "Best Things" which may as well be the theme song of this trope, especially the line: "A man has his creed, and mine is all greed."
- The Chechahcos is about the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush and all the people who thronged to the Arctic. The story involves two prospectors raising a little girl that they rescue after a ferry carrying would-be prospectors sinks.
- At the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Elsa Schneider is overcome by greed and falls to her death attempting to take the Holy Grail from its temple home. Indy himself nearly does the same thing before his father snaps him out of it.
- Wet Gold, featuring a sunken treasure hunt.
- In Shallow Grave, a suitcase full of cash turns three roommates into cold blooded murderers.
- Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan, in which two brothers find a downed airplane with a dead pilot and 4.4 million dollars. They attempt to keep the feds from finding the money, but mistrust rears its head and...well, let's just say "Downer Ending" and leave it at that.
- Drives the plot in The Western A Man Called Sledge in which a gang of outlaws fall out over the fortune in gold they have stolen.
- Cowboys & Aliens: Apparently aliens can get Gold Fever too.
- Ditto Battlefield Earth. The Opening Scroll specifically states that the aliens are here for gold, the rarest and most valuable of all metals.
- The Hobbit:
- Thrór, king of Erebor and Thorin's grandfather, is shown in flashbacks to be so obsessed with gold that it's even described to be a "sickness" and his obsession with filling his treasure rooms with enough gold to build a castle out of it is implied to have attracted Smaug to Erebor in the first place.
- In The Battle of the Five Armies Thorin proves to be at least as nutty as his grandpa, degenerating swiftly into a paranoid recluse who would rather die than give away a single coin. Thankfully he snaps out of it during the final battle.
- That Man From Rio centers around a drab, academic archaeologist who, in pursuit of a lost civilization's horde of diamonds, murders his two associates and abducts the daughter of one of them in his quest for the gems.
- In Ghost Ship, the gold bars are used by the villain to drive ship crews to murder people out of greed, thereby damning themselves to Hell.
- In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a buried suitcase full of stolen money serves as a similar catalyst.
- Onodera in Gamera vs. Barugon proves so extreme a case that anyone delaying him taking valuable gems for more than two seconds is considered fair game for a thrashing. It eventually gets him eaten by a giant lizard.
- In the Lone Wolf "New Order Kai" book The Fall of Blood Mountain, the greedy crown prince of the dwarven kingdom of Bor developed a case of this and heavily mined the veins of korlinium, a very valuable mineral with mystical properties, in the mountain. Unfortunately, said korlinium was the seal on an ancient demon's prison.
- The fifth book of Star Challenge, "Galactic Raiders", features a Gold Fever In SPACE! but replacing gold (used for children's toys) with "novium", that has attributed magical properties. In one particularly nasty ending of that book, things in the galaxy spiral so out of control that a massive bar brawl among the "Nebula" crewmen (the good guys in theory) just because of some overcooked food ends with everyone there dead (including, of course, you).
- Where's Wally Now? featured a level set during the gold rush. The entire picture is hundreds of prospectors converging a single point: some loser holding a microscopic gold nugget.
- Rudyard Kipling: "The King's Ankus" from The Second Jungle Book. A succession of thieves find a jeweled object that Mowgli had found and discarded. Later he follows the trail of their dead bodies.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium:
- In The Hobbit, the armies of Elves, Dwarves and Men would normally be able to get along, but can't when a dragon's hoard is up for grabs. It is implied that the depth of the gold fever is the result of a curse laid on the trove by Smaug (apparently a common thing for dragons to do).
- The dwarves of Moria, as Gandalf implied, "dug too greedily, and too deep." Justified in that this treasure was Mithril, with military applications needed during the orc assaults, and they had no way of knowing they could dig up a Balrog.
- This was the effect that the Seven Rings had on the dwarves. While the Nine Rings corrupted humans and reduced them into wraiths, the dwarves were too hardy and bound to earth to be affected that way, but the Rings made them paranoid and greedy, even as they helped them to accumulate wealth.
- The Silmarils of The Silmarillion have this effect on people, along with the Nauglamir/Necklace of the Dwarves. When Thingol fuses the two together, well...
- As per common mythological depiction, dragons are obsessed with gold. Of the four named dragons in the legendarium, three are explicitly mentioned to possess massive hoards, and two spent many, many years having the time of their lives simply sleeping on it.
- One of the islands visited in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader features a spring which turns anything dipped in it to gold, which sparks a brief rush of Gold Fever. A vision of Aslan brings the characters to their senses before anything untoward can happen, but it's enough to prompt Reepicheep to suggest naming the island "Deathwater Island" as a warning.
- In the Belgariad, the "red gold" of Angarak, which induces Gold Fever in those who possess it. The explanation given is that the red gold magically "calls to its own", causing the gold to be drawn together, which causes the holder to want to gather more and more in one place. The bonus here is that you can avoid the effects if you have the integrity or wisdom to refuse Angarak gifts. In later books, prospectors are encountered who have a more traditional gold fever, but this has little impact on the plot.
- In Fred Saberhagen's Second Book of Swords, the final defense of the Blue Temple's treasure hoard is the greed of the thieves, as any group of thieves who managed to penetrate all the way to the Hoard itself would presumably be overcome with greed and fall to fighting among themselves over the loot, even though there was far more there than any such thieves could hope to carry away. Is somewhat averted here, since Mark and Ben, the actual heroes of the story only end up fighting their less heroic accomplices, and remain loyal to each other. Also, the treasures they are fighting for, the eponymous magical swords, effectively cannot be shared, and can be carried away.
- The Sack ends with the titular superintelligent alien kidnapped by pirates, and the good guys think about how they could stop them from using it to rule the world. Turns out no one has to do anything - the trope worked perfectly.
- Averted in "Self-Limiting", a short story by Robert L. Forward. No member of the society described is obsessed with accumulating wealth, which is made not of gold but of a refined version of another rare, heavy, soft metal Uranium 235. Anyone who is too greedy accumulates a large pile of coins under their dwelling. They are then removed from the gene pool in a spectacular fashion.
- Known Space: The short story "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is a Recycled In Space version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, set during the Man-Kzin Wars — except the prospectors find a little more than gold under the mountain.
- The chief cashier in Making Money develops a glassy stare and unnerving facial tics whenever he gets on the subject of gold, and finds the idea of banking without a gold standard tantamount to heresy. Gold is Serious Business where he's concerned. The odd thing is, it's not even his gold he's obsessing over. He's just elevated his belief in the prevailing economic system to something akin to a religious conviction. He also suffers from a rather bad case of perfectionism to the point of Super OCD, and when he finds out he's made a minor error in his figures he "[has] a nasty turn" and locks himself in the vault... which doesn't actually contain any gold, because the previous owners of the bank had quietly sold it off without telling anyone and pocketed the cash and nobody noticed, proving Moist's point about the value of gold being powered by "Clap Your Hands If You Believe". He did not take it well.
- Zig-zagged with dwarfs. Their love of gold is in-universe Common Knowledge and they have drinking songs consisting solely of the word "Gold!", but they also have a realistic view of its limited usefulness and prefer metals with more practical applications.
Angua: I thought dwarfs loved gold.
Cheery: They just say that to get it into bed.
- Ian Fleming's short story Octopussy involves a former officer who, at the end of WWII, had smuggled a cache of Nazi Gold from where he was stationed, after murdering the mountaineering guide who got him to the hiding place.
- The awful fascination that Chancery exerts on parties to its cases in Bleak House is akin to gold fever. Shown most clearly in the fate of young Richard, who begins to neglect everything else in his life to pursue his case, becomes paranoid and underhanded, and finally dies worn out.
- In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Mammon was obsessed with gold from the word go.
MAMMON, the least erected Spirit that fell
From heav'n, for ev'n in heav'n his looks & thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heav'ns pavement, trod'n Gold,
Then aught divine or holy else enjoy'd
In vision beatific:
- In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, the smuggler Vigo Imola, who's been hired to transport a bunkerful of hidden treasure dating back to the Cetagandan Occupation, decides instead to sell out his clients to their enemies. The consequences spiral out of control, and the government confiscates the treasure. It turns out to be worth billions. In the original deal, Imola was to have received fifteen percent. Instead he goes to prison, and his former clients get a nice fat finder's fee and the satisfaction of telling Imola to his face what a terrible choice he made.
- In James Randi's book Flim Flam!: Psychics, Unicorns and Other Delusions, the author documents his trip to Cuzco, Peru, to investigate claims made in Erich von Däniken's Gold of the Gods. Randi tells of meeting a Father Carlo Crespi, who is mentioned in von Däniken's work, and of handling a scrap of gold belonging to the Father:
"Now, I have handled a lot of Peruvian and Ecuadorian gold in my day. I have some of it in my home. There is something about its texture and particularly its weight that gives it away. And it evokes a strange flush of the body and quickness of breath that has been aptly described as 'gold fever.' It is intoxicating to have in your hands the one substance that has been pursued with more diligence than any other. One begins to entertain ideas of murder and flight (Father Crespi looked very vulnerable to me at that moment)."
- In Jack London's The Call of the Wild, a relatively benign case of this dooms John Thornton and his friends (save for Buck). They discover a river full of gold dust. They stay too long mining the huge bounty of gold and are slaughtered by a passing band of natives.
- In Green, having gold fever is part of being a leprechaun. Even leplings — humans with only a drop of leprechaun blood — have it.
Lily: Is there anyone here who hasn't felt the pull of gold? The way it gets into your blood and pumps through your veins like a fever? That's part of being a leprechaun, isn't it? I've felt it myself. In the keep, surrounded by all those coins and nuggets, the bars stacked up to the ceiling. That gold shines with its own light. It hums like a lullaby and beats like a heart. Gold comes alive for us.
- The Highlander tie-in novel, White Silence, has Duncan, Fitz, and Fitz's student, Danny O'Donal taking part in the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada. Over the course of the story, Danny (who grew up in dire poverty in Ireland) succumbs to this more and more, reaching a point where he went insane and tried to kill Fitz. Duncan intervened and beheaded him.
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, The Painted Hills, has this trope in both the film and the host segments. The film averts it with Jonathan, the old prospector who has more concern for his recently-deceased partner's family than his own welfare, but plays it straight with Taylor, the lawyer of Jonathan's late partner who stages an "accident" for Jonathan, only to eventually be brought to justice by Lassie. One of the segments from that episode has Tom Servo becoming similarly infected with Gold Fever and melting Crow down into an ingot, in the mistaken belief that because Crow was colored gold, that he must be made of gold. Despite being melted into an ingot, Crow also becomes infected with Gold Fever and begins wanting himself. Fun Fact: Crow is made of molybdenum.
- One episode of Married... with Children has the Bundys and the D'Arcys visiting an old abandoned mine and discovering gold. Naturally, the characters almost immediately go insane with greed and turn on each other, trying to steal gold from each other at night and are ready to kill each other when a tourist group shows up and the guide reveals that the "gold" is just fake nuggets they leave out for tourists to bring home. The characters instead band together and rob the tourists of all their jewelry and watches, and the episode ends with them lounging on a beach in L.A, with the radio reporting on a group of tourists being attacked by an inbred family of rednecks.
- In Friends an argument occurs over a bunch of lottery tickets that were bought as a syndicate, as the characters fight over money. In the end Phoebe threatens to destroy the tickets before it hurts their friendship. She ends up dropping a bunch of them off the balcony. And a guy who finds one of them wins $10,000.
- In an episode of Gilligan's Island, Mr. Howell discovers a cave full of gold. The predictable results: 1. The rest of the characters Get Theirs by outrageously overcharging the Howells for everything and 2. the group's plan to finally escape the island is scuttled when the gold everyone smuggled in their bags sinks the raft.
- All except Gilligan, meaning for once, it was everyone else's fault that they didn't get rescued.
- The episode "Treasures of the Tonga Trench" of seaQuest DSV featured most of the crew developing Gold Fever when Lt. Krieg discovers a trove of glowing blue rocks on the ocean floor. Everyone involved Gets Theirs when the "rocks" turn out to be the fecal pellets of an enormous squid, which glow as a result of the bioluminescent krill that forms the creature's diet.
- M*A*S*H had a first-season episode in which Hawkeye and Trapper scheme to make Frank Burns think there's a fortune in gold near the 4077th. It's titled "Major Fred C. Dobbs", after Bogart's Treasure of the Sierra Madre character. It's also generally regarded as the show's Worst Episode Ever.
- In the Beauty and the Beast episode "Fever", the underground tunnel community discovers a buried treasure ship, and starts to violently fracture over the question of what should be done with it.
- In the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Ouroboros", a kidnapping plot goes wrong when Mitch Godel kills his fellow kidnappers as well one of the kidnap victims — even though she had hired him to perpetrate the kidnapping! After he convinces the woman's grand-daughter April that someone else had done the killings, Mitch exchanges the ransom money for gold, which he hides "in plain sight". After Detectives Goren and Eames discover the truth, Goren actually uses the term "gold fever."
- In an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" a group of four men steal one million dollars worth of gold bricks. Figuring that in one hundred years (2061) no one will remember them, they hide out in a cave in the desert and the mad scientist of the group puts them all in suspended animation to wait it out. However, upon awakening things start to go wrong as one of the men is already dead and greed soon incites the others to kill. The twist in this episode is that in the future gold is worthless and the last man standing dies lugging his worthless cargo across the desert.
- In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm received a $10,000 fellowship grant. Hal decides to keep it a secret from Malcolm, because "he'll just blow it on Legos and candy." (Apparently, Hal didn't realize that Malcolm's not 7 years old anymore). Lois and Dewey find out about the money, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Monk episode, "Mr. Monk Gets Married", Gold Fever is the main motivator behind two murders committed 125 years apart.
- I Love Lucy: The subject of a late-season hour-long episode, only with uranium instead of gold. There's no murder, but everyone suspects everyone else is trying to claim the uranium before they can. They have a long race to get back to the town before the misunderstanding is sorted out and they all agree to share the reward. It turns out the uranium Lucy found was actually just the sample uranium included with her Geiger counter, which is worthless.
- On Lost, Hurley consciously averts this trope by choosing to share the food from the first bunker equally with everyone in one huge feast, lest Food Fever turn the survivors against one another.
- Earth: Final Conflict: the Taelons managed to acquire a lot of gold, with the arrogant Zo'or invoking this trope in saying that they did not need to enslave the people of earth, the Taelons could merely "buy them" instead. Like most of the plotlines on the show, it went nowhere.
- One episode of The Greatest American Hero has Ralph (and his high school students!) following Bill Maxwell's treasure map to a long-lost gold mine. When they do find the mine, the students catch Gold Fever so badly that some of them empty their canteens and fill them with gold ore ... and then find that their bus's engine was stolen and they have to hike out across a scorching dry desert.
- The Discovery Channel took a group of unemployed men and made a series: Gold Rush! out of their attempts to extract gold from a mining claim on the banks of an Alaskan river. The fever part: the group's preacher catches gold fever and joins them at the claim site. They're still digging their way through season 3.
- An episode of Unforgettable has the detectives investigating a possible terrorist threat and instead discover a group of treasure hunters who are making explosives to blast their way into a sealed up room that they think is filled with old gold coins. They are so consumed by gold fever that they ignore the fact that the room is underneath a busy New York City subway station and the explosion is likely to injure or kill hundreds of people. By the time the detectives start investigating, two members of the group have already proven themselves to be Too Dumb to Live and accidentally killed themselves while making the bombs. The leader of the group turns out to be a transit cop who set things up specifically so his accomplices killed themselves off and left him with the whole treasure all to himself. Ironically, the treasure was Hidden in Plain Sight and all the preparations and deaths were completely unnecessary. If they were not so blinded by greed and simply reexamined the clues, they could have found the treasure and walked away as millionaires.
- The miniseries Klondike portrays the various people who participated in the Klondike Gold Rush and the extremes some of them went to find gold. One characters is murdered for the mere possibility of a claim having gold even before anyone had a chance to properly dig there. Miners dies of disease and starvation every day and sometime their bodies are just left on the side of the road. Most of the characters end up with a Downer Ending or a Bittersweet Ending, with a few Shoot the Shaggy Dog endings thrown in. When one of the characters decides to abandon the search for gold and go back to civilization, he sees that there are hundreds more gold seekers on the way to replace him.
- Parodied in an episode of Community, where the 'treasure' is in fact a stash of college textbooks. It becomes this trope both because the characters work at a community college and are in general prone to taking mundane things to absurd levels of Serious Business anyway.
- Used in the Mission: Impossible episode "The Mercenaries", when the team tricks a mercenary leader into believing he's found a huge trove of gold bars, prompting him to smuggle it out of the country and cut his men out of their share.
- The Made-for-TV Movie City Beneath The Sea had a dangerous radioactive substance stored for protection behind walls of gold bars. Naturally no-one would be stupid enough to steal part of that protective wall and endanger everyone's lives, right? (The gold would be radioactive too, but that wasn't brought up.)
- The song "One Tin Soldier" has the "people of the valley" killing the "people of the mountain" over a "treasure buried deep beneath the stone." Turns out "'Peace on Earth' was all it said."
- The valley people just asked at first, and the hill people said they would willingly share without explaining. Too Dumb to Live.
- It's sort of a toss-up who was dumber than the other—the valley people might edge out because they went all genocide-y without even knowing what the treasure was. So, the song is also about how you should always make sure your intel is complete and trustworthy before going to war.
- The valley people just asked at first, and the hill people said they would willingly share without explaining. Too Dumb to Live.
- "Derelict", aka "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest". Yeah, that song.
There was chest on chest of Spanish gold
With a ton of plate in the middle hold
And the cabins riot of stuff untold
- The Stone Roses' song "Fool's Gold" is loosely based on this trope. Ian himself admitted it was inspired by Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
- The Norse legend of the Nibelungs has a massive pile of treasure over which some 50% of the mortal characters are offed, and which causes the death of the other half through the Cycle of Vengeance that follows.
- In Classical Mythology:
- During The Trojan War, King Priam of Troy sent his youngest son Polydorus to King Polymestor of Thrace to keep him safe from the war. To provide for him in the case that Troy should fall, Priam also endowed Polydorus with a treasure of gold. When news that Troy had fallen reached Thrace, Polymestor's avarice induced him to murder Polydorus to appropriate his riches.— This incident is related by Aeneas to Queen Dido in Virgil's Aeneid, where Aeneas blames auri sacra fames (book 3, verse 57), the "accursed hunger for gold", for Polymestor's betrayal. The phrase was later quoted by Seneca as "What don't you force mortal hearts to do, accursed hunger for gold!" (quod non mortalia pectora coges, auri sacra fames). The quotability of the phrase also lies in the use of the word sacer (which here means "accursed" but can also mean "sacred"), which expresses the idea that "hunger for gold" is affecting the human soul like a supernatural force.
- King Midas had this, so when he gained the ability to make anything he touched turned into gold, it had unfortunate consequences for his daughter.
- In Professional Wrestling, Gold Fever quite often manifests itself in the form of championship title belts often referred to as "Championship Gold". The idea is the same, men with otherwise strong moral principles will often be driven to commit nefarious acts in order to obtain Championship Status. Similarly, the bad guys will often commit acts that are even more dastardly.
- The Goon Show featured this on occasion. Parodied horribly since this is the Goons.
- Dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay have this as a racial trait. Every single one has to at least fight it, and sometimes large amounts make them lose all self-preservation instinct. One notable instance is in the Gotrek & Felix novel Dragonslayer, where a Trollslayer goes all Scrooge McDuck in the dragon's hoard in the middle of the fight.
- 'Ghost rock fever' is part of the setting for Deadlands, and can even manifest as an actual physical condition. Justified, as Ghost Rock is the local Phlebotinum, and has supernatural effects as well as being absurdly valuable.
- The Conan the Barbarian RPG has characters making a Will save when coming across an amount of treasure worth at least as much as a king's ransom, and failing the save results in being distracted, which can be dangerous in the Conan universe where, more often than not, there's something guarding that treasure that more often than not wants to eat you. If the treasure is cursed or magically tainted in any way, a character may gain corruption points upon a failed Will save.
- Arkham Horror has an investigator named Bob Jenkins, a salesman who joins the battle against the Mythos forces in pursuit of cultist gold. Optional rules continue his story in one of two ways:
- He learns the truth of what's going on by finding enough clue tokens. He gets his gold but learns there's more at stake then wealth and can spend his cash for more clues. Or...
- He gets his hands too bloody in his quest and becomes cursed, in additional he cannot receive a curse-countering blessing as long as he has any money.
- Dragons suffer from this in Dungeons & Dragons, acquiring and nesting on the classic Dragon Hoard. At first it was believed that they suffered from a magpie-like obsession with shiny objects, but Draconomicon reveals that they are just as likely to hoard any valuables, even things like paintings or rugs. It seems that any object other creatures consider precious, a dragon will too, even if they have no use for them other than bedding. You could theoretically encounter a dragon sleeping on a stamp collection, while other works speculate that an evil dragon would covet a pauper's handful of copper pieces simply because they mean so much to him.
- Greed for gold (can also be applied to other valuables) can be taken as negative trait in The Dark Eye, that forces players and NPC s to unreasonable actions at a successful throw. And then there is Tasfarelel, the arch-demon of greed, who can grant even greater riches.
- In Rocket Age this is the major conflict on Ganymede. Earthlings coming to the forest moon in search of gold have come into conflict with the Ganymedians who are angered by the destruction of their native environment. A similar situation is occurring on Venus, only with Radium being the driving force instead.
- Battlefield: Bad Company starts as a light heared modern military first person shoter staring a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. Until the end of the first level, when they find a solid gold bar in the pocket of a dead mercenary. During the second level, you just collect all the gold that you happen to find during your missions to later decide what to do with it, but then Haggard decides to invade a neutral third party country chasing after a retreating truck loaded with gold and shortly after all plans to ever return to the rest of the army are abandoned.
- Spoofed in Fable II, where you come across the remains of a party of treasure hunters. Each corpse has a diary detailing their rising paranoia, with the last one flatly stating its owner's plan for killing his party members, then himself, in order to get the treasure...
- Also spoofed in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. If all of the players have full health, the game enacts "Rupee fever". During which time any Rupees collected will be doubled in value.
- And in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, when Barkley succumbs to his terrible desire for "Incan gold" in Cuchulainn's Tomb. There is no prior indication that this makes sense. At all.
- Tomba!: The Evil Pigs are obsessed with gold. It's implied that their magic is powered by it. The final boss of the first game is fought in a pocket universe made entirely of treasure.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, Donald Duck gets a hankering for any treasure the party finds.
- Kane and Lynch: This is actually the point of a multiplayer mode, where you and a group of others must retrieve a bunch of bank money from a bank robbery, but as soon as the loot's secured, it's only a matter of time before someone turns on the rest of the group...
- The central theme of the Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money expansion. The Courier is abducted and forced to help a madman rob the Sierra Madre (see Film above), a pre-war casino and resort rumored to house a great treasure. The place is a death trap full of poisonous fumes, lethal holograms and mutants in hazmat suits, but just as many of its would-be looters ended up turning on each other - other characters comment on how it was a "sickness" that afflicted people. Thus, your Bad Boss decided to link you and your fellow conscripts with Explosive Leashes so killing each other isn't an option (although your particular team is motivated by more than money). In the end, you may fall victim to this when you uncover the vault of gold bars in the heart of the casino: yes, you need to get the hell out of there, but surely you could afford to take one gold ingot. Or maybe two... three, if you left behind some weapons or armor...
- A valid tactic in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If you're sneaky enough to slip into a bandit camp undetected, and drop a valuable gemstone or the like where a patrolling enemy can find it, sometimes the bandits will attack each other over who gets the loot.
- While there's other motivations at work, one of the main plot points of the Sierra adventure game Gold Rush! is the 1848 California gold rush, and all the accompanying "Go West" fervor that came with it.
- Invoked and used as Schmuck Bait in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. The PKE Meter's flavor text states that substituting its platinum scanning-array with a rhodium replacement enhances the Meter's capability. Rhodium is extremely valuable, but as the description wryly notes, rhodium has a tendency to stain skin when touched. Permanently.
- The reason why Jack Slate's father was killed in Dead to Rights was because he discovered the existence of a large gold deposit underneath Grant City (a former mining town back in the Gold Rush days) that a secret cabal consisting of the Grant City mayor, sheriff and the prince of some middle-eastern country had been trying to extract in secret.
- beatmania IIDX 14 GOLD is, as the title implies, gold-themed, and its theme song has DJ YOSHITAKA singing lines such as "IIDX GOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLDDDD!!" and "Make it! Make money!"
- The Yukon Trail is filled with people involved in the Yukon gold rush mentioned in the Real Life section. A lot of them are returning home after losing it all, though a few are successes.
- At the start of the second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, you're shown a cutscene of the murderer committing the crime and framing your client in order to gain access to a locked chamber in the victim's office. Through your investigation it's later revealed that the murderer was trying to steal a large gold nugget that was locked in the chamber and said to be guarded by a fearsome Tengu centuries ago when the original settlers of the town began killing each other over it.
- In Sword Daughter, dragon treasure is cursed and afflicts people with unquenchable avarice. Loric is fully under the influence of such a curse, and Tyrna can fall victim to it as well if she's not careful.
- While it varies a bit from game to game, a regular occurrence in Umineko: When They Cry. All of the Ushiromiya siblings desperately need money, and there are ten tons of gold hidden on the island for whoever can solve the epigraph...
- In Tales of the Questor the sudden bounty of a Fae Lordlings' entire dragon-sized hoard into the Duchy of Fenwyck's throneroom causes not elation, but considerable distress for the Duke of Fenwyck, because he is smart enough to realize just how much trouble this trope is going to cause for him.
- DuckTales (1987):
- The Five-Episode Pilot revolves around Scrooge McDuck and his nephews looking for an ancient treasure, and after the loss of the first trove, it's mother lode, the Temple Of the Golden Sun. Gold Fever, identified by name, rears its ugly head in the last part, causing Scrooge to unwittingly trip a Secret Test of Character trap. The lure of the gold and its sheer abundance is so great that even Hewey, Louie and Dewey fall for it shortly after Scrooge. It falls on Webbigail and Mrs. Beakley to keep a level head and figure out the deathtrap. Scrooge breaks out of his Gold Fever when his life is sufficiently threatened; the Big Bad doesn't.
- Said Big Bad, El Capitan is revealed to have been the same Spanish conquistador who originally stumbled across the treasure some 300 years previous, and after leaving his crew behind, ended up losing the ship with his original treasure haul, and somehow managed to survive and keep himself alive for centuries by sheer will just for the hope of recovering his treasure. After he and Scrooge triggers the trap in the Temple, he's still sane enough to flee along with the others, but immediatly rushes back once the danger is past, only to discover that the Temple is buried under a mountain of stone. He promptly starts trying to dig it out by hand, and never appears again, so presumably he's still digging away over there.
- In "The Golden Fleecing", Scrooge has wished he could somehow find the Golden Fleece since he heard about it as a child, and when he realizes that it may actually be real, he immediately goes after it. Unfortunately, his lust for the fleece blinds him to all else, despite his nephews' calling out over stealing the Fleece and abandoning Launchpad. He gets better.
- In Bravestarr carium causes Carium Fever among prospectors, so much that in one episode when they're down on their luck, they get jealous when they find out that the prairie people have it, so much that they are easily fooled by an attempt to frame them for kidnapping. Eventually, the prairie people (who are nowhere near as materialistic) make peace by simply showing them where they get it, which they would have gladly done had they been asked.
- The Flintstones has Fred and Barney nearly kill each other over a lost gold mine they both invested in, and rescued by their non-affected wives who suspected all along it was a fake just after they come to their senses and before plunging over a waterfall.
- The Looney Tunes shorts
Daffy: I can't help it, I'm a greedy slob! It's my hobby.
- Ali Baba Bunny plays Gold Fever for laughs, with Bugs Bunny remaining calm and rational upon the discovery of a cavern filled with treasure and Daffy Duck going hysterically nutbar insane.
- In 14 Carrot Rabbit, claim-jumper Yosemite Sam discovers Bugs gets a "funny feeling" whenever he's near gold, and naturally tries to exploit the latter's talent. Hilarity ensues.
- Bugs succumbs himself in Barbary Coast Bunny, after hitting an enormous gold nugget while burrowing his way to California, though compared to Daffy, he doesn't exhibit any negative qualities from his stroke of luck, only antagonizing the other character in the setting for swindling him out of his nugget.
- A Droopy cartoon has Droopy and Butch as miners who have been close friends for years, despite their mine having never paid off. Then Droopy hits a big vein. Butch spends the rest of the episode trying to kill Droopy to get all the gold.
- Played straight in an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, as "ruby madness". Carl was the only one unaffected—indeed, he was the only one who seemed really aware of it.
- Tiny Toon Adventures had an episode of Gold Fever, in which throughout the short they were warned to beware of the "green-eyed monster". It was only after several fights over and thefts of a buried treasure that they realized that they were the green-eyed monsters.
- Happened in an episode of Stargate Infinity. The group managed to stumble upon valuable diamonds and hoped to strike it rich as a result not knowing mercs were after them and their newly found wealth. It becomes An Aesop as in the end the mercs backstabbed each other and while sacrificing most of the wealth Draga slips a diamond for one of the members of the team so she can help her family back home.
- Every so often in American Dad!, the focus goes to a sub-plot involving a gold, jewel-encrusted turd that evokes this in anyone who sees it. What comes out of it is a long string of murders, guilt-ridden suicide, and other betrayals as everyone involved tries to be the sole owner by whatever means necessary.
- Another episode revolved around Stan's search for Oliver North's gold.
- Beetlejuice: Beej is bitten by the Gold Bug and contracts a fever that can only be cured by a certain alloy...
- The Simpsons parodies The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in "Three Men and a Comic Book", with a rare first issue of Radioactive Man taking the place of gold.
- Rugrats parodied this once, replacing gold with nickels buried in a sandbox.
- One episode of The Wild Thornberrys, actually called "Gold Fever", dealt with Eliza and her sister, Debbie, bickering and fighting over a treasure chest of ancient gold coins they found during their stay in the Galapagos Islands (much to Darwin's confusion, who being a chimpanzee can't understand what makes the pieces of metal so valuable). Eventually both are forced to abandon the chest during a volcanic eruption, but not before Debbie procures one last gold coin which she nonchalantly flicks into the sea as they leave the islands. Eliza, apparently not having learned her lesson, jumps right after it. Having anticipated the action, Debbie throws her a floatie and enjoys herself away from her sister as the episode ends.
- Rarity of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has had this happen to her. In "Dragonshy" she blows a diplomatic talk with a dragon (whose snoring threatens to blanket Equestria in smoke) by becoming too interested in the hoard he's sleeping on. And it's forced onto her in "The Return of Harmony, Part 1" when Discord brainwashes her into being overcome by her greed- to add insult to injury, the 'giant diamond' with which she becomes obsessed is actually a boulder.
- Yukon Cornelius in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, though he alternates wanting gold and silver. And finds a peppermint mine at the end.
Blarney: Tell me, lad, are you a thief by trade or inclination?
- In the beginning of the Rankin Bass Christmas Special The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold, Ditty Doyle sees Blarney Kilikilarny's gold stash and undergoes the "I'm rich! I'm rich!" part of the fever...up until a whack from Blarney calms him down.
Ditty: Neither one. Somethin' just came over me when I saw the glitter.
Blarney: Aye...the gold fever.
- The Smurfs has this as one of Gargamel's driving purposes for wanting to catch Smurfs, since they are part of the formula for creating the Philosopher's Stone. In "All That Glitters Isn't Smurf," Papa Smurf uses this against Gargamel by luring him toward a pile of fake gold coins made from locks of Smurfette's hair so that he could rescue the Smurfs that were captured by the evil wizard.
- Wakfu has Ruel (pictured above).
- In 1306, English forces besieging Scottish rebels at Kildrummy Castle managed to bribe a royal Scottish blacksmith named Osbourne, who in exchange for all the gold he could carry set fire to the defenders' food supply. Once the castle was taken, the disgusted English betrayed Osbourne, and paid him by melting the gold and pouring it down his throat.
- Hernan Cortez and other conquistadors conquered the New World in search of gold (and new lands), which was why myths of El Dorado, the fabled City of Gold, were so pernicious. The funny thing is that Cortez went bankrupt multiple times in his life and died heavily in debt, while Spain grew rich from its colonies but squandered that wealth in continental conflicts and eventually lost its empire to overreach. The less funny thing is all the millions of dead natives this conquest entailed (mostly due to Old World diseases, though the Spanish did encourage the spread of these plagues).
- Of particular note is the Philippines: Spanish records note that the native Filipinos were covered in golden jewelry. This wasn't unusual for the wealthy, but when it turned out that common people like maids and farmers also owned a surprising amount of gold and silver, that's when the Gold Fever set in.
- During the Gold Rush in the mid-nineteenth century, some people would go to absurd lengths to defend a staked claim. It was most famous in California, but other gold rushes had them too, even the Yukon gold rush.
- Mere rumors of gold could spark a mass exodus of towns. This nearly happened to San Francisco once gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill when the locals flocked to the countryside but before those from the east arrived at the port to seek their own fortune via the long boat trip around South America - its population crashed to just 250 people in that intermittent period.
- Amusingly, the people who profited the most during the Rush weren't the miners, but the people who exploited the miners' need for goods and services. Considering that the basic unit of currency at Gold Rush boom towns was "a pinch of gold dust", the staples of life can get quite expensive
- The Gold Rushes of the 1850s in New South Wales and Victoria are credited as the most important moment in the development of the Australian colonies. Victoria's population grew up a factor of seven in a decade, and by 1880 Melbourne was one of the largest and most important cities in the British Empire. The allure of gold was so great that reportedly men would throw down their tools, abandon their families, and travel hundreds of kilometers in the days before anything more reliable than the bullock train for even the slightest chance of striking it rich.
- In 1868, the Treaty of Fort Laramie ended Red Cloud's War and created the Great Sioux Reservation in Montana and Wyoming. In 1875, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, prompting a wave of illegal white immigrants. In 1876, the Great Sioux War began. In 1877, the fighting was over and the United States took control of the region, and any remaining Sioux were shipped out to other reservations.
- In the late 1990's, a Canadian mining and geology company called Bre-X claimed to discover what was assumed to be the largest gold deposit in history on the Indonesian island of Borneo. The problem was that Bre-X was not nearly large enough of a company to fully extract the amount claimed to exist. Cue months of deals and brokering over which company would have the privilege of assisting with the extraction as everybody involved attempted to attain a piece of the action. These shenanigans involved such figures as former President George H. W. Bush, Indonesian President Suharto and former Canadian Prime Ministers. As for the actual gold, however...
- Due to the state of economy in the 2009-2013 time frame, there's been something of a gold fever in the investment market, as gold is seen as a reliable investment when stocks are going down. As a result those who had good deposits of the stuff before the 2009 recession are easily raking triple profits to what they paid for it in the first place. In August 2011, the price of gold rose higher than the price of platinum. That's Gold Fever taken Up to Eleven. Even after the gold crash of 2013, it only hit a low of $1200 per Troy ounce, which was still 1.5 times the price it had in 2008.
- Akin to the Discworld example mentioned under Literature, some people in the United States are seriously advocating a return to the gold standard. This, despite the rather obvious problem (among many others) of not having enough actual gold to do it.
- During an appearance on Opie & Anthony, Louis C.K. mentioned that he keeps gold coins for emergencies, but said he is uncomfortable owning more than a few at once, because he was apprehensive about this trope coming into play.