1902 gold Veld pond leads Robert Bakewell Collection auction
- Published: Sep 13, 2014, 7 AM
An emergency issue gold coin struck during the Anglo-Boer War leads all lots in Dix Noonan Webb’s Sept. 22 auction of the Robert Bakewell Collection of Coins of South Africa.
The 1902 Veld pond, issued during the term of Schalk Willem Burger, is among the great rarities of South African coinage.
An example of the coin graded Mint State 64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp is estimated to realize £30,000 to £40,000 ($48,661 to $64,881 in U.S. funds) in the sale.
It certainly has a compelling history, since the coin was fashioned from locally mined gold in the Transvaal late in the struggle for independence. As siege pieces, the Veld ponds are “some of the most romantic coins in the world,” wrote Ken Jacobs, in Coins of South Africa.
The independent Zuid Afrikaansche Republic, or South African Republic, fought the British in the Second Boer War, which lasted from 1899 until 1902 when South Africa surrendered.
According to J.T. Becklake, in From Real to Rand, “Towards the end of the campaign the shortage of coin available to the government-on-wheels had become even more acute, and this led to the establishment of the ‘Veld munt.’ ”
The “Veld Munt” or Veld Mint is so named for the grassland area of South Africa, the veld.
These coins were struck at Transvaal Gold Mining Estates’ workshop at Pilgrim’s Rest using improvised equipment.
All coins were struck from gold that was nearly pure and was assayed by P.J. Kloppers. The gold, however, was brittle, until Kloppers discovered he could use antiseptic tablets (sublimate of mercury) found in an ambulance to render the gold malleable, according to The Coinage and Counterfeits of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek by Elias Levine.
Making the dies was a laborious process, and six dies were damaged during the tempering process (plunging the hot dies into oil or water) before the seventh die was produced without incident.
A collar die was also created by hand, edge grooves painstakingly created so when the dies all met with force, the coins would fill the space and be milled, just like the British sovereign it was meant to supplant.
The obverse shows the initials ZAR and the 1902 date, and the reverse carries the mark of value, EEN POND (one pond).
Human muscle from two men could barely operate the press to strike the coins, and in three months’ time a reported 986 pieces were struck. Minting ended in June 1902, some 15 days after the signing of a truce, Levine wrote.
The Veld pond is a notorious target for counterfeiters because of its crude nature and its historic and monetary value.
Few legitimate examples survive in the quality of the example in the Bakewell Collection, according to the auction firm.