World Coins

Veld Pond from Anglo-Boer War a major South African rarity

The South African gold veld pond is an extreme rarity of South African numismatics, with only 986 pieces made, during wartime conditions.

Images courtesy of St. James’s Auctions.

Editor's note: The following is the final piece of a five-part Coin World series about collecting emergency coinage, prepared by Jeff Starck for the March 2015 monthly edition of Coin World.

While many emergency issues are relatively obtainable, or at least are available by type for less than $1,000, an issue from South Africa is a prohibitive rarity.

The 1902 Veld pond, an emergency issue gold coin struck during the Anglo-Boer War, is among the great rarities of South African coinage. 

It certainly has a compelling history, since the coin was fashioned from locally mined gold in the Transvaal late in the struggle for independence. 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, too, was a laborious process, and six die pairs were damaged during the tempering process (plunging the hot dies into oil or water) before the seventh pair was produced without incident.

A collar die was also created by hand, so the coins would be milled, just like the British sovereign the Veld pond was meant to supplant. 

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.

An Extremely Fine example sold in Dix Noonan Webb’s June 11, 2014, auction for £8,400 ($14,099 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee. 

The vast history of coinage is rife with many other examples of emergency coinage, and the topic makes for a fascinating study. 

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