South African rarities led bidding in Dix Noonan Webb’s June 11 and
12 auction of coins, commemorative medals and numismatic books in London.
The collection of South African coins assembled by the late Frank
Mitchell in total realized £272,820 ($327,384 in U.S. funds) including
the 20 percent buyer’s fee, representing nearly 40 percent of the
overall results. Six of the top seven performing lots in the sale were
from the Mitchell Collection, which formed 63 lots of the 1,137 lots
in the auction.
Leading the auction was the £93,600 ($157,107 U.S.) realized,
including the fee, for the 1874 Burgers gold pond coin, Fine Beard
design, which is South Africa’s first gold coin type. Graded Mint
State 67 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the coin is reportedly the
finest known example of the rarity
The estimate was £50,000 to £60,000 ($83,925 to $100,709 U.S.).
A Coarse Beard version of the Burgers pond, with a few minor surface
marks but “otherwise better than Extremely Fine,” realized £26,400
($44,312 U.S.) including the buyer’s fee, below the £30,000 to £40,000
($50,355 to $67,140 U.S.) estimate.
Burgers pond background
Both versions of the 1874 Burgers gold pond feature an image of an
early president of the South African Republic, Thomas Burgers.
The true mintage of the Burgers pond coins may never be known, but
experts suggest 837 were made, most (reportedly 695) in the Fine Beard
version; the balance (142) are of the Coarse Beard design. The most
observable difference between the two design variants involves the end
points of Burgers’ beard: the points are coarser on the scarcer
version than on the other.
Burgers served as president from 1872 to 1877. While serving in the
position, he sought to have a new gold coin made using metal mined in
South Africa, so he contacted Ralph Heaton & Sons in Birmingham,
England. The private mint commissioned Royal Mint engraver Leonard
Wyon to design and prepare the dies.
The obverse of the coins features an image of Burgers, as created by
Wyon, and the reverse shows the coat of arms of the fledgling republic.
Burgers supplied the gold specie, mined in the Transvaal.
Once the coins arrived from England, Burgers showed them to members
of the Volksraad (Parliament), who quickly objected to the coin, since
the legislative body had never been consulted, and also because the
coins showed Burgers’ portrait.
While South Africa would adopt the gold pond in 1892, based on the
English sovereign, Burgers’ attempt was rejected, and many examples
were then sold to the public at twice their metal value and so became
mementoes of the failed experiment. Many were used in jewelry, and few
examples are so well preserved. After the Boer War, the coin’s rarity
was publicized, and the coin has been a famed South African rarity for
Other South African rarities
One of the strongest performances in the Mitchell Collection was the
£24,000 ($40,284 U.S.) price paid, with buyer's fee, for the 1895 Paul
Kruger gold pond.
The coin is graded NGC MS-63 and was estimated to realize £1,200 to £1,500.
A total of 1,050 lots from 1,137 offered in the June 11 and 12
auction, or 92.3 percent, sold to 265 successful buyers. The auction
overall realized £838,464 ($1,407,350 U.S.) including the buyers’ fee.
Dix Noonan Webb will continue to auction “important” South African
coins, the firm stated, pointing to the auction in September of what
DNW calls “the world’s greatest collection of South African coins
assembled,” a collection built by Robert Bakewell which is expected to
realize more than £2.2 million (more than $3.7 million U.S.).
Contact Dix Noonan Webb via telephone at (011) 20 70 16 1700, email it or
visit its website.