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The Burgers Pond: South Africa’s First Gold Coin

November 01, 2012 

Until 1874, the only currency in circulation in South Africa was British. At that time, two indigenous currencies were introduced. A trading store in East Griqualand, Strachan and Company, issued trade tokens which would be widely used as currency for over fifty years along the east coast of South Africa.

In the north, President Burgers had a batch of gold coins struck for the South African Republic. Over time, the coins became known as the Burgers Pond. Though they were never put into circulation, they were the first South African coins to be struck.

Thomas Francois Burgers occupied the presidency of the former South African Republic from 1872 to 1877 and studied theology in the Netherlands before returning to South Africa to work as a priest. His liberal ideas, however, brought him into conflict with the Dutch Reformed Church and in 1864 he was suspended from the ministry. However, Burgers remained very popular with the citizens of the republic, who urged him to stand for the presidency to which a considerable majority elected him in 1872.

Burgers is perhaps best known for the minting of South Africa’s first gold coins. The citizenry had been petitioning for indigenous coinage from 1853, and in 1874 President Burgers purchased 300 ounces of gold and sent it to J.J. Pratt, the Republic’s Consul-General in London with the request the coins be struck in the same size as the English pound.

695 coins were produced in July 1874, the first batch, to be known as the fine beard variety, nicknamed after the portrait of Burgers in full beard that is depicted on the reverse. The second batch of 142 was to be known as the coarse beard variety as the original die used to stamp the coins broke and a new die had to be created to produce the remainder. The second die was slightly different and produced a thicker and coarser beard on the president.

Upon presentation of the coins to the Volksraad, the parliament of the South African Republic, the president was heavily criticized for using the Republic’s money to produce coins bearing his image. This was called egotistical and was said by parliament to be done for the president’s own vanity. Following the overwhelmingly negative response to the coins, no new coins were struck and the coins were never allowed to circulate.\

The coins were kept, instead, by the members of the Volksraad as keepsakes, many of them being mounted as jewelry or adornments.

The low mintage and the unique history of the coin make the Burgers Pond a rare and desirable coin that offers a story in addition to its monetary value.

 

 

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Jonathan Monroe

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