South Africa’s most unusual rare coin: the Veld Pond

The veld pond is popular with collectors of rare South African coins because of its interesting historical origins. Veld pond literally means “field pound” in Dutch because it was handmade in a small, remote mining village in a gold mine workshop. It traces its roots back to the second Anglo Boer war, at a time when the British had gained possession of the National Mint in Pretoria.

Between 1899 and 1902, the two Boer republics were at war with the British Empire. Great Britain wanted to take control of the recently discovered gold fields of the Transvaal. In 1900 they declared the Orange Free State and the Transvaal British territory. For the next two years the Boers engaged in guerrilla warfare to try and reclaim their territory.

In 1901 a commando of Boer soldiers took refuge at Pilgrim’s Rest, a gold mining town deep in the mountains. They arrived there without any provisions or the means to acquire them. Money had become very scarce since the start of the war since no new South African currency could be minted. It was urgently needed to buy food supplies from the black tribes. However, they would not accept the paper money that was in circulation, only gold coins.

Whilst spying on British forces, a Boer soldier discovered gold in one of the abandoned mines at Pilgrim’s Rest. The mines were subsequently scraped for gold and a sufficient quantity of the yellow metal was found to warrant the establishment of a mint.The commanding officer sent a message to the president of the Transvaal out on the battle field requesting permission to mint gold coins.Permission was granted and the Field Mint came into existence.

An improvised mint was set up inthe abandoned Transvaal Gold Mining Estates workshops. The Boers adapted old equipment found in the mine workshops to manufacture the coins. A small screw press was converted into a hand-punching machine to cut blank discs out of gold strips.

To stamp the blank pieces, the team used the mine’s big electricity powered punching machine, however as there was no electricity, it had to be operated manually. The steel dies were engraved with the monogram ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek) and the date 1902 beneath. On the reversethey chiselled the words “Een Pond” meaning “one pound.”

It’s uncertain exactly how many of these rare gold coins were produced. Different sources put the number somewhere between 530 and 968. Production of the Veld Pond ceased when the war came to an end in May 1902. The history of what happened to the dies after the war is unknown. They are believed to have been stolen and used to mint counterfeit Veld Pond. It is therefore important to purchase only a certified, graded and encapsulated Veld Pond.

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