5. The Veldpond our most beautiful coin


Without a doubt, the Veldpond is one of the most beautiful coins in our country, as well as the most beautiful in the world. This can easily be seen anytime you place a Veldpond alongside any of our other coins. There simply is no contest.


The big difference between the Veldpond and other coins is that the Veldpond has the most character and personality. This is because they were hand-made. Each and every one is unique and individual. Their shapes, which vary from concave to convex, are the shiniest of all of our coins. They seem to refract light better than any others.


Obverse side of South Africa's
most beautiful coin
Reverse of the Veldpond


On analysing the coin market, an experienced investor would find it tough to beat a better strategy than buying 5 or more Veldpond coins. They are drivers in our market, moving it to higher levels. Drivers are the highest performers in the market.


The arrival of General Sir Redvers Henry Buller in Cape Town on October 31st, 1899.


Drivers are the coins that get the most media attention and they perform at the highest rates possible. The 1892 Single Shafts are also drivers. The Single 9 is the most powerful driver in our market.


With investors and collectors gaining knowledge and learning more about the Veldpond, there is no better investment strategy than buying a controlling number of these beautiful coins. Less than 1000 were minted and the few that are left will become increasingly sought after.


Surprisingly, because they are not cheap, the Veldpond is one of the most liquid of all of the coins we sell. They truly jump off the market once they have been put up for sale.


Amongst the Afrikaner, these coins almost enjoy the status and reverence of a religious artifact. There is something extraordinary about these coins that cannot be put into words. They became rare and sought after from the very time that they were minted. There are very few coins in the world that can lay claim to this. Generally, rare coins only become rare only after many years.


Norval's Point railway bridge, which was destroyed by the Boers, much to the annoyance of the British at the time.


What is even more amazing is the fact that these coins seem to have the same effect all over the world. They maintain strong markets amongst collectors in the USA, Australia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.


If you ever get the chance to purchase one of these coins, take the opportunity! They will turn out to be one of the best investments that you could ever make. Indeed, anyone acquiring a Veldpond would have a very tough investment to beat over the medium to long term. These coins defy the general laws of the coin market. The central law of all coins is they are as rare as their mintage numbers. The fewer the number of coins available, the more valuable they are. The Veldpond has regularly performed at financial multiples beyond that of coins that are far less numerous.


The story of the Veldpond

The story of the Veldpond is one of the most enthralling that we have ever read concerning a coin. The making of this coin is also referred to as being ‘romantic’. This is the first time that we have found such a reference to a coin. Without doubt there is something very special about the Veldpond coins. We have found that many of our collectors and investors become more attached to their Veldponds than to their other coins. Many exclaim, when trying to move their coin portfolios in a particular direction “No, leave the Veldpond!”


In an issue of the Star newspaper on Saturday the 17th of September, 1927, an article appeared on the Veldpond. The interviewer was in the fortunate position to be able to speak to Mr Kloppers, the very man who minted and created the coins. We believe that this article is of such historical significance, that we have included the entire article for your interest.


THE STAR, JOHANNESBURG, TRANSVAAL, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1927

THE ROMANTIC STORY BEHIND THE MAKING OF THE VELD POND

A CHAT WITH THE MAN WHO MINTED THESE HISTORIC REPUBLICAN COINS AT PILGRIM'S REST


In the middle ages when battles and sieges were part of every day life on the continent of Europe, the soldiers pay had often perforce (by circumstance) to be coined by means of improvised mints and the precious metals of which the coins were composed had to be provided by the cutting up and the melting down of plate, jewellery and miscellaneous baubles.


General Ben Vijoen one of the Boer's most admired leaders.


Such money was often less precise and of simpler design than that turned out by the regular mints. Sometimes it would consist of square, lozenge-shaped or octagonal pieces of clipped metal stamped with crude designs and letterings.


Sometimes, on the other hand, the coins would be well executed and attractive in appearance. It all depended on the artistic skill and mechanical ingenuity of the soldier mint-masters. Such coins are termed in numismatic (coin collectors) records as “siege pieces” or “money of necessity”.


When the civil war raged in England during the seventeenth century, the royalist forces were largely paid with such obsidianal money. It was of silver and many a splendid punch bowl, flagon, dish and cup went into the making of it.


Ireland, during the stormy period which terminated with the battle of Boyne, 1690, had to pay its fighting men with “gun money”. For this, no precious metals were used, but only worn out cannon and kettles, pots and pans from the Irish kitchens. A crown piece was made of less than an ounce of brass or bronze.


Money of necessity was struck in German East Africa during the Great War and many people in Johannesburg will remember the handsome elephant sovereigns of gold and the 20 and five heller pieces of copper and brass that were brought back in considerable numbers by local men on their return from the East Africa campaign. This money was coined in a portable field mint at Tabora.


South Africa is only represented in this interesting branch of numismatics by one variety of coin-the famous “Veld Pond”. These coins were struck by the Boers at Pilgrims’ Rest in 1902 during the last few months of the Three Years’ War.


The Veld Pond is a pretty coin, a shade larger than a Sovereign. It is made of practically pure Transvaal gold and its intrinsic value is about 22s. On the one side is a monogram Z.A.R. (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek) in elegant lettering with the date 1902 beneath. On the other side are the words “Een Pond”. The coin has milled edges.


It was in September, 1901, that General Ben Viljoen set up the rest of his headquarters at Pilgrims’ Rest, the little mining village situated in the beautiful valley about 25 miles north east of Lydenburg. This became the permanent base of the Boer forces under his control. They were the Lydenburg commando of about 400 men under commandant David Schoeman and a corps of 500 Johannesburgers under the general’s brother, Commandant W. Viljoen.


General Sir Redvers Henry Buller


Pilgrims’ Rest had been occupied by General Buller in 1900, but after that date the sound of war never penetrated the quiet valley. To Pilgrims’ rest were sent from various quarters, large quantities of mealies, which were ground in a water mill driven by the Blyde river. Families came there from ravaged districts, marriages were celebrated and the normal life of the community was maintained until the last day of the war. Near the village are the oldest goldfields in South Africa. All the mines were idle, though undamaged, but sufficient gold was obtained to warrant the establishment of a state mint, whence a considerable number of sovereigns was issued.


In January, 1902, General Ben Viljoen was captured near Lydenburg by the British when returning from a visit to the members of the wandering Transvaal government (to evade capture), at that time located at Roos Senejkal, on the Western Slope of the Steenkampsberg. After that the Boer commandos in the north-east of the Transvaal carried on, under General C. Muller, the same policy of semi-passive resistance until the end of the war.


The man who designed and was responsible for the issue of the Pilgrim’s Rest sovereigns, the “Veld Ponde” was Mr. P. J. Kloppers. Before the war, he was principal of the Kaapsche Hoop Government School in the Barberton district. Today Mr Kloppers is a school inspector of the Transvaal Education Department. He was good enough, at my special request, to accord me an interview the other evening when he told me the whole story of the “Veld Ponde”, a story that constitutes a numismatic romance of considerable interest.


The gem of the idea originated in the difficulty which the Boer forces experienced in making purchases of food and other necessities from the natives. The latter were shy of the paper money which was circulating amongst the Boers themselves. They wanted the sovereign – the sovereign which had the horse upon it (the steed of St. George which is found on British Sovereigns).


The government’s stock of coined money was practically exhausted. It had, however, a certain amount of bar gold and it was possible to obtain further supplies of this precious metal from the smallest mines by scraping the plates and from the alluvial diggings. Mr. Kloppers, attached to the Rand commando at Pilgrims’ Rest, conceived the notion of making tiny squares of gold, each worth a little more than 20 shillings, which the burgers would be willing to take in exchange for British sovereigns, knowing that they carried a profit with them. He advanced the suggestion to the Transvaal Government, with which the forces at Pilgrims’ Rest were in constant communication and it was approved.


On further considering the matter, Mr. Kloppers, who has always had a turn for mechanics and chemistry, thought that something better might be done than merely imitating the currency of the time of Moses- weighed pieces of precious metal. Why not properly stamped coins? There were mine workshops at Pilgrims’ Rest. These were silent workshops then without electric power, but contained tools and machinery. Could a mint not be improvised? There were a number of craftsmen of various kinds amongst the Boer forces and Mr. Kloppers discussed the project with some of them.


Eventually, after repeated examinations of the machinery and the tools, it was decided to endeavour to establish a mint and to strike gold sovereigns.


The State Mint in the Field, P J Kloppers is the man on the far left with hammer in hand.


It is interesting to note that Mr. Kloppers did not entertain the idea of manufacturing the sovereigns by hammering (the process by which most coined money had been made from the dawn of minting art up to comparatively modern times), but that he aimed at and succeeded in adapting machinery found in the mine workshops to manufacture the coins by the screw and press, in collar and with milled edges, having in fact, the main characteristics of the modern sovereign.


The first essentials were the dies. After having made tiny chisels of hardened steel, Mr. Kloppers took a piece of suitably softened steel and engraved upon it in reverse and incuse (formed by hammering, stamping, or pressing) the designs which he proposed to implement upon the sovereigns. The next thing was to harden the dies. This he tried by heating them and then plunging them into cold water. The dies cracked and it as wasted labour. A second pair of dies was made and these were plunged into oil. These dies cracked too.


Again and again, fresh dies were engraved and unsuccessful attempts were made to harden them. Mr. Kloppers’ patience was wearing thin, but he persevered and the sixth experiment was a success. He then had serviceable dies.



The Veldpond dies.
A hand punching-machine that worked on the screw and press principal, like a copying press, was found. This machine was adapted to hold the dies, which were brought into close contact by turning the screw. From the other items that were in the workshops, a hand roller was contrived by which pieces of bar gold, after smelting in a crucible, could be rolled between two cylinders into strips of suitable thickness.



There are many dangerous and misleading forgeries of the Veldpond. It takes an expert eye to spot these. Do not buy any Veldpond that are not graded ny NGC or PCGS.


It was a breathless moment when the portion of the strip was placed between the dies and the screw was applied. Satisfactory impressions resulted!


The next step was to cut out disks or blanks the size of the sovereigns from the gold strips. This was easily done by removing the dies from the punching machine and making further adaptations. A disk was then inserted between the dies, but the pressure caused it to expand laterally, leaving it raised around the impressions. Mr. Kloppers donned his thinking cap again and a collar was evolved. A circle exactly the size and depth of a sovereign was cut into hardened steel. The inside of this steel circle was neatly grooved with a file and the circlet was then fitted into the lower die.


Another thrilling experiment was made. A blank was placed in the receptacle formed by the collar and the lower die. The upper die was then brought forcibly down upon the blank, by the means of the screw. This time, the lateral expansion caused by the pressure merely forced gold into the grooves of the collar, forming the milled edges of the coin.


The machinery was then complete for string sovereigns, but the difficulties had not yet all been surmounted. One was the refining of the gold, especially after the small stock of pure gold bar was finished. Some of this other gold contained a considerable amount of dross (impurities).


In the picture above, the square block of metal is the die that was used to mint these coins. On the left hand side are the Veldpond medals that were awarded to the minters of the coins.
On the right hand side are patterns of the Veldpond.


The greatest difficulty, however, was in bringing the gold to the right consistency for striking. After repeated passages through the rollers it would become too hard. The annealing (heating and cooling) made it too soft. The necessary chemicals were not at the disposal of the amateur coiners and all sorts of substances were tried.


None were to any avail, until the sublimate of mercury, an antiseptic from the ambulance stores, was experimented with. This proved a great success and the work of minting the “Veld Ponde” proceeded. It was a slow process, with everything being done by hand. The blanks had to be carefully weighed and the excess filed off. Imperfectly struck coins went back into the crucibles. Only examples which passed a careful examination were allowed to exist.


P J Kloppers "Hoofd van de Staatsmunt ten Velde"


The work was carried out with great formality and exactness. A mint commission was appointed, the chairman of which was Mr. Andre Pienaar, today the well known chairman of the Public Service Commission. A meticulous record was kept. Each morning, an exactly measured quantity of gold was handed over to Mr. Kloppers, whose high sounding title was “Hoofd van de Staatsmunt to Velde” (Chief of the State Mint in the field) and each evening he would hand back exactly the same weight in coins that had been struck during the day.


The “Veld Ponde” were easily disposed of. From the first, they were curiosities and were eagerly acquired by those burgers who had sovereigns in exchange for them. Their number was limited as the quantity of gold at the disposal of the Mint commission was not large. The output fluctuated with the supplies, but the striking of the Veld Ponde continued until the last days of the war. The total number struck was between 950 – 1 000. The exact figure, as far as Mr. Kloppers can recollect, was 986.


The members of the Transvaal government were highly pleased with the sovereigns. The State Secretary Reitz was particularly enthusiastic. At the conclusion of hostilities, Mr. Kloppers and his two assistants Messrs. W. Reid and D. Graham and the members of the commission were all presented with a gold ornament by the Transvaal government. This was as a memento for the services they had rendered with regard to the State Mint in the field.


They were made from the same press as the sovereigns. All in all, seven were struck. The medal given to Mr. Kloppers is in a trefoil shape, about the same size of three sovereigns. The centre of one side was stamped with “Veld Pond, Z.A.R. 1902”. The other side of the ornament was engraved in decorative fashion, “P. J. Kloppers, Staatsmunt te Velde, 1902”. Mr Kloppers naturally prizes the ornament very highly and it will be handed down in his family as heirloom. The ornaments given to the other recipients were similar, only differing in the names.


One of the Veldpond Medals.


“Veld Ponde” are pretty scarce today. Years ago, numbers of them were mounted and worn by their possessors as broaches or watch chain pendants, a fate that also befell the Burgers sovereigns of 1874. Some specimens of both coins also underwent the indignity of being pierced. Fine, well preserved, untouched specimens of both however, are still to be met for the fastidious collector.


During the latter part of the Three Years’ War (Anglo-Boer War), there were also a number blank discs, the size of sovereigns, used as currency in the Transvaal. Some had raised edges and some were quite plain. These discs are of very little interest compared to the Veld Ponde, as they bear no distinguishing stamps.


They were sovereigns in the process of manufacture and were put into circulation from the Pretoria mint before the British occupation of the city. They were issued in that form because the dies which would have converted them into ordinary Kruger sovereigns were broken. New dies were ordered from Europe, but they were intercepted by the British on their way out. Many people had private inscriptions engraved onto the specimens of these gold blanks in their possession.


It may also be added in conclusion that there was a State printing office in the field at Pilgrims’ Rest. This press also produced Transvaal Government notes of the values of £1, £5, and £10. Mr. Kloppers still has some of this money in his possession, which was obviously printed on pages taken out of school exercise books. The only ornamental feature about these Pilgrims’ Rest notes is the Republican coat of arms, which was printed from a die made by Mr. Kloppers.


The Veldpond is our only indigenous ZAR coin. It was designed by the Boers, made by the Boers and the gold was hewn by the Boers. This interesting story tells how these coins were manufactured, making them very special indeed. Should you ever have the opportunity to purchase one of these pieces, snap it up! They are one of the highest financially performing coins in our market and should remain so for many years.