7. The Sammy Marks Tickey

This coin always attracts a lot of conjecture. Many of our dealers still refer to this coin as a pattern or token and not a coin. Such a definition is incorrect, as this is most certainly a coin. When assigning a definition to something, one cannot use personal opinion but must refer to actual definitions that are factually correct.

The story of the Sammy Marks Tickey Sammy Marks The Entrepreneur

Sammy Marks, one of President Kruger's best friends
and also one of the Transvaal's leading industrialists.

Samuel Marks was born of Jewish parents in Lithuania in 1844. Due to the persecution of Jews in Russia, he grabbed the opportunity to accompany horses to Sheffield in England and then remained behind. Sammy was given a set of knives by his future father-in-law and went on to Cape Town in 1868 to make a living as a peddler, where he was joined by his cousin Isaac Lewis. They became lifelong business partners. With the discovery of diamonds they went to Kimberley. There they became general dealers and later, together with three others, owned a quarter of the diamond claims. When coal was discovered at present day Vereeniging, they sold most of their claims and bought the coal-bearing farms on the banks of the Vaal River. The town Vereeniging was named after this coal company. Marks dreamed of creating a second Sheffield on the Vaal.

Marks remained on good terms with Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato as well as Alois Hugo Nellmapius, from whom he obtained the first concession to start his business venture in the ZAR. The Marks family visitors' book reveals names of aristocratic lords and ladies as well as high-placed officials including Boer and British Generals.

Marks often acted as an adviser to President Paul Kruger, his lifelong friend. When President Kruger desperately needed funds for the completion of the railway line to Delagoa Bay, he turned to Marks. He in turn, through his partner, Isaac Lewis, based in London, obtained a loan for the government for the vast sum of £2 500 000 from the London Rothchilds. This was insufficient to complete the railway system and consequently Marks approached the newly established local National Bank and obtained another loan for the ZAR government of £350 000.

Eerste Fabrieken, Hatherley, Pretoria.
Marks established the first factories
in the Transvaal.
Cartoon " The Star"
12 June 1912

Rhodes and Marks knew each other even before they became rich and famous. They stayed on good terms and Rhodes visited Zwartkoppies while on a visit to Pretoria. It was on Marks' suggestion that Rhodes bought land and set up his fruit-farming in the Cape Province.

Zwartkoppies Hall

The story of the Sammy Marks tickey is as intriguing as the man Samuel Marks. He was quite a character, which is probably why he and President Paul Kruger got on so famously. A more unusual pair you could not find, but they were the best of friends.

He built one of the largest and grandest colonial mansions, Zwartkoppies Hall, 23 km outside Pretoria. It is now a museum that pays tribute to the genius of its original owner.

This splendid Victorian mansion, which dates from 1884, was the residence of the magnate
Sammy Marks. He made a signification contribution to the industrial, mining and
agricultural development of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.

Set in acres of rolling veld just outside Pretoria, Zwartkoppies Hall epitomises all the ornate elegance of prosperous colonial households during the latter decades of the last century. The 48 gracious rooms are filled with all the trappings of refined Victorian living, exquisite furniture, porcelain, paintings and silver, making it a home truly worthy of Sammy Marks' status as one of the leading industrialists of his day.

The entrance- hall

The museum is unique in that it is the only Victorian mansion in the country with an intact and wholly authentic interior. This is largely due to Sammy Marks’ foresight, who declared in his will that the house, along with its contents, were to be preserved for four generations after his death.

What is even more appealing about it is that Zwartkoppies Hall has somehow retained some of the well-worn and relaxed ambience of a family home. It is a gorgeous period piece, soaked in atmosphere and appealingly frayed at the edges, which is hardly surprising when you consider that his descendants occupied the mansion for most of the century.

The white gates near the present-day tea garden, was the main entrance into Zwartkoppies.

Roses featured prominently in Victorian gardens. Bertha Marks was very fond of roses and in 1906, the formal rose garden was laid out at Zwartkoppies. A list of the roses she ordered from a nursery in Kent still exists. An Austrian was in charge of the flower gardens. The paths are edged with terracotta rope topped edging tiles. These tiles were made at Marks' factory inVereeniging, the Vereeniging Brick and Tile Company. The Rosa Mutabulis in the rose gardens
(Photo by Paul Gordon 1998)

The high-ceilinged rooms may stand quiet now, but there was a time when the entire house was filled with activity. It was a grand Victorian household in every sense, run by a small group of servants and occupied by several children, Sammy and Bertha, his wife. It is easy to imagine, as you walk from room to room, how the house was once filled with the happy laughter of children, the clumping of little boots up and down the Burmese teak staircase, the movement of coach wheels on the gravel driveway and the invisible scurryings of parlourmaids as they scrubbed and polished, lugged coal and fetched water.

Now you will detect only faint lingering scents of furniture polish and old wood, but a century ago the air in the old house was heavy with the perfume of roses brought in from the garden, mingled with the smell of roasted beef drifting from the kitchen and cigar smoke coming from the billiard room...

The billiard-room

This is a very impressive home for a man whose origins were so humble. As the son of a tailor, Sammy Marks was blessed with integrity, courage, astonishing business acumen and the capacity for sheer hard work. These qualities helped him rise, in the period of a few decades, from being a peddler of cheap jewellery to one of the old Transvaal Republic's leading industrialists. He departed for South Africa in 1868, aged 24. After his stint as a smous (peddler) in the Western Cape, he teamed up with his cousin Isaac Lewis, who was to become his life-long business partner and went to Kimberley, where they made a modest living selling supplies to mines and diggers, and later branched out into diamond trading.

After some time, they decided to diversify their interests and turned their attention to the Transvaal region, buying concessions and starting a variety of businesses, including a distillery, a canning factory, a glass factory, a brick and tile works, a maize mill and later, an iron-and-steel works that was to be one of the direct precursors of the steel industry in the Transvaal. They mined coal on the banks of the Vaal River where Vereeniging is now situated and gained partial control of the rich Sheba mine in Barberton. In the last few years of the 19th century, the Lewis and Marks company had emerged as one of the top ten on the Rand, with both becoming millionaires.

“If you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself”. This was one of Sammy Marks’ favourite expressions and when the time came to build his own home, he became clerk of works, personally supervising the ordering of materials, which were transported from Durban by ox-wagon.

Endowed with the same unflagging energy that had made her husband so successful in business, Bertha managed the house and its staff with great aplomb, still finding time to raise her eight children, indulge her hobbies of keeping chickens, gardening, and entertaining on a lavish scale.

Luncheons, dinners, croquet on the lawn, tennis, billiards and parties were all regular events. There were often no fewer than 30 guests at a time. Of course, she was helped by her staff of 14, most of whom (the indoor staff, at least) were engaged through an agency in London.

There were parlour-maids, kitchen-maids, laundry-maids and gardeners, as well as a governess and a cook. Then there was the estate carpenter, Mr Potts (also known as Daddy Potts) and the English butler, MacCracken, whose task it was to sound the great gong in the hallway just before dinner. The massive stove in the kitchen, with five ovens and ten hot-plates, is testimony to the scale on which the Marks family entertained.

Every morning the national flag was raised at Zwartkoppies. The flag-pole is 27-metres high and was clearly visible from afar. Before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, the Vierkleur of the old Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) was flown. It was later replaced by the British flag, the Union Jack. According to legend, during the Anglo-Boer War, Marks changed the flag favoured by the soldiers present in the vicinity at a particular time.

Once you have completed your tour, relax for a while over tea and scones. Tables are set under the trees and also on the wide trellised veranda that runs along the length of the house, affording splendid views of Bertha's rose garden.

How to get there

From Pretoria, take the N4 (Witbank highway) and turn off at the Verwoerdburg off-ramp (exit 11). From this point, signposts clearly indicate the way to the museum. Turn left at the top of the off-ramp and continue until you reach a T-junction where the road joins the old Bronkhorstspruit Road (R104). Turn right, cross a small bridge and you will see the turn-off to the museum a little further along on your left.

The Sammy Marks Tickey

In 1898, Marks was allowed the extraordinary privilege of using the state mint for a day. Marks struck 215 golden tickeys – three penny pieces that are normally made of silver – as keepsakes for his relatives and friends, including naturally, the President and members of the Volksraad (People’s council). The gold would have probably come from the Sheba mine, the only gold mine that Marks had a substantial stake of.

This famous incident is probably the best known of all the Sammy Marks’ stories and says much about the personal relationship that these two men had. There was often a blurring of the relationship between personal and private property and State property. Their relationship was almost feudal in nature, as with that of a king and widely regarded subject.

The obverse side of the Sammy Marks Tickey. The reverse side of the Sammy Marks Tickey.

Whilst Kruger’s and Marks’ special relationship caused great conjecture in their day, so too does the Sammy Marks Tickey. Many of our dealers still argue today over its definition. Some say it is a pattern and others say that it is a token. It is neither of these and can only be described as a coin.

A pattern is a coin that is produced prior to the minting of an actual coin in a metal other than that of the final coins’ minting. Patterns are produced by mints, to show the person responsible for the final decision of a coins production, what the three dimensional coin will look like. Prior to the production of a pattern, one only has sketches to refer to. The Sammy Marks Tickey was produced after the production run of the official coin, so cannot be defined as a pattern.

The Oxford dictionary defines a token as being: ‘A thing serving as symbol, reminder or distinctive mark of something.’ So the Sammy Marks cannot fall under this definition either, for it is an exact duplicate of the actual silver tickey in every single manner, save the use of a different metal. To be totally and absolutely correct, the Sammy Marks is of such a nature as to be undefined, its production was virtually ‘unique’.

If one is forced to define it, you can only come to the factual conclusion that it is a legal tender coin. A coin is defined by the Oxford dictionary as being ‘a piece of flat round metal stamped and issued by authority as money’. The Sammy Marks tickey was authorised by the President. Official dies of the three pence were used, making the coin legal tender. It is therefore regarded as a coin. The metal content of the coin has no material influence upon the fact that, within the dominions of the ZAR, a coin could be used for the purchase of goods and services to the value represented on the face of the coin.

The Sammy Marks Fakes

There is also another misconception and also the incorrect usage of the term ‘fake’ within our local and international market, relating to the Sammy Marks Tickey. There are many replicas of the Sammy Marks Tickeys that are circulating locally and internationally.

These have been manufactured by local jewellers in South Africa. Due to the reverence in which Sammy Marks is held by the Jewish community in South Africa, many of our Jewish jewellers have capitalised on this fact by producing Sammy Marks Tickey replicas which are placed in jewellery. For interest’s sake, the placing of any coin into an item of jewellery destroys the numismatic value of the coin.

The word fake as defined by the Oxford dictionary is: ‘make (a false thing) appear genuine’. This has not been done by jewellers, as the coins that they have produced have very obvious errors. The most common being the leaving out of the ‘dots’ that appear between the letters ZAR on the coin. Were these coins attempts to reproduce the Sammy Marks Tickey as a fake, the forger of these coins would have certainly not left out the dots in ZAR.

To date, we have not seen any Sammy Marks fakes. Only jewellery replicas have surfaced from time to time in the market. To see if you have a real Sammy Marks Tickey or replica, place your coin adjacent to a picture of a real specimen. If there are any differences between the genuine article and your coin then you have a ‘replica’.