Great (S African numismatic) investments of the future – July 2005 by Scott Balson
Facing an upcoming election and wanting the new coins in circulation to enhance his prestige, President Kruger didn’t wait for the Pretoria Mint to be completed. Instead, he contracted to have the first issue of the new ZAR coins (dated 1892) struck at the Imperial German Mint in Berlin. This proved a mistake, as the dies were cut with two glaring mistakes that insulted the populance and proved quite embarrasing to Kruger and the National Bank. Designer Otto Schultz, following a common practice, placed the initials ‘OS’ at the truncation of Kruger’s bust (image right).
Unfortunately, “os” is the Afrikaans word for ‘ox’, and the new dies had to be hastily prepared omitting the initials. Even more damaging was the incorrect depiction of the Voortrekker wagon in which so many families had come to their new home. This kind of vehicle traditionally had a single hitching shaft protruding from its front, and its rear wheels were much larger than the front ones. Schultz instead depicted it with a double shaft and wheels of equal size throughout – this wagon was commonly used by Gypsies in Europe – and hardly flattering to the hardship and pride of
the boers (image right).
10 000 half-pound coins were struck and 16 000 of the one-pound pieces. In addition, some 20-25 proofs of the half-pound were produced, while just 10-15 one-pound proofs were coined. These proofs were included in presentation sets and were probably distributed to figures who played some role in the creation of the Mint and its coinage.
Reacting quickly, Kruger had the embarrasing error coins withdrawn and replaced with another issue of the same date but with the errors corrected. As people do with any coins which they believe will become rare, they hoarded the initialed, double-shafted coins in large numbers. This effectively ended their circulation, but it also made them more available to collectors of today than they might otherwise be.