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Ni28

The forgotten currency: The British coins that circulated in South Africa

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Ni28

While searching for the 1931 proof set story (posted in the thread on the 50c silver pattern), I stumbled upon an old book in my library published in 1841. This is The Cape of Good Hope Almanac and Annual Registry for 1841. Seeing the hefty price I paid for it, I immediately searched the contents for coin related information. This is the typical reason for me to buy these old expensive books and not to be disappointed; I found a fascinating section on coins in use at the Cape in 1841.

 

By 1841, it seems as if all the Dutch and other foreign silver had disappeared from circulation in the Cape. The book stated: “The Coins in circulation are exclusively British, consisting in gold Sovereigns and half Sovereigns, silver Crowns, half Crowns, Shillings, and Sixpences, and copper Pennies, Halfpennies, and Farthings.” What grabbed my attention was that the exact amount of specie imported by the Commissariat and merchants for the period 1825 to 1839 is given. The total was coins to the value of £718,455. Interestingly, the book states that a considerable portion of this amount was taken from the Colony by the “emigrant farmers” (obviously the Dutch boers who participated in the Great Trek). Some were also lost by sea, e.g. exports to St. Helena. It was estimated that only £350,000 worth of British coins remained in the Cape Colony by 1841.

 

British coins are an important part of South Africa’s numismatic heritage (for almost 100 years - 1825 to 1923), even in the old TransvaaI. I think by the outbreak of the Boer War, there were actually more British silver circulating in Johannesburg than Republican coins (still looking for the reference on this one). Based on this, I find it strange that they are not more popular amongst collectors here. This point has been discussed in some of the previous threads as well, but it may be worthwhile unpacking it a bit further.

 

I do not see a significant bias for encapsulation of the British coins (not too upset about this one!), possibly as many of the surviving ones in this country are heavily worn. For those favouring an investment angle, good quality coins will be in great demand in the UK, so it may be a valuable series to collect. This may be part of the problem, however, as most good quality coins have probably already been exported to UK. Anyway, the worn coins may make a nice second collection for some of us to simply enjoy the fun side of the hobby.

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jwither

There is no real reason for those in South Africa to have their UK coins graded because British collectors do not care for TPG. This is evident from the relatively low census counts. As with most non-US coins, I suspect it is collectors in the United States who buy most of these coins in NGC or PCGS holders.

 

I do not find the low popularity of British coins in your country surprising at all. Same reason as why Dutch coins are not that popular. Neither are considered South African coins by most in your country because if they were, then the apparent popularity would differ.

 

The claim could be made that these are the equivalent of colonial coinage which are popular in the US but none of these were struck locally. In US coinage, its primarily those which were issued by or for use in the colonies that are considered ÚS coins´and sell for high prices. Others such as the Spanish colonial pillar dollar are popular for other reasons but classified even though they circulated more widely and longer than most of them.

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I N Collectables

Hi All

 

I agree with jwither in the sense that these british coins that have circulated in South Africa are not considered to be truly South African. You could argue that these coins were the precursor for our very own South African coinage but to what extent? Sure the ZAR series was based on the denomination of the contemporary British coins of the time but was that not to simply aid in their introduction and use? Also I think that President Paul Kruger and co. would have been suitably angry if you said that they were copying the British.

 

Another important point to note is that British and coinage from other countries, did serve as currency in Southern Africa for many years, thus I can understand the value that they have to collectors. I suppose the angle from which you look at it matters most. Personally I do not collect British coinage but there is always the opportunity to.

 

Thank you for hearing me.

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Pierre_Henri
Hi All

 

I agree with jwither in the sense that these british coins that have circulated in South Africa are not considered to be truly South African. You could argue that these coins were the precursor for our very own South African coinage but to what extent? Sure the ZAR series was based on the denomination of the contemporary British coins of the time but was that not to simply aid in their introduction and use? Also I think that President Paul Kruger and co. would have been suitably angry if you said that they were copying the British.

 

Another important point to note is that British and coinage from other countries, did serve as currency in Southern Africa for many years, thus I can understand the value that they have to collectors. I suppose the angle from which you look at it matters most. Personally I do not collect British coinage but there is always the opportunity to.

 

Thank you for hearing me.

 

In the past 10 or more years that I have been trading on BOB, British coins – especially those that circulated in the pre-Union period – are undeniably the most collectable / desirable coins bar obviously our own SA coins.

(In my experience as a seller)

English coins dominated this country for well over a century – from the start of the 1800s till 1922 – so I for one am a passionate collector due to their important part in our numismatic history.

I collect the silver milled series of the 3d, 6d and 1/- struck during the eras of George III, George IV, William IV, Victoria and Edward VII.

Pierre

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jwither

I am sure there are a relatively large number of SA collectors proportionately who collect British coins, probably many more than do so for Dutch coins just as is true elsewhere. One of my points in my last post here is that it has no visible impact in the pricing. British coins in better grades at least from the ZAR and Union period are usually cheaper or much cheaper in comporable quality than those from SA. It would be easy enough for SA collectors to push the prices of these coins much higher at least for "conditional" rarities as they do for your own if they chose to do so. The evidence shows that they do not prioritize them.

 

The same applies to the Dutch coinage which was struck even as far back as 1652. In multiple prior posts, I attempted to explain why the prices of these coins are disproportionately going absolutely nowhere. There are too many of them especially when considering the issues from the individual states (as in Germany and Austria) and the culture currently does not exist in the Netherlands itself to make it happen.

 

Taking a look at the Heritage archives, there are 1239 currently listed. Of these, only five had a price greater than $10,000 with the most expensive being a 1687 NGC MS-64 gold 10 ducat for about $20,000. This was back in 2005 so maybe it's a $40,000 coin now but this is still "dirt cheap" for such a large gold coin of that age in this quality.

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