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The Mystery of the 1892 ZAR single shaft ½ Pond - Part 1

Ade Baker - July 2023


The 1892 double shaft coins of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, consisting of the Pond, 1/2 Pond and 5 shilling pieces, struck at the Royal Prussian Mint in Berlin, are to be found in the possession of most collectors interested in Z.A.R. or South African coinage. A considerable amount of literature is available in books, pamphlets, magazines and newspapers, illustrating, describing and commenting in particular upon the mistakes appearing on these coins. On the reverse design of each of the three coins the coat of arms of the Republic showed a wagon with two shafts instead of only one and the fore and hind wheels of the wagon were equal in size ( Fig. 1 and 2 ), whereas the hind wheels should have been larger than the front wheels. Furthermore, on the obverse of the two gold coins (Pond and ½ Pond), the engraver's initials "O.S." (Otto Schultz) appeared on the truncation of the bust of President Kruger.

Very soon after the arrival of these coins from Germany such numbers as had already been issued for general circulation were recalled by the Transvaal Government for re-melting. Up to the present day, one or more of the three denominations are still kept by a number of private individuals and families as momentoes and the whole Z.A.R. series is displayed by museums and numismatists. The three coins (amongst others of the same series) are often offered for sale in current coin catalogues. These coins are not rare. On the other hand, they are seldom seen in proof condition. Upon the discovery of the errors appearing on the "double shaft" coins, new dies, duly corrected, bearing the date 1892 were prepared with very little delay, coins struck and placed in circulation, at least in respect of two of the three denominations.

Accordingly, in most museums and collectors' sets will be found the single shaft Pond and the 5 shilling single shaft piece. As far as can be ascertained, the two latter coins were struck at the Mint in Pretoria in 1893 with 1892 dies. No record is available of the number of 1892 single shaft Pond struck, but it is generally accepted that the number must have been small. Because of its relative scarcity, the numismatic value of this coin is considered to be at least equal to and even exceed that of the 1892 double shaft Pond. The 1892 single shaft coins ( Pond and 5 shilling pieces) were not husbanded by private individuals as was the double shaft series, with the result that it is extremely difficult to acquire the pieces (particularly the Pond) in a well-preserved condition.

The above remarks serve as background material.


It was universally considered that no 1892 single shaft 1/2 Pond was struck. (Fig. 3 and 4).

In April 1956 Mr. W.J.C. Menne of Louis Trichardt, Transvaal, a new member of the Transvaal Numismatic Society, entered into correspondence with the undersigned and subsequently presented a coin purporting to be an 1892 single shaft 1/2 Pond, for inspection. This coin was examined by members of the Transvaal Numismatic Society at the Annual General meeting held at Mint House on 7th May 1956. During the same month, the coin and enlarged photographs thereof were closely scrutinized by the Executive Committee of the Society and finally, the coin was submitted to the Director of the S.A. Mint for testing and further examination.

The possibility of the actual existence and genuineness of such a coin had created great excitement among members of the Society. Why had such a coin and at that, only one specimen, so surprisingly turned up after a period of nearly 65 years? The question is partly answered by the fact that the coin was withdrawn from circulation for many years and placed in a bank for safekeeping. Nonetheless, the coin shows considerable wear.

Mr Menne writes that he inherited a set of Z.A.R. coins from his father in 1935. These were, at that time, withdrawn from the bank and an accompanying memo was found. This memo had been made by his father and was dated 9th January 1905. It listed each coin, which indicated that the collection consisted of all the denominations and years of issue from 1892 to 1902 - but the 1892 single shaft 1/2 Pond was not listed. The collection was again placed in the bank for safekeeping for a further period of 21 years. The logical conclusion to be drawn from the above is that the coin in question was acquired by Mr Menne's father between 1905 and 1935 and added by him to the collection in the bank. The obverse and reverse of this coin are in every respect similar to subsequent 1/2 Pond issues from 1893 (Fig. 5 and 6 ) to 1897 except that the reverse bears the date of 1892.

Efforts were immediately made and are still continuing, to ascertain whether the reverse die of the 1892 single shaft 1/2 Pond was ever made. The Old Museum in Boom Street, Pretoria, has a very considerable number of dies of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. However, no reverse die of the coin in question was found. (Incidentally, the Old Museum possesses 8 reverse dies of the 1898 1/2 Pond, as well as two reverse dies of the 1894 crown. The writer saw, before the war, a reverse die of an 1893 crown exhibited in a showcase at the German Mint in Berlin. As far as the writer is aware no coins were ever struck from these dies).

At the time of going to press it is unfortunate that certain investigations are not yet complete which may throw more light on the mystery. Contact is being made with the German Mint authorities but it is not yet known whether or not they will be able to elucidate the matter as many of their records may have been lost or destroyed during the war.

The Director of the S.A. Mint, who has personally made an exhaustive examination of the piece, stated that it is a genuine 1/2 Pond. He added that in view of the fact that many valuable records of the Transvaal Republic's Mint had disappeared, he was doubtful if the original purpose of its minting will ever be known authentically and historically. It is probably a parallel coin with the gold tickey dated 1894, presently in the Mint's Numismatic Museum. In regard to the present value of the 1/2 Pond, Mr. J.P. Roux stated "More or less £150 because of its nearly fine condition." The standard weight of the 1/2 Pond Z.A.R. is 3.99402 ± 0.00648 grammes and the least current weight is 3.96083 grammes. The weight and density test of the coin, as determined by an official of the S.A. Mint's Gold and Silver Assay Department, is 3.9208 grammes and 22 carats, respectively. The coin, although it falls short of the least current weight by 0.04 grammes, is still a very acceptable collector's piece.

Letters, accompanied by enlarged photographs of the "mystery" and 1893 and 1894 1/2 Pond coins, were sub­mitted recently to eminent numismatists and numismatic concerns in England and Holland for comment. In the replies received not one correspondent intimated that the coin, from the examination of the photographs, was not genuine. On the other hand, several expressed the wish to examine the actual coin or plaster casts thereof which would permit a closer examination and more detailed study. The consensus of opinion, although not explicitly so expressed and with certain reservations, was that the coin appears to be genuine. It was stated by some that nothing suspicious could be found from the photographs and that there seemed to be no doubt that the single shaft is not a double shaft altered. In fact, there would have been little point in doing so, for the double shaft pieces commanded high prices. Furthermore, the fact that the coin had been in circulation is in its favour and tends to substantiate its authenticity. In all cases, the persons consulted expressed the greatest interest in the find and eagerly await further information.

From the evidence thus far available the writer is of the opinion, which is shared by the Executive Committee of this Society, that the "mystery" coin is a genuine piece. As intimated above, investigations are being continued, and any additional information or constructive criticism that readers can give will be much appreciated.


This article first appeared in De Nummis No 2 published in 1957.

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