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Questions regarding some Victorian & Edwardian Era Tokens attributed to Cape Town

Pierre H. Nortje (June 2024)


In researching another subject, the author came upon a token attributed to Cape Town by past South African Numismatists. However, further reading proved that this is not the case. Not only is the token not a Cape Town issue, it is not even South African, but it hails from Smethwick in Staffordshire, England.

This prompts the author to ask the following question: - Are there other Cape Town tokens that were also wrongly attributed to being local issues in the past?


Our study only focussed on Victorian & Edwardian Era Tokens (mid-1800s to 1910) that are recorded by at least one of the following five sources: -

  • Article in the South African Numismatic Society Numismatic Society’s Magazine for 1947 entitled The Token Coinage of South Africa by J.L. Knobel. The same author also wrote extensively on Cape Town Tokens in The South African Numismatic Journal Number 2, April 1965 and Journal Number 3, September 1965.

  • Tokens of Southern Africa – a catalogue based on the collection in the Africana Museum (1966) by E.J. Maynard.

  • Tokens of Southern Africa and their History (1978) by Dr. G.P. Theron.

  • Hern’s Handbook on South African Tokens (2009) by Brian Hern assisted by Allyn Jacobs

  • MTB South Africa Tokens (2021) by Dr Morgan Carroll and Allyn Jacobs assisted by Steve van Niekerk.

Initially, we identified 57 tokens said to be issued for the Cape Town metropolitan area, but eliminated those that are unquestionably local issues because either the name “Cape Town” appears on them e.g. Cape Town Co-operative Society, Cape Town Gas Company and Cape Town Tramways Co. or a Cape Town address is depicted e.g. Church Street, Wynberg.


Secondly, we eliminated those tokens that although not carrying the name “Cape Town” are unquestionably of local vintage e.g. Van Riebeeck Bottle Store, Salt River Co-op Society Ltd. and Ohlsson’s Cape Breweries. The brothel tokens of Cape Town are also not included, being covered in a previous paper by the author.




We have identified nine tokens that we are unsure of if they are from Cape Town and rated them as follows:-


  • Probably from Cape Town

  • Probably not from Cape Town

  • Not from Cape Town


Here is an example where we have difficulty in placing a token in one of the three mentioned categories …

Anderson & Gibbons Repair Token for their Jewellers & Watchmakers shop.

MTB South Africa Tokens says …


Comment: Initially, we could not find that such a firm in Cape Town existed, but the source(s) above seem pretty convincing and they have the information we do not have. All that we could find is a firm of that name from an Australian source. In the New South Wales Government Gazette for March 10, 1846, a list of persons is provided who have paid for licences to departure stock beyond the limits of location, including an Anderson & Gibbons from Murrumbidgee. Fifteen pages of past Southern African Jewellers are named on this website and neither an Anderson nor a Gibbons is named.

However, just before this paper was published, we received via courtesy of someone on Facebook a picture of a page in the 1956 Cape Town Street Directory indicating that such a firm indeed operated in the mother city.

The Nine Tokens.

  • Anderson & Gibbons (already discussed)

  • Cape Mutual Investment & Loan Society

  • Ebenezer Church 1871

  • Dippmann A. (Tivoli)

  • Foresters Arms

  • Queens Hotel

  • Railway Institute

  • Union Steamship Co.

  • V.S. & Co.


Cape Mutual Investment & Loan Society


Smethwick is an industrial town in Sandwell, West Midlands England. It lies 4 miles (6.5 kilometres) west of Birmingham city centre. In the old days, it had its local newspaper called the Smethwick Telephone. In the issue of  24/2/1934, it reported on the Cape Mutual Investment and Loan Society and said that “The fifty-third annual meeting was held at the Cape of Good Hope Inn, Smethwick, on Tuesday evening, Mr. F. Reay presiding over a good attendance of members.


From this, we deduce that the company was founded in 1881. According to, the said company is an inactive “Specially Authorised Society” based in the UK (that was) removed on 21 October 1974.

One of these tokens was offered on E-Bay recently and described as: -


“Staffordshire, Smethwick, Cape (of Good Hope) 2D Pub Check/Token for the Mutual Investment and Loan Society. Brass. 23.5mm. Unlisted but see W 5198-5202 for other issues from this pub. See the entry in Hitchmough’s Black Country Pubs for an account of a meeting of the Society at the Pub conclusively placing this token here.”


Comment: We believe this token is not from Cape Town.


Ebenezer Church 1871 Communion Token


According to Hern (2009:91) “One known specimen (is) in the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, USA”.


Our research could not find such a token in the museum’s collection. In any case, it seems that their numismatic collection (or at least a large part of it) was sold by Spink & Son (London) in their auction 43 of 18 April 1985. Unfortunately, we do not know if the Ebenezer token was offered in this auction.


There are many Ebenezer churches in the world, including one in Pittsburgh itself, founded in 1874.  An Ebenezer Church Token was sold by Noble Numismatics (Australia) in Sale 83, 22-24 November 2006 described as “BALLARAT, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in nickelled bronze undated (circa 1886) (W & W. 21; B.694)”

With the assistance of Steve van Niekerk, we were able to find a picture of the presumed South African Ebenezer token. It was published in a book entitled Australian, New Zealand and Miscellaneous Series Communion Tokens by Greig, Robinson and Woodside in 1964. It seems like the authors got the descriptions of numbers 251 and 252 mixed up. Although number 252 says “Cape Town” it does not say “Free Church” whilst number 251 neither refer to Cape Town nor South Africa. Why the authors thought it was a South African token is not known. Note that the Bible verse of the Ballarat (a town in Australia) token above and the Ebenezer Church token presumed to be South African, are the same.


Comment: We believe the token is probably not from Cape Town.


Tivoli Theatre Token (A. Dippmann)

Catalogued by both Hern (598a) and Carroll & Jacobs (MB2210). The Tivoli was a Cape Town theatre that according to was established in 1901 and demolished in 1932 being replaced by the OK Bazaars building on the corner of Plein and Darling Streets.

It was named after the famous theatre that had opened in the Strand, West London in 1890. There were also various other theatres in the world named Tivoli, including one in Johannesburg, a so-called “picture palace” as well as in towns like Boksburg, Germiston and Pretoria (Source:


According to, the Tivoli Theatre in Cape Town was opened by De Jong/Hyman/Logan and bought by Harry Stodel in 1910. It was later owned by African Consolidated Theatres.


We cannot find any record of a person by the name of A. Dippman was associated with the Tivoli Theatre in Cape Town.  What we did find was a token lot sold by Stephen Album Rare Coins in their auction 26 (15-17 September 2016). Lot 1006 was described as follows: -

EGYPT: LOT of 9 tokens & 1 medal, brass unless noted, without city name, but probably all or mostly from Cairo. One of the tokens (see picture below) was the Dippmann / Tivoli Token.


Our research shows that there was a so-called Printania theatre in Cairo that changed its name to the Tivoli in 1918 (Egypt Independent: June 8, 2022).


In Egypt and the Sudan Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker (1914) one of the pubs where beer could be bought in Cairo was called Dippmann. The handbook also says “Where British influence is strong, and especially in Cairo, the word Shilling is used for the Rub' Riyal which is equivalent to about 1s ¼ pence.” (The token depicts a figure “1” probably for a shilling value).


Comment: We believe the token is probably not from Cape Town.


Foresters Arms, Wm (William) Lawrence


Catalogued by both Hern (214a) and Carroll & Jacobs (MB800).

Source: Steve van Niekerk

According to their website, Foresters Arms is an upmarket Restaurant and Pub based in Newlands, Cape Town. On 28th September 1881, the plots of land containing Foresters Arms were sold to Simon Londt. He converted the rooms used as offices into rooms and opened “Forries” as an Inn. In 1889, Anders Ohlsson formed Ohlssons Cape Breweries Limited and bought the inn. It was converted into an off-sales and canteen and was used to sell their beer. By 1920, the Meyerowitz family had taken over stewardship of Foresters Arms from Ohlssons Cape Breweries. Charles Meyerowitz took care of running “Forries”, the storage area and the stables. His son, Julius took over in the early 1940’s and managed it until the late 1950’s.

We can find no record of a William Lawrence ever being involved with the Foresters Arms as an owner or manager.


There were (and still are) quite a few pubs, especially in the United Kingdom, called the Forester’s Arms. According to a “Wm Lawrence: William Lawrence was at the Forester's Arms, Sansome Walk, Worcester when it was sold for the benefit of his creditors in March 1862”.


We have identified a few tokens (or pub checks) for pubs named Forester’s Arms. In the Fitzgerald Museum (UK) is a 2-pence token described as “Ramsbottom, Foresters Arms, 2d, AE 28 mm”. In the Dix Noonan Webb auction of Barry Greenaway’s Token collection on 13/12/2006, a 2-pence token is listed for the Forester’s Arms in Feeder Road, St John’s March, Bristol (William Pennington) – see the picture below.

Comment: We believe the 3d token catalogued as a Cape Town token is probably not a local issue as we cannot conclusively find proof that a person by the name of William Lawrence was ever involved with the Cape establishment.


Queens Hotel Bottle Deposit Token


Dr. Theron in his book “Tokens of Southern Africa and their history” (1978: 19) describes the token that reads “BOTTLE DEPOSIT” and “QUEENS HOTEL” with the reverse showing the negative incuse impression. He says it is thought that it is a Cape Town piece and mentions that according to an article in the S.A.N. Journal no. 3, p.90, there are three hotels with that name in Cape Town, at Sea Point, Muizenberg and one in Dock Road.

However, there were hundreds of hotels in the English-speaking world with that name of which many issued tokens over the years.

Comment: It’s difficult to make a call on this token, but if more have turned up in the Cape Town area over the years, we would have guessed that it was indeed a local issue. However, Carroll & Jacobs mention that fewer than 4 are believed to exist. We would therefore think that it is probably not a Cape Town token.

Railway Institute Token


According to “The South African government railways service built and maintained "Railway Institutes" for its employees in the various major centres, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Volksrust, etc. These contained halls which were used for social, sporting and other functions, including Christmas parties, performances and presentations.” The institute in Cape Town was housed in Salt River and (later?) also in Adderley Street in the City Centre.


Many Railway Institutes operated worldwide and may have issued tokens for various reasons. However, as this token is marked “CT” we tried to locate other cities or towns with that abbreviation. The most likely other centre was Canterbury and surrounding areas in south-eastern England that use the postal code “CT”. We could find no railway institute ever existed in Canterbury, England, but such an institute is recorded for the Canterbury area in New Zealand with its biggest city being Christchurch. According to there was indeed a railway institute in this city but the abbreviation “CT” is not recorded for it.

The above pictures are from MTB South Africa Tokens (2021) with the uniface token at the top and below a silver medal dated 1898 (Railway Institute, Salt River).

Comment: We believe the token is probably from Cape Town.

Union Steamship Co.

In the SA Numismatic Journal number 3 of September 1965, J.L. Knobel (edited by J. Mc A. Day) wrote that “The Union Steamship Company was the predecessor of the (then) present Union Castle Line. Although the tokens are inscribed with the word “Southampton” they are thought to have been used exclusively in Cape Town. This fact and their purpose has yet to be established”. Four denominations are known, a 2d, 3d, 6d and 1/-.

At the end of the 19th century, the company’s name was changed to the Union Castle Line so the tokens must have been in use during the 1800s. The Union Steamship Company had a very close relationship with South Africa, regularly calling at our ports in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Port Natal (Durban). However, it also had trade routes with other foreign ports, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Hamburg, St. Helena, Ascension, Mauritius, Zanzibar, Ceylon etc. (


Comment: In our view, these tokens cannot be described as South African tokens, and definitely not as Cape Town tokens. We must add that there were actually two other Union Steamship Companies operating in the second half of the 1800s, one registered in British Columbia (Canada) and the other in New Zealand.


V.S. & Co.


Carroll & Jacobs (2021:497) say “Dealers and collectors of old have all speculated as to what the letters V.S. stand for. Theron tells us that the names V. Steytler and V. van Sittert & Co have been suggested whilst Colin Owen at his auction at the Durban convention in 1976 offered pieces which he listed as V. Stalei & Co. It is strongly agreed that the tokens saw use in Cape Town

Six denominations have been identified being a 3d, 6d (see picture above), 1/-, 2/-, 2/6- and 2/9-. 

Our research shows that a firm by the name of Steytler & Co. operated in Cape Town in the 1800s and early 1900s but the owner’s initials were “J.G.” By the turn of the century there was also an M. M. Steytler & Co doing business in both Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. We could not find a company by the name of V. Steytler & Co.

There seem to be very few companies named Van Sittert & Co registered in South Africa in the late 1800s/early 1900s and we could not locate one with the initial V. van Sittert & Co. Regarding the third name given above (Stalei & Co) we can find no information on such a firm.

We could actually find very little on any firm named “VS & Co” and the only remote connection to South Africa was an entrée in the South African Government Gazette for 13 August 1920: CUSTOMS ADVERTISEMENT, Return of Goods in the King’s Warehouse, Durban, for the quarter ended 30th June 1920. It refers to “two cases” from the ship Inkonka with the date 20th January 1919. The cases are marked “VS & Co over P M B in diamond; ½”


Regarding foreign tokens, we found information ( that between 1897 and 1911 a company by the name of V S & Co Ltd (Vickers Sons & Co) issued tokens in the UK.


Comment: In our view, the V.S. & Co tokens are probably not Cape Town issues.


Final Comments


We urge readers who have additional information on the tokens discussed in this paper, to forward it to us so that we can update the article that must be seen as a work in progress.

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