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Numismatic Articles by Pierre H. Nortje: How Many Gold Veld Ponde of 1902 were actually minted?

In 2010, the researcher Rentia Landman, published an updated paper on the Veld Pond, entitled VELDPOND: THE TRUE FACTS PILGRIM’S REST 1902.

In her introduction, she states “Towards the end of the Anglo Boer War, the Boers experienced a critical shortage of money with which to buy provisions for the Commandos. At Pilgrim’s Rest a group of Boers, consisting mainly of pro-Boer foreigners coined, according to the latest information that came available, 650 gold pounds, the so-called Veldpond, in the workshop of the Transvaal Gold Mining Estate (TGME).

For almost 100 years, disturbingly incorrect information about the Veldpond was propagated. It started with a Dutch teacher, PJ Kloppers, who told journalists and authors of numismatic books that he was the initiator, leader and expert on minting the Veldpond. As this one-sided version was consistently repeated without verification, it was accepted as the truth. Kloppers was not the Head of the Field Mint as he claimed. It was in fact Field Cornet AGE Pienaar”.

In her paper, Dr. Landman acknowledges amongst other sources, Anthony Govender, a well-known numismatist from Durban, “who made most valuable information available” including some original documents related to the mintage figures.

A few years later, in 2016, Anthony started an interesting topic on the BidorBuy Coin Forum that centered on the number of these Veld Ponde that were struck during the dying days of the Anglo Boer War at Pilgrims Rest in the Eastern Transvaal.

A few weeks ago, an old time collector of ZAR coins showed me an original document relating to this issue. As far as I know, this document has never been published before, and certainly not referred to by anyone ever doing research on the Veld Ponde. The document is handwritten and was scribed by Mr. W.J.H. Barter, who was the treasurer of the Mint Commission of the State Mint “te Velde” (In the field) that oversaw the minting of the Veld Ponde.

According to Landman’s research, William Joseph Henry Barter (1865-1958) was a pro Boer Irishman that had been the sheriff of Pilgrim’s Rest since the middle 1870’s where he established an espionage networkin the area to expose the smuggling trade of firearms to chief Sekhukhune. During the Anglo Boer he was sworn in as war commissioner for the Lydenburg district and served under General Ben Viljoen and later General Muller.

In the following picture William (Willy) Barter is shown in front sitting on the left and president MT Steyn on the chair in the middle

Photo taken at Pilgrim’s Rest during September 1900

Before I reveal the information in Barter’s handwritten document, let us first look at the information Anthony Govender supplied in the BidorBuy coin forum thread that I referred to earlier on in this article – most of the following script are copied verbatim.

The question surrounding the actual mintage of the Veld Pond is one that can be debated for years to come. We have taken the actual mintage to be what Mr. P.J Kloppers had said at the end of the Boer War based on his daily tallying and balancing of the Veld Pond and gold that was used to mint the coins. When looking back 114 years, some of the facts look a bit skewed based on what a few people had to say then.

Let’s look at some facts surrounding this.

1. In a hand written letter by W.J.H Barter to Lieut Col Eldin Serjeant (a keen collector of ZAR coins) in September of 1902 Barter replies to Serjeant stating that “The only coins struck were over 600 een Pond Z.A.R and that was done in March and April.”

2. In a hand written letter by General C.H Muller to (the same) Lieut Col Eldin Serjeant also in September 1902 Muller replies to Serjeant stating that "the coins were made by his order after he had obtained permission from the Government at Pilgrims Rest District, Lydenburg". He further goes on to say that "with his imperfect machinery was only able to turn out about 525 coins".

3. Cooney in a letter to his niece stated that 530 coins were minted. (My note: according to Landman, Michael Joseph Cooney [1844-1929] was an Irish-American who was appointed to the field team to purify the gold to 24 carat and because of his specialized knowledge of gold)

4. Mr .P.J Kloppers, who designed the dies, stated that 986 coins were made.

(My note:- In her research, Dr. Rentia Landman actually gives a fifth number of 670 coins that is based on two financial documents that she says came to light during her research. The one is a list of the payments made during April. It reveals that the first Veldpond was made on 9 April and that a total of 145 Veldpond were minted during that month of which £10 were handed over to General Muller on 21 April 1902, £10 paid for a mule that the ZAR bought from Marshall (24/4/02) and £25 handed over to General Muller on 3 May 1902. The balance is indicated as £100 and that was handed over to D van Velden, secretary of the ZAR Executive Committee.

The other document is a financial statement for the period 10 May to 1 June 1902. signed by Barter, Pienaar, Joubert and Kloppers. It states that raw gold of the value of £426-19 (142-6-14 ounce) was handed over to the Mint Master in May from which 525 Veldpond as well as a balance of gold to the value of £144-16-0 were received at the end of May. The conclusion that can be drawn from these financial statements, according to Landman, is that 670 (145 + 525) Veldpond were minted. In the introduction to her paper, she actually states another figure of 650, but that is probably a typing error.)

The following picture was taken during the war of the Staas Munt te Velde, but Barter is not in the picture. The second picture, however shows Barter sitting at the bottom left with the Staats Drukkerij te Velde, who printed some of the emergency banknotes during the war at Pelgrims Rest.

Anthony Govender (in his thread on the BidorBuy Coin Forum) then carries on …

The question that now arises is, how can we have different views on the mintage figure of the Veld Pond by men who were actually present at the minting of this coin? We have figures of 600, 525, 530 and 986.

So why the discrepancy in mintage figures? I can only come to the following conclusion.

When peace was declared on 31 May 1902, the coins minted up until that date was between 525 and 530. Why? Because it was the daily count, and balancing as at the end of day and the grand total up until 31 May 1902 equaled to this. General Muller had to leave Pilgrims Rest and head towards Vereeniging to sign the peace treaty. So General Muller would only have record of what the total coins minted was up until 31 May 1902.

Cooney, an Irish American who was a spy and was spying on British Forces and also a murderer, knew that the war was over and if he remained in Pilgrims Rest, he knew he would be arrested. It is documented that Cooney also left on 31 May 1902 with General Viljoen and General Cronje to the USA to raise funds and never returned. Cooney would have only remembered the total number of coins minted up until 31 May 1902 which totaled between 525 and 530.

Historical documentation also states that even though the war was over, the Staats Munt Te Velde continued to mint coins up until the 08/09 June 1902. That is 8/9 extra days of minting. The question is, how many coins they minted during these 8/9 days. Kloppers was the last man standing; he was the one who handed the Veld Pond dies to General Muller on his return to Pilgrims Rest on 10 June 1902. Kloppers was also in possession of the last piece of gold, which was not enough to mint another coin and this he kept as a souvenir. The last time I was up at the S.A Mint coin shop, this was on display in the museum cabinet (on loan from the family).

So Kloppers was the man in the best position to know the exact number of Veld Ponde minted due to the extended number of days they continued to mint the coins, and he was there right until the end.

Was it possible to mint 438 Veld Ponde in 8/9 days when it took almost 2 months to mint +- 530 coins?

This leave us with the unanswered question and more realistic mintage total by W.J.H Barter that about 600 Veld Ponde were minted. It was possible to mint 70 coins in 8/9 days (530 + 70 = 600). So where did Barter get his total from? Barter mentions that these coins were minted between April and May and does not make reference to the 8/9 days in June. Did Barter leave Pilgrims Rest on 31 May 1902 when peace was declared or did he stay on until the 8/9 June 1902?

So we have more questions than answers and no concreted proof of the exact mintage of the Veld Pond. Hopefully in the not too distant future, a diary or ledger kept at the Staats Munt Te Velde will turn up and all our questions will be answered. For now, I guess we have to stick with what Kloppers had said, 986 coins were minted.

New Information as received in June 2021

The following is the new information I received, being a handwritten document by Mr. W.J.H. Barter, who was the treasurer of the Mint Commission in the field.

I certify that “the Een Pond” Property of Mr P. M. Munro claim inspector was coined at the Staats Munt te Velde during the war by us and is genuine. Only -560– been struck by order GOVT. ZAR.

(Signed by) W. Barter as Treasurer State Mint te Velde, Military Commission (?) ZAR

The number 560 is a sixth mintage number vs. the previous five that we have being the 525, 530, 600, 670 and 986.

Barter’s document obviously does not gives us now 100% proof of the number of coins minted: - it actually widens the number of possible coinage figures relating to the enigmatic Veld Pond and that is good. It will keep researchers and those interested on the lookout for new information and shows that even after nearly 120 years have elapsed since the coin’s striking, the search is not yet over!

By: Pierre H. Nortje

About Pierre H. Nortje

Pierre H. Nortje has been a coin collector since the 1970's and is actively involved in all aspects of numismatics. He studied political science and public administration at the University of Stellenbosch and earned his masters degree in 1993. Currently residing in Durbanville, Cape Town, he recently (2016) won the South African National Numismatic Society's Merit Medallion in recognition of his "outstanding research and publication" of his paper entitled "The Truth Behind The Griqua Town Coinage"

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