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South African Legends: The Single 9 Pond

The story of the fabled 1898/9 Single 9 Pond begins in 1899 at the start of the second Anglo-Boer War. The British Empire was engaged in a struggle with the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers for control of the two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State.

The war would become the bloodiest, most expensive conflict that the British engaged in for over a century up until World War I. Although not the stated reason for war, the British were most likely trying to seize control of the area because of the discovery of large gold deposits in the Witwatersrand region in 1886.

Amidst the struggle to maintain their independence, President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic ordered that new gold coins be minted. Without the means to create the dies needed to strike new coins, the government ordered that new dies be made in Germany for 1899 coinage. However, the shipment of dies was intercepted and confiscated by the British on its way from Germany to the Transvaal at Lorenzo Marques or modern day Maputo.

The Boer government was not to be deterred from making new coins. Instead of the new dies, they decided to use the old ones from 1898 and punch a 9 on the obverse of the coin to signify the year 1899. This took place at exactly 10:30 am on the 2nd of November 1899. However, when the first pond (Dutch for pound) was struck, they realized that the 9 was too large and protruded into the bust of President Kruger.

Consequently, no further coins were minted using that punch. This particular pond was put aside and came to be known as the “Single 9.” The rest of the coins in this batch, of which there were 130, were stamped using two smaller 9s, and subsequently came to be known as the “Double 9”.

The Single 9’s first owner was United States Consul General, C.E. Macrum. He was given the coin in a ceremony by the Kruger government in order to establish the republic’s identity as an independent country with its own coinage. Macrum scratched an “m” on the bust of President Kruger to mark his ownership of the coin.

For the next 50 years, the coin’s whereabouts are unknown. It surfaced in 1954 when it went on sale at the “Palace Collections of Egypt” auction in Cairo – the sale of King Farouk’s famed coin collection. The King is alleged to have acquired the coin in Paris some years earlier. At the auction, the coin was sold to Dr. Froelich of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for 655 Egyptian pounds.

Since then, the Single 9 has changed hands five times most recently around 2010 where it is said to have sold for a "multi-million" rand figure.

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