How many Veld Ponds - 986 or 530? (June 2006)
Scott Balson

Until recently I blindly accepted the fact that 986 Veld Ponds were minted in May 1902 at Pilgrims Rest by the besieged boers. After all it is the figure bandied around since numismatic books started valuing this extraordinary coin.

New information from David Thomas, an Assistant Professor at Doane College in the US, has now cast doubt on this long accepted figure.

In the letter above the assayer of the gold used to make the famous Veld Pond refers to "all that was made was 530 coins". This is quite possible as history tells us many coins were melted down because their striking was unsuccessful.

So who is Michael Cooney?

I will let David explain.... 

Dear Scott

I am pleased to provide some insight and perhaps an update for you are your friends about the connection between me and this rare and wonderful coin. MJ Cooney was Michael J. Cooney. He was born in Galsworth Ireland in the year 1844. He was part of a rather large family. His father Patrick Cooney live to be 102 and his mother Catherine lived past 75. Michael was one amongst 13 children.

Michael, once old enough, set off for America to seek his fortune. Friends like John Watts Kearney, the son of General Kearney, introduced him to the west. Michael first settled in San Juan County, his taste of mining begins here at the “Black Wonder” mine. Some time passed and his sister Beatrice Cooney came to visit. During her stay she was introduced to my great grandfather Carroll Thomas and a romance ensued, and later they married. Thus Beatrice Cooney (Thomas) became my great grandmother.

Michael went on to explore the region and operated near Lake City, Colorado. Later he went to Leadville, Colorado where he became associated with the “New Years” mine, which he later sold. Carroll and Beatrice must have been near, because my grandfather Carl was born there and his sister Mae. Carl was spelled by Cooney as Carle (Big Brother Carle), and Mae was called in his endearing way, Maggie. Michael later went on to Cassell, Montana and it is said that he operated several silver mines there. He later made his way to the Whitlach Union and McIntyre gold mines at Unionville near Helena, Montana.

Tired of Montana, Michael decided to head for Europe and later on to South Africa. As we know, Michael became the Assayer for the makeshift mint that produced our lovely ZAR coins at the close of the Boer War. He remained in South Africa until 1904 and later returned to America in time to attend the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. While he was in Africa he became interested in diamond mining. Perhaps hearing that in the Oroville district in Butte County, California, these might be found there. So he traveled there to investigate. He later acquired the “Bank Mine Company” with F. J. Stoer of Emeryville, California.

Our letter was written from a post office box address in “Goldfield”, Nevada. He must have kept a few ZAR coins and decided to give them to his niece and nephew Maggie and Carle. Unfortunately poor Maggie died at a young age from tuberculosis and both coins became the possession of my grandfather Carl F. Thomas. Carl and his wife Cecil had 2 children, Donald (my father), and Kay (my aunt). Carl gave each a coin. Kay sold hers and my father’s was passed on to me. As stated before I have had this coin since 1957.

Based on these true connections, the coin I have, I strongly believe is the true thing. Cooney was there and had access and “Maggie’s letter” connects the coin directly through the family to me. This makes this coin a key coin.

Michael was married twice, once to Annie Taylor and once to Emma Erfurth. There are foggy accounts as to his death. One has him living until 1929 another until 1908.

Some of this is sourced through the History of Butte County p.789, others from family still living. I intend to visit my sister in Portland, Oregon where she has stored old photos from my grandfather Carl. Perhaps, if identified, there will be a photo of Cooney which may connect him with your photo of those men grouped with the coin press in South Africa. Most of the photos, I understand are in a tin, and unmarked.

This has been an interesting adventure. I feel confident that I have now connected the dots and researched the mystery of this coin. As a marketing research professor, I had never applied my trade with a family research context. I now have gone back eight generations and have a better view of my family. This kind of research is addicting and has consumed me these past few weeks. It is good to put forty years of research experience to a personal use.

I hope that some of this is of interest to you.

With Respects

David Reed Thomas

So there you have it... this new previously unpublished information suggest that the Veld Pond is twice as rare as previously thought.