The 1860 Durban Club Token Coin

March 2007

South Africa's first token coin was issued by the Durban Club in 1860. While the well known landmark remains its fate is now somewhat uncertain as it has recently been purchased by a well-connected young female African doctor who is apparently looking at the land as an investment. The historical nature of the building and the amazing period furniture that it still contains is sadly destined to fall victim to that post-1994 mentality.

Let's face it the sins of the past cannot be corrected but history remains cast in cement and denying its existence is worse than putting ones head in the sand!

The Durban Club was, until the 1980s, the place where the gentry of Natal met and dined. The building still smells of Cecil Rhodes, Donald Strachan, Queen Elizabeth and so many other personalities who once graced its early history.

The Durban Club was founded on the 14th June 1854 for gentlemen to meet over a game of billiards. The second clubhouse was erected by the Durban Club Building Company in 1863. Building operations for the third clubhouse started in October 1900 and were completed in the grand Edwardian Tradition in 1904. In 1936 improvements and additions comprising 23 bedrooms, a new bar and private dining room were constructed.

The Club's unique dome

Furniture heralding a

majestic past

The image on the right
showing the staircase displays
a framed photograph which
could be the Queen of England
but it is not.

It is the new Queen of the
Durban Club - its new African
owner - a well-connected
black female doctor.

The hidden courtyard

Staircase once used by the
country's who's who

As a young man I grew up in Pinetown and often walked past the Durban Club knowing little of its history.

The image on the right shows the familiar domes and the rickshaws that used to be a major tourist attraction on the streets near the beachfront.

Today the ambiance is gone, as are the rickshaws, the issues of safety and pride - replaced by crime and fear right on the doorsteps of this amazing building.

Over thirty years Scott Balson has been seeking out the Durban Club token coin and now owns two pieces of the three varieties - his windfall of securing four Durban Club token coins coming in 2007. This followed his visit to South Africa in 2006 to present copies of his book "Children of the Mist" on the Griquas resulted in a chance meeting with the Manager of the Durban Club.

While three of the tokens were simply duplicates of the extremely rare coins he already had the fourth was the gem.

The fourth was the original pattern viewed by Durban Club members before they decided to go ahead and introduce this coinage which spawned so many copy cats. This unique coin in the Balson Holdings Family Trust can be seen below. The coating of the pattern coin has actually fallen away in parts from the rough surface below as can be seen.

The unique pattern

piece - priceless!

Even the famous trade tokens of Strachan and Co evolved because of Donald Strachan's visits to the Durban Club where he saw their successful application in such a rudimentary area as change for a game of billiards!

Today the Durban Club 6d is one of South Africa's most sought after numismatic items and its value is rising dramatically.

Scott Balson stayed at the Durban Club in 2006 and 2007.

More on this extraordinary coin can be seen at this link.