"Pretty" coins vs real relevance and value

As the Internet opens up more and more interaction between experts what has become apparent is the manner in which "pretty" coins have traditionally created more demand than their true numismatic counterparts. (Yes I still have a complete but worthless set of the "Silver stamps of royalty" struck and promoted in the 1970s. They are an expensive reminder of the true guidelines of investing in collectibles).

A current case in point are the early 1870-90 South African patterns like the Griquatown coins and their counterparts from the Cape and Free State. Traditionally these coins have raised excellent prices at auction based on their condition, hype and "prettiness".

I should mention at this time that I have two of the finest Griquatown 1890 patterns (dated and undated) on record - so I am not speaking out against these patterns for financial reasons. I am a numismatist.

Image right: One of the finest pieces known in the Balson Holdings Family Trust Collection

Included in this label of "prettiness", not just design, are some fanciful tales which were once cast in concrete among coin collectors. Fables spun from ages past by contractors like Parson who were paid by Spink to put together an argument on paper that supported their auction sales. (Yes I am talking about the Griquatown coins).

Now that is all changing.

When I started collecting coins in the 1970s the common theme amongst collectors was that "token" coins would never be a good investment.

For those who are new to numismatics my definition of token coins ONLY encompasses pre-1932 coins struck in metal, bone or plastic by businesses or institutions to FACILITATE trade. Bus tickets, milk coupons and OK Bazaars discount tokens for staff are a whole new ball game, have no interest and have no interest to me! (In 1932 coins that had been minted to overcome a real shortage of circulating currency in South Africa were outlawed. Ironically the coins in your pocket today are only "tokens" of value as the silver and gold coins have been replaced by "cheap" metals of very little intrinsic value).

History now shows that despite that bleak forecast by my peers I set out to research the Strachan and Co currency and trade tokens and discovered, through this research, that I had come across South Africa's first widely circulating currency. This followed the release of my book "Kence, the trade tokens of Strachan and Co" co-authored with Prof Clive Graham of the University of Natal in 1978. For years I have carried this research on this web site but it was only in recent days that I have placed the results on South Africa's auction house, BidorBuy, forum. The lack of challenge to these results speaks for itself. (It should be mentioned that coin catalogue author Brian Hern has been challenged by me over this issue for years).

Over the last few weeks I have posted my findings on the fallacy of the Griquatown coins and presented the argument that humble token coins (the Strachan and Co) represent the holy grail of South African numismatics as their set one and two (S&Co and extremely rare "MH" pieces are the country's first widely circulating indigenous currency). The open challeges have remained unanswered.

The bias by South African numismatists and "experts" in the past has been based on the theory that only coins authorised by a government have any real interest or value. Excuse the pun - but to take that line is to "cut off your own nose".

Look at the value of token coins achieved in outposts like Australia or the USA - tens of thousands of dollars - just like other rare coins issued by government.

It is time for South African numismatists to recognise a new exciting age that often pre-ceded the historic Kruger coins. These were the true pioneer coins of this country - the first - the Durban Club, the Daniel and Hyman pieces, James Cole and of course the most famous, the currency tokens of Strachan and Co.

When one researches their history it makes the 1931 tickey seem bland despite its scarcity … but then consider these pre-1900 early token coins - and their truly indigenous history!

Viva la Africa!!!

PS Anthony I have over one thousand South African token coins and growing - but quantity, as you have recently discovered, does not necessarily equal expertise on the subject.

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