Controversy over Griqua Town Token coins
(extensive notes below where linked symbols found in this extract shown in purple)

Because of the growing debate over this important point we have added this extract from the book (shown in purple below). Subsequent notes linked to symbols placed in the article are added at the end of this extract from the book:

It was at this same meeting with the Bastards (Griquas), and probably more as a celebration of the name change that the idea of minting South Africa's first coinage was discussed. Campbell notes in his 1815 book "Travels in South Africa" on page 256: "It was likewise resolved that as they had no circulating medium amongst them by which they could purchase any small article, such as knives, scissars (sic) etc, etc. supposing a shop to be established amongst them* which they were anxious there should be - they should apply to the (London) Missionary Society to get silver pieces of different value coined for them in England, which the Missionaries would take for their allowance from the Society, having the name of Griqua Town marked on them. It is probable that if this were adopted in a short time they would circulate amongst all the nations about, and be a great convenience".
* NOTE: No shop was established at Griquatown or in the region until many decades later.

Campbell returned to the United Kingdom in 1814 and, apparently acting on his own, ordered the minting of a set of four coins. (See Coins Here) In the booklet "The Coinage of Griqualand" by H Alexander Parsons (1927 reprint of the Spinks and Son Numismatic Circular)*, he states, "Campbell seems to have acted on his own initiative in the matter without consulting his fellow directors of the London Missionary Society… no correspondence or resolutions on the subject have been discovered in the archives of the Society".

An insight into Campbell, the man reveals a deceptive personality.

The coins were allegedly struck by the die sinker Thomas Halliday and claimed by Parsons to have been sent out to the Griquas in 1815 followed by a second mint in 1816 - unsubstantiated evidence coming from correspondence by Halliday.µ In his booklet Parsons describes the difference between the two strikings thus: The slight difference lies mainly in the form of the olive branch held in the beak of the dove, and it also occurs on the farthing, the obverse die of which is the same as that of the five pence (sic). The author refers to the use of pence as (sic) because the type of currency is the first mystery about this "coinage" with the "values" in Roman Numerals not referring to "d" for pence. The currency of pounds, shillings and pence was far too complex for a remote and uneducated people to grasp.¢ In fact any form of currency, however noble in nature or formation, was doomed to failure among the Griqua people who had very few in their number who could count. In the best case scenario the values of ¼, ½, (in bronze) and the five and ten (in silver) reflect Campbell's attempt to ease the Griquas understanding of and use of money.

But then why were so few "¼" and "½" coins struck - consider the number of these required to make up change for a single "5" or "10"?ß Personally the author has well-placed reservations as to whether the Griqua town token coins were, in fact, ever used by the Griqua community. The book "From Barter to Barclays", compiled by Eric Rosenthal for Barclays National Bank refers to the Griqua town token coins and states that at this time "the entire commerce of the Griqua nation totalled just £50 per annum" (supported by Prof Arndt) while Campbell notes on page 256 of his book that there were only 291 men in Griqua Town (in 1813)!

The words of Robert Moffat (pictured right) in the 1820s, repeated in the opening paragraph of Parson's own book produced for Spinks and Son in 1927, kills the very idea of the Griqua town token coins ever being used as currency by the Griquas. "they (the Griquas) showed but the slightest traces of civilisation, were unclothed and unhoused, wretched in appearance, disgusting in their habits, and with no moral or religious beliefs or conceptions". # Moffat (1795-1883), originally a gardener from Manchester in the United Kingdom, was accepted by the London Missionary Society as a missionary in June 1816 and accepted a post in South Africa arriving at Cape Town on 13th January 1817. He was destined for Namaqualand, but permission for his evangelical mission was refused by the Governor of the Cape for political reasons so Moffat went to Stellenbosch to learn Dutch instead. On 22nd September 1817 permission was given for Moffat to travel north of the Cape Colony. He stayed in Namaqualand for a little over a year before travelling for a lengthy stay at Griqua Town in August 1819 at the very time Campbell was visiting the Griquas for the second time.  His private letters, printed in a book in 1951, clearly reflect his negative views of John Campbell. 

In his detailed records of this trip by Campbell "Travels in South Africa, A second journey" published in 1822 Campbell makes absolutely no reference to the Griqua town token coins. In fact on page 56 of vol. one he refers to a Griqua teacher, Jan Hendrik, going to the market at Beaufort to barter ivory for articles that he wanted. In vol. two he discusses the use of rix dollars by the Griquas (pages 231, 264).

Furthermore in Campbell's personally abridged book of his visit to South Africa in 1813 ("Journal of travels in South Africa" published in 1834 - see this link) he omits any reference to the minting of coins being discussed with the Griquas in 1813 - as transcribed and originally claimed in his journal (Travels in South Africa - see diary extract in the opening paragraph above).

This is not surprising as historian Karel Schoeman notes from London Missionary Society records of this time that the Griqua only accepted Rijksdaalder and (in 1820) that the "Griqua money" was still unused and held by Helm, the missionary, who asked what he should do with them. (This is the only known reference of this period to the Griquatown token coins). Supporting references

Campbell also states in this 1834 work that "Regular trades cannot be said yet to exist in Griqualand". On page 283 (of his book covering his second trip in 1819) Campbell suggests that it would take just a few pounds to establish a system of education for the Bushmen.

Campbell is not alone as Moffat makes absolutely no mention of the existence or use of the Griqua town token coins either in his many journals and books!@ The mystery that is the Griqua town token coins is not their origin but their history following their minting circa 1819 by Halliday (did he actually do so?) There is no record of the numbers of Griqua town token coins minted just the occasional coin being put on sale through auctions linked to the fallacy that they were South Africa's first coinage in circulation. And was it Campbell who brought them to Griquatown during his second trip to South Africa - much later than the official version of a discredited 1815-16 circulation date.

According to well-known S African numismatist Dr Frank Mitchell only one Griqua town token coin has been reported as being "found in South Africa". The collection of Richard J Ford auctioned by Spink and Sons in May 1985 lists several pattern Griqua town token coins struck in copper while Parsons refers to gold specimens of the five and ten and a ½ and ¼ in gilt metal. The variations referred to by Parsons only further support the author's view that the Campbell coins were never actually used by the Griqua population as general usage coinage.

The assertion that the Griqua town token coins were never circulated is further supported by the small number of largely illiterate Bastard adults who at best, "displayed the slightest traces of civilisation" following their expulsion from the Cape by the white man.

Furthermore how could Campbell's coins, like the doomed 1868 Griqua note, even with the most romantic of notions, be introduced as currency as there was no basis on which the first coins could have been circulated and there was no store or outlet for them to be used in. Latest research reveals that they were nothing more than token coins struck in about 1819.

We should therefore, not rely on Campbell's romantic ideals noted in his diary of his first trip in 1813 to jump to the conclusion that the Griqua town token coins were used, even for one day, as currency by the Griquas.

The lack of reference to the Griqua town token coins by Missionaries Philip, Campbell, Anderson and Moffat and others who stayed at Griqua Town during this time reflects the futility of the ideal and the truth of the matter. And Helm's comment, the only reference at that time (1820) to the Griquatown coins, that they were not in circulation puts the final nail in the coffin.

The author has no doubt that the beautifully plain design with the dove of peace flying with an olive branch in its mouth on one side and the words "Griqua Town" and the value displayed on the other side were never used as coinage but they did inspire other die makers - as you will see.
Notes to article above:

* Perpetuating the myth of the Griqua Town currency:

The myth of the Griqua town token coins being used by the people at Griqua Town can be linked directly to this article by Alexander Parsons - all references by researchers supporting the claim refer directly to it without any adequate research to check the facts. For example, J T Becklake in "From Real to Rand" accepts and quotes H A Parsons' flawed reasoning without question as does Verner Scaife in his 1962 work British Colonial Coins and Tokens (reprinted from the American Numismatic Association's "The Numismatist"). However well respected South African numismatist Dr Frank Mitchell in his article in "Antiques in South Africa" (1978) headed "The coinage of Griqua Town"  notes that the Griqua town token coins never circulated and were not used as coins by the Griquas.

µ No proof of the Griqua town token coins circulating in Griqua Town

A very serious South African numismatist, Daniel van der Laan, who has an extensive web site spent 2004, following the release of this book, "The Griquas of South Africa and their money", trying to find any evidence of the existence of the Griqua town token coins - this included researching old news papers and visiting Griqua Town. He reports Have been trying to find any evidence that the Griqua town token coins been used in and around Griqua Town for more than a year now and could not find any.

Looks like old Campbell was just a dreamer.

Even more significant is the London Missionary Society's own 1817 report on Griquatown - which notes that there "was no coin" in Griquatown during 1815-16. More at this link.

¢ The lack of education among the Griquas

Even one hundred years later in the late 1920s, as can be seen in the scan of a copy of a testimonial by the Griqua John Dawes at this link, the Griquas could not read nor write - let alone count. Moffat in his letters published in "Apprenticeship at Kuruman" states on many occasions that there was no school for the Griquas and that they were, without exception, totally uneducated. 

ßThe rarity of the bronze pieces

Matthy Esterhuysen in her book "Munte en die Mens" (pg 11) claims that the silver coins were "melted down" when the attempt to circulate the coins was not a success and that the bronze coins are rarer than the silver coins because the Griqua preferred the shiny silver pieces. How she arrives at these conclusions is not explained or supported by any references. In short, gobbledygook.

# The "Griqua reality" - the rise and fall of Griqua Town in the 1800s at this link
  • This description by Moffat reflects a transient people who, if anything, had gone backwards in all respects as a direct result of their displacement from the Cape by the white settlers, a tiny population in no position to use or have purpose for coinage. See relevant extracts of earlier comments describing the Hottentots in the Cape at these links Henry Secreta Zevorzit in 1673 and Gysbert Hemmy in 1767. What occurred was the continuing decimation of the Hottentot culture, firstly through the influence of the settlers and later through the influence of bandits who used Griqua Town as a base for attacks on the African people to the north. As you will see below the offspring were without direction, true leadership or desire to participate in any form of labour. They embraced the bad habits of the settlers while not adopting their work ethic to support the enjoyment of those weaknesses. 

    In October 1811 Burchell in vol one of his book Travel in the interior of South Africa states on page 361, The Koras and Bushmen (included in the missionary count of men, women and children living in Griqua Town) cannot be considered as belonging to the establishment, since they show no desire to receive the least instruction from the missionaries, nor do they attend their meetings, but continue to remove from place to place, a wild independent people. He states further on page 365, Hunting is the only employment at which they (the people at Griquatown) show any eagerness; and it, therefore, occupies the greatest part of their time. Burchell goes on to describe how the spoils of hunting such as ivory and other valuables were bartered for brandy and goods with the boers to the south.   

  • Burchell also notes at this time the run-down state of Klaarwater/Griquatown, The trees of my imagination vanished, leaving nothing in reality but a few which the missionaries themselves had planted; the church sunk to a barn-like building of reeds and mud; the village was merely a row of half a dozen reed cottages; the river was but a rill; and the situation an open, bare, and exposed place, without any appearance of a garden, excepting that of the missionaries.

    It would be very unfair towards those who have devoted themselves to a residence in a country, where they are cut off from communication with civilized society, and deprived of all its comforts, to attribute this low state of civilization and outward improvement, to a want of solicitude on their part. Their continual complaint, indeed, was of the laziness of the Hottentots, and of the great difficulty there had always been in persuading them to work, either on the buildings or in the garden; and in this complaint there was too much truth.

    Burchell's fuller description of Griquatown and a detailed drawing by him of the small village just before Campbell arrived can be seen at this link

  • Burchell describes the Griqua Town outpost of Ongeluks (Unlucky) Fountain and ALL other Hottentot settlements, thus...
    Its size, and the number of its inhabitants, are, like those of all Hottentot outposts, so fluctuating that sometimes the spot is quite deserted: nor does it seem that at any season, the least attempt at cultivation is ever made here; as the ground nowhere appeared to have been broken.

    Clearly Griqua Town, apart from the presence of the missionaries, was no different - hardly a community in which to "circulate currency".  

  • Nothing changed over the next thirty years - in the 1840s white hunter Cumming sung the same tune about their slothfulness stating on page 91,  They are, without exception, of an indolent disposition, and averse to hard work of any description; much of their time is spent in hunting, and large parties annually leave their homes and proceed with their waggons, oxen and horses on hunting expeditions into the far interior, absenting themselves for three to four months at a time. They are remarkable for their disregard of the truth, a weakness which I regret to state I found very prevalent in South Africa; they are also great beggars, generally commencing by soliciting "trexels", a trexel being a pound of tea or coffee.

  • Even in the early 1860s an observer who visited Mt Currie (after the Griquas moved to Nomansland) reflected that the plight of the Griquas had not changed when he reported, To our disgust and disappointment we found it (the laager) a very dirty place, consisting of about 200 mud huts, a few old wagons, and a lot of dirty Griquas sitting or lying outside their dens. A small church and a Fort in the middle of the village and Adam Kok's house at one end. Adding to the miserable appearance of the laager a number of the houses are only half built and allowed to remain with their four walls standing. It is indeed, as one of our party called it, a village in ruins before it was built. Source: A F Hattersley in the book "Later Annals of Natal"

  • The Cape Coloured People 1652-1932 by J S Marais notes that the influence of the London Missionary Society resident Griqua Town missionary, W Anderson, declined in 1814 and that there was no leader in the small settlement - Adam Kok II and Barends, the leading families, leaving to set up home at Campbell and Daniel's Kuil. Marais, the Professor of History at the University of the Witwatersrand, states that during this time 1815-1820 Griquatown became a ghost town with the few nomadic Griquas using the station as a temporary camp before moving on.

@ Campbell's other pertinent comments Campbell's own abridged work on his first visit in 1834 OMITS any reference to the issue of coins being discussed with the Griquas - as claimed in the transcript of his journals published in 1815. Campbell also notes that the entire Griqua "nation" in the district (including Lattakoo, Hardcastle and Campbell) in 1813 consisted of just:
  • 291 men,
  • 399 women,
  • 310 boys and
  • 266 girls

under 700 adults in the nation while the whole “Church or Christian Society” consisted of only 26 men and 16 women. This (very) largely illiterate “nation” possessed just 24 wagons with most of them are nearly worn out by use. The community had no trading store and was highly transient, embarking on lengthy hunting trips - their only form of "employment". Hardly a community ready for the introduction of circulating currency! The image right shows a typical Griqua house and family in Griqua Town in 1834 (nearly 20 years after their alleged introduction of the Griquatown token coins) - hardly a people ready to use or understand coinage. It is important to note that the Griquas did not have "pockets" and therefore the unholed Griqua town token coins were impractical and would have been easily lost if they had ever been used. It was for this reason that S Africa's first widely circulating currency (1874-1932), the trade tokens of Strachan and Company, were sensibly holed - so that the Griquas and Africans in Nomansland could string the coins around their necks with their beads. In fact, the Strachan and Co trade tokens were the first token coins to be holed - many "holed" tokens followed later. NOTE: The author, Scott Balson, now firmly believes that the "Griqua town token coins" were minted between 1817 and 1820. In a letter (transcribed in "Apprenticeship at Kuruman" pp 193 and 194) to Moffat the Directors of the London Missionary Society make a pointed remark to Campbell's earlier folly over the "Griqua town token coins" when telling Moffat not to "embark on any costly projects without first getting their sanction" - their reference to the "former decisions made" and Campbell's forced resignation from his position as a Director of the London Missionary Society follow this aborted fanciful and costly escapade. In the extracts from letters by Moffat below from the same source he makes many references to Campbell's flights of fancy...

Understanding Rev John Campbell the man

Moffat's private letters transcribed in "Apprenticeship at Kuruman" reveal a side of Campbell not well publicised... (note this book is widely available on the Internet for under US$100 if you have any doubts over the quotes listed below buy the book and see for yourself. The letters are held by the famous Oppenheimer Library).   to Rev J Philip, Cape Town dated 19 September 1820 - states (pp6): Campbell has a drinking problem: But I have also to add that when Mr Campbell used such harsh assertions, he had made to freely with Mr Wine or Mijn Heer Brandy. He is very quarrelsome at such seasons, and alas! such seasons are not few. and, to Mr J Melville, Cape Town, January 1821 states (pp 13): Campbell's claims are not to be taken seriously: I may add that it is a pity that Mr Campbell does not know the present state of Lattakoo. It would save him building so many castles in the air about the Maharootze nation... and, to Alexander Moffat, Inverkeithing, 25th February 1822, states (pp 57) Campbell tells lies: Mr Campbell, I see, in a Missionary Chronicle asserts that they have acquired correct notions of God etc.. etc.. Let me assure you that the authority he has it from is false.  and, to James and Mary Smith, Dunkinfeld, 20th August 1822, states (pp 61) Campbell is foul mouthed, weak and a drunkard: The leading subject in your last letter was highly amusing to us especially, who knew the man, and who have been his associates both in company and retirement, or, in other words, the city and the wilderness. It was not at all surprising; and it was often a matter of surprise to us how he came to be exalted to the high offices he filled. He is unquestionably a weak man, and from some paragraphs in yours we have no doubt but you have discovered his weakest part(getting drunk). It was no uncommon thing with him, when travelling with us, at certain seasons to get on his "Highland horsey and be lavish of foul names", but at those seasons all took flight, or was forgot after a good night's sleep. We had indeed much to bear, but maintained silence to our English friend, for the sake of the cause he has so prominently represented. Rev John Campbell, by his own admission, often writes fantasy, not fact - source: Walks of Usefulness. He states in the introduction: Though I have presented these Walks of Usefulness to the public , I have to confess, with shame, that they describe in many instances, what might have been done, rather than what, in many cases, I have really done. On his second trip to South Africa Campbell wrote to the LMS suggesting "that as beads were the circulating medium in Mashaw and Kurrechane, two Tswana villages in the north, the LMS should send the Missionaries a quantity of beads that might be exchanged for a 'great many elephants teeth' at both places." The LMS refused his request saying that to do so would be mercantile-like. Campbell was openly ridiculed in letters by Robert Moffat (the missionary who stayed at Griqua Town when Campbell made his second visit).

Relevant extracts from Moffat's Letters - source: "Apprenticeship at Kuruman" (Oppenheimer Series):

to Rev G Burder, London dated 17 January 1820 states (pp 3): (pp3) The 600 Rixdollars of arrears, which the Directors were kind to present to those brethren who had not drawn their allowance (at Griquatown), I accepted, though with reluctance. I have also to add that, since I came to Africa, I have only had 805 Rds including the sum of 145 Rds for cattle.
The Griqua town token coins were supposed to have been used by missionaries at Griqua Town in payment of their services - they never were. At no time does Moffat make any comment about "Griqua Town" coins - either in his private correspondence or in his published works. The omission is the final nail in the fallacy of South Africa's first circulating indigenous coinage being the Griqua town token coins claimed to be used in 1815/16   Theal (South Africa's most eminent historian) states this about Campbell's book: "This book contains some information on general subjects, as well as a complete account of the missions of the London society. But the author's simplicity and credulity were so great that little reliance can be placed on anything that he describes which did not come under his own eyes. It is difficult to make out his Dutch, Korana and Setshuana proper names, as his ear was not good at catching sounds. There is a kindly tone throughout ... which compensates for many defects." [Theal's Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets relating to Africa].

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