The Griqua Town Pattern 1890 Pennies -
unissued (Fuld) Rarity Scale: between R-5 & R-6)

There are two varieties - the main visible difference being one dated 1890 and the other being undated. Both extremely rare varieties are held in Proof-like condition by the Balson Holdings Family Trust. It is estimated that about 50 undated and about 100 dated patterns were struck. Just a few pieces can be found in proof-like condition seen below.

Griqua Town is located in Griqualand West near Kimberley, the epicenter of the South African diamond mining industry. It is one of the earliest settlements in central South Africa. It was previously known as "Klaarwater" the name change for, what was then a small village, came after a visit by the Rev John Campbell who recorded in his diary on the 7th August 1813,

"We had a meeting with all the male inhabitants of the settlement who were in the town (Klaarwater) to consider various points, especially about regulations for the protection of lives and property of the community…. every person present considered that laws should be made… The whole people likewise resolved that henceforth they should be called the Griquas instead of Bastard Hottentots and the place be called Griqua-town instead of Klaarwater".

The region was administered by Great Britain from 1871, becoming part of the Cape Colony in 1880. There are two pattern coins, one dated 1890 and the other of similar design but undated which were struck in minuscule quantities by Otto Nolte & Co. of Berlin, Germany, from dies prepared by L.C. Lauer of Nuremburg and are extremely rare.

There are several stories attributed to the production of these Griqua Town patterns.

One asserts that they were produced on a speculative basis in anticipation of Griqualand's independence after their disastrous trek over the Drakensberg in the 1860s into Nomansland - this is unlikely as the Griquas had no assets and could not have afforded such a venture - especially after their earlier failed bank note escapade. Perhaps the best evidence supporting this claim is recorded in the book "The Griquas of South Africa and their Money".

Another story is simply that Nolte had them struck as showpiece items used in helping him market his minting services in Europe. Jerry Remick is silent on that point in his Commonwealth catalog.

The most plausible story is recorded in the covering preamble by Spink and Sons South African agent, City Coins of Cape Town, Dr Frank Mitchell, a Fellow of the South African Numismatic Society, when the coin below, came up for auction in 1985. Mitchell claims that (see text in yellow block below): "The patterns were struck in Germany between 1874 and 1890 in an endeavour to solicit orders from the Transvaal Republic (the ZAR); the Orange Free State and the Cape..."  (See Frank Mitchell's correspondence to Scott Balson at this link).  

Gone they were, but not entirely forgotten. In far off Germany, in 1890, someone remembered that there was a nation at a place called Griqua Town ... Following the international excitement precipitated by the discovery of gold in the Transvaal, and having no doubt received reports of the preliminary issue of gold staatsponden by the Transvaal Government under President Burgers in 1874, an enterprising German coin manufacturing firm Otto Nolte and Co of Berlin produced, between 1874 and 1890, a series of sample or "pattern" coins of various denominations and in a variety of metals for the Transvaal, for the Orange Free State and for the Cape of Good Hope. Tenders were submitted (unsuccessfully as it turned out) to the three governments, offering to strike coins for them. In the same series two different pattern pennies for Griqua Town were struck in bronze in very small sample numbers.

 Source: The Coinage of Griqua Town by Dr F K Mitchell

The Dated 1890 Griqua Town Pattern "Penny" in Proof-like condition

The dated 1890 Griqua Town Proof Penny

This coin was purchased by the Balson Family Trust in 2004 from well known numismatist Ronald Carlson of McKinney, Texas for US$580. Carlson purchased the coin from the City Coins auction in 1985. The coin previously formed part of the Richard J Ford collection. This coin has been graded slabbed by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America and is graded as PF 63. (You can click on the images above for a screen size view of each side)

The growing global demand for Griqua pieces is best represented by the interest in this piece offered in April 2005 on eBay (click here for image) the coin sold for over US$1,300 after hot bidding with 30 bids being cast - this piece is of much lower quality than the one displayed above.

The Undated 1890 Griqua Town Pattern "Penny" in Proof-like condition

The pattern below held by the Balson Holdings Family Trust is the Proof 1890 Griqua Town penny without the date - also with a beautiful patina. It was secured in September 2005 (Signature Auction 387) through an auction on for just US$1,250 - 14 bidders participated in this auction (see screen dump below the coin thumbnails displayed below). A year earlier this same coin sold for US$750 demonstrating a dramatic global growth in the value of and interest in Griqua pieces..

The reverse of the coin below (click for full screen images) is exactly the same as the coin above.

The record of interest in the undated Griqua Town Proof Penny secured by the Balson Holdings Family Trust

Value in 2005: The Griqua Pattern coins are highly sought after - valued at US$3,000 in Unc. Rarely seen on auction. A Prooflike piece with blemishes sold on eBay in January 2006 for US$7,100 (see link below).

The Balson Holdings Family Trust Griqua 1890 pair (seen above)

The two 1890 Griqua Patterns above reflect the finest pair in the world today.

The dated coin from the Richard J Ford collection is, according to Solid Gold Consultants in South Africa, a unique piece being rated at PF (Proof) 63 by the ANA. In their company profile the company says, Solid Gold Consultants SA PTY (LTD) has been in existence for almost ten years. We are essentially a brokerage that sources and sells the highest quality coins for or on behalf of our clients. Our credo is that of professionalism, service, integrity and proficiency.

In November 2004 Solid Gold Consultants sold these two Griqua pieces as investment pieces while claiming that The mintage reports state that no Griqua Penny was struck as a proof and only an estimated 50 coins of the one, and 100 of the other, were struck for presentation purposes. The origin of these mintage numbers is unknown and questionable. Both coins are equally rare with mintages under 100.

An example of the explosion in the value of Griqua related coins and bank notes can be seen at this link

[1815/16 Griqua Town "coins"] [1860: Durban Club 6d] [1862 Durban Bank £5 Bank Note] [1868: Griqua £1 Bank Note]
[1874: Mount Currie Express Stamp] [1874/1932: Strachan and Co Currency Tokens] [1876 Pietermaritzburg Franklin Penny]
[Other E Griqualand Tokens] [1870s Griqua Town Patterns] [1890: Griqua Patterns] [Other Serious Griqua Coin Collectors]
[The History of the Griqua People

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