The Story of Veldpond



Reverse and Obverse

Towards the end of the Anglo Boer War, the Boers experienced a critical shortage of money with which to buy provisions for the Commandos. At Pilgrim’s Rest a group of Boers, consisting mainly of pro-Boer foreigners coined, according to the latest information that came available, about 650 gold pounds, the so-called Veldpond, in the workshop of the Transvaal Gold Mining Estate (TGME).

For almost 100 years a one-sided version, that one person was the initiator, leader and expert on minting the Veldpond was consistently repeated without verification[1]. This inaccurate version of history obscures the fact the Veldpond was the product of teamwork by a group of men each an expert in his own field and that the credit should not be attributed to one person only. This aim of this article is to rectify the history of the Veldpond.

[1] Letter of Kloppers in The Rand Daily Mail 9 October 1902

Interviews with Kloppers:

  • September 1927, The Star.
  • 1933 JT Becklake.
  • August 1936,
  • Sunday 29 October 1939, interview by P Stoker TAB Aanwins
  • 1939 Personal correspondence between Kloppers and professor Arndt. TAB Aanwins
  • January 1949, Fleur
  • 1950 CL Engelbrecht in Johannesburg for an article in June 1950.
  • 1953 P Stoker in Pretoria for Yskor Nuus. December 1953.

Between 1899 and 1902 the two Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were at war with the British Empire. Great Britain wanted to gain possession of the goldfields of the Transvaal and the Boers fought desperately for their freedom against the most powerful state of the time. Winston Churchill, who was a war correspondent for a London newspaper, thought that the Boers had no chance against the British and wrote:

 I thought it very sporting of the Boers to take on the whole British Empire.

In conventional warfare the Boers, with 35 000 civilian men, could not prevail against a British army of 150 000 men. Kruger left the country and by 1 September 1900 both the Orange Free State and the Transvaal had been declared British territory. The British military leader Lord Roberts triumphantly returned to England under the impression that the Boers were conquered. The Boers, however, embarked on guerrilla warfare and for almost two years continued the war, which cost the British government dearly in terms of money and moral prestige.

The British reacted to the guerrilla warfare with a scorched earth policy in which farmhouses, harvests and even churches were burnt. With their houses destroyed, the women, children and old people were taken to concentration camps. Resources for the Boers on the battlefield became limited. Food was scarce, their clothing in rags and they slept in the open under pieces of canvas.


Pilgrim’s Rest

By September 1901 the war had been raging for two years and General Ben Viljoen took his commando consisting of about 900 exhausted men to Pilgrim’s Rest from where they launched guerrilla attacks on the British’s forces. This mining town[1], deep in the mountains, was almost untouched by the war. About 40 families lived there and the telephone connection to Graskop, Mac Mac, Sabie, and Krugerspost[2] still functioned. There the battered Boer warriors could erect shelters with material from the mine. Women of the town made clothes for the Boers from curtains and the linen ceilings of their houses. Food supplies could be bought from the black people in the area for which the war commissioner[3] Willy Barter, required money.

While spying on the British forces, in the mountains, Michael J Cooney, an Irish born American, discovered gold amalgam[4] at the deserted mines. He shared this information with his Irish compatriot Willy Barter. General Viljoen was informed about the possibility of recovering and purifying the gold and gave orders to scrape the plates at the mines. Willy Barter[5], GE Waldeck, Fritz Rothmann and Cooney were among the men who scraped the plates. General Ben Viljoen signed permission granted to Fritz Rothmann on 11 January 1902.[6] For this Rothmann and Waldeck received 150 ounces raw gold. Cooney received 5 pounds of amalgam, which was 1/3 of what he scraped as payment.[7] General Ben Viljoen reported in later years, that neutral persons, meaning non-citizens, purified the amalgam in the workshop of the mine.

It is interesting to note, that shortly after the occupation of Pretoria, the ZAR state-secretary FW Reitz mentioned the possibility of getting the reduction works at Barberton and Pilgrim’s Rest operational again.[8]

When the mine bosses left the country, they had put Alex Marshall (also known as Sandy)[9], the carpenter of Transvaal Gold Mining Estate (TGME), in control of the mining assets at Pilgrim’s Rest. Marshall[10]. He was a Scotsman who supported the Boers in using the mining facilities.

The battery of TGME at Pilgrim’s Rest on the far right of the photo, where the amalgam was purified[11]

Marshall in front with the white suit with Willy Barter war commissioner on his left-hand side. In the middle on the chair is MT Steyn President of the Free State visiting the ZAR for talks with the ZAR Field Government (government on the battle field).
Photo taken at Pilgrim’s Rest during September 1900[12]


Various members of Viljoen’s Johannesburg Commando, who consisted mainly of foreigners, were artisans who worked on the goldmines before the war and the skills to purify the gold and cast ingots were therefore available. Casting gold ingots as a first step towards making gold coins was an idea already expressed by Jules Perrin in 1874 when he tried to convince President Burgers that the ZAR government should establish its own State Mint, using the alluvial gold from Pilgrim’s Rest. [1]

The gold ingots cast by Viljoen’s people were not acceptable to the black people, as they wanted real money as currency. According to Field Cornet AEG Pienaar the feasibility of making gold coins came from GE Waldeck.[2] During that time, General Viljoen was unfortunately captured by the British on 25 January 1902 and sent to St Helena as a prisoner of war.

General Ben Viljoen

General Chris Muller (1865-1945) succeeded him and on his arrival at Pilgrim’s Rest during March 1902, Field Cornet AEG Pienaar told him that the Commando was in possession of gold to the value of £500. He also informed the General of the possibility of manufacturing gold coins in the mine’s workshop.[3] Muller was impressed and immediately took steps to obtain permission for this venture from the acting president of the ZAR, Schalk W Burger and the ZAR Executive Committee (Cabinet). General Muller gave the order that, in the meantime, more gold should be scrapped. A small amount of alluvial gold, bought from local diggers,was also added. No bar-gold was used for the Veldpond.


Within a week the ZAR Government on the Battle Field (Regering te Velde)[1] gave permission to mint gold pounds. With this the ZAR Field Mint (Munt te Velde) came into existence under authority of General Muller, who had to ensure that the requirements of the Coinage Act of the ZAR (no 14 of 1891) would be met. This law determined that a pound sterling should weigh 7.98805 grams and contain 7.3244 grams of pure gold.[2]

Interesting note: Since the occupation of Pretoria, the British regarded the ZAR as being under their rule. In February 1901 Lord Milner proclaimed that both defacing and making coins was prohibited.[3] The manufacturing of the Veldpond at Pilgrim’s Rest could therefore, under the British proclamation, be regarded as an unlawful act.

General Muller with his officers. Willy Barter in the middle row, second from left Pienaar sitting on the ground next to General Muller, third from the right



After receiving permission from the ZAR Field Government in March 1902 to establish a Government Field Mint who will function under a Mint Commission, General Muller[4] appointed the 24-year-old Andries Gustav Erlank Pienaar as Officer in Charge.[5] In later years it is clear from letters[6] that General Muller as well as Field Cornet Pienaar were most disturbed that Kloppers presented himself as Head of the Field Mint. Only two authors of numismatic literature acknowledged Pienaar as the real Head of the Field. That is Professor Arendt who acknowledges Pienaar as supervisor of the Field Mint[7] and Becklake, who wrote in his book in 1934:

This unique group of coiners or moneyers was under the leadership of Field Cornet André Pienaar.[8]

Muller appointed Waldeck as project leader and requested Pienaar to appoint the rest of the personnel to work under his supervision.[9] Pienaar appointed PJ Kloppers, MJ Cooney, WG Reid and D Graham.

The exact required number of experts namely a leader, assayer, artist, blacksmith and, gold smelter was appointed and even more surprising, they used a screw and press principle instead of a strike action, which had been used since earliest times! Somebody at Pilgrim’s Rest must have had first-hand knowledge on the process of minting coins. The most probable person is Michael Cooney.

6.1 – Head of the Field Mint: AGE Pienaar

Andries Gustav Erlank Pienaar (1877-1946)[10] had been a clerk at the magistrate’s office in Johannesburg before the war.

AGE Pienaar

As a 25 year he had led the Field Mint since its founding in February[11] till 5th May when he was appointed chairman of the Mint Commission when General Muller was called to attend peace talks in Vereeniging. Pienaar ended his career in the civil service of the Union of South Africa as Secretary[12] of the Department of Home Affairs and after that as chairperson of the Government Tender Board.

6.2 – Project leader: GE Waldeck

GE Waldeck[13]

GE Waldeck was a member of the Johannesburg section of the Transvaal Red Cross and he was the official in charge of the Field Hospital at Pilgrim’s Rest.[14] General Muller appointed him as project leader for the Field Mint but he soon severed his connection with the Mint[15] most probable because of his responsibilities at the hospital.

6.3 – Artist for designing the coin: PJ Kloppers

PJ Kloppers

Philippus Johannes Kloppers (1874-1960)[16] was born in Arnhem in the Netherlands. He was trained as a teacher in Amsterdam.[17] His main subject was Botany and he also took drawing lessons at College. He had been a teacher at a Grammar School in Surrey, England before he came to the Transvaal in 1897 where he taught English at the Kaapsche Hoop School near Barberton.[18] When war broke out, he joined the Boer Commandos and with the establishment of the ZAR Field Mint, he was appointed on it for his artistic abilities.

On 5 May 1902, shortly before peace was proclaimed and three days before the Mint Commission awarded tokens of appreciation to the members of the team, Kloppers was appointed Head of the Field Mint (Hoofd van die Muntwerkinrichting)[19] when Pienaar became chairmen of the Mint Commission in the place of general Muller who left Pilgrim’s Rest for peace talks at Vereeniging.

Kloppers received a remuneration of ₤10[20] (£5 as Mint Master and £5 as coin designer). He ended his teaching career as inspector of schools in Johannesburg.

6.4 – Assayer: MJ Cooney

Michael Joseph Cooney (1844-1929) was born in Ireland. He immigrated to the USA where he worked in goldmines, became a master essayer and spent time in Europe prior to coming to the Transvaal.[21] Shortly before war broke out, he was found guilty of culpable homicide and sent to jail. The residents of Pietersburg sent a petition to President Kruger asking for Cooney’s release, because he was a decent man.[22] This was granted.

Cooney’s signature with the letters ME (Master Essayer)

Cooney was appointed to the team to purify the gold to 24 carat and because of his specialized knowledge of gold. Willy Barter confirmed this in a letter:

We had an experienced American, Mr. J.M. Cooney, who taught us how to make the gold malleable, so to roll it to the required thickness.[23]

After the war, Cooney[24] left South Africa with Generals Viljoen, Cronje and others to attend the World Exhibition at St Louis in the USA in 1904 where they tried to collect money for the impoverished Boers. The project, popular known as the Boere Sirkus was a failure and Cooney remained in the USA.

It is to be noted that Cooney received the largest remuneration of all the personnel of the Field Mint.[25] He played a crucial role in purifying the gold and has been grossly overlooked in publications about the Veldpond. It is highly time that he been acknowledged for his contribution in that regard.


6.5 – Blacksmith/mechanic

William George Reid (1864-1947)[26] was the son of a Scottish immigrant. He received four years apprenticeship in the Cape Colony and had 14 years practical experience in mining workshops where he worked as a mechanic. He was familiar with machinery and he repaired guns and damaged grain mills for the Boers on commando.

WG Reid

It was his task to identify and adapt the machinery that would be required for a minting process and also to turn the dies and to harden them after Kloppers had designed and engraved them. Barter describes him as the handyman of the team and Muller refers to him as a clever engineer.[27] He was paid ₤5 for the work he did at the Field Mint. This was paid in Veldponde[28]. Later on, he became the blacksmith of the Irene Farm Estate and he retired at Zeerust.

6.6 – Smelter

Dick Graham was Irish[29] and he was responsible for melting and pouring the gold. Melting the gold to get a homogeneous product and then pouring it out in a steady stream, for a good product, needs much skill and practice.[30] Becklake made special reference in his book to the skill with which the gold at the Mint on the Field was melted and poured.[31] Pienaar mentioned Graham’s excellent knowledge of gold.[32]

D Graham

He received five Veldpond for the work he did at the Field Mint. It is said that Dick was a jolly fellow and very strong[33]. His strength helped a lot to drive the metal lathe, the rollers and the hand-punching machine with muscle power. After the war he worked at Sabie.


The Iron workshop of the TGMC mine at Pilgrim’s Rest[34]

Alex Marshall gave the Mint Team complete access to the workshop, the foundry and the essayer’s laboratory. The workshop of the Pilgrim’s Rest mine was the only workshop within miles and served all the mines in the area. Therefore, it was better equipped than most other workshops in the country. The only problem was that the mine bosses had put the hydroelectric power stations, Jubilee and Clewer, at Pilgrim’s Rest[35] out of action before leaving the country to prevent the Boers form bringing the mine into production.[36]

The most important machines that were needed for minting coins were a metal lathe on which the dies could be turned, a mill to roll out the gold, a punching machine with which gold discs could be cut and a press to imprint the marks on the gold discs.[37]

A surprising discovery was made that some of the ideas expressed by Jules Perrin in 1874, were put into practice in producing the Veldpond in 1902.



Purification of the gold
To comply with the requirements of the ZAR Coinage Act (Act no 14 of 1891) Cooney had to purify the gold to 24 carats. The testing was done in the essayer’s laboratory. For a better product, silver was added and for which 11/6 was paid.

8.2       Melting process
The team activated the mine’s coal furnace house and heated the gold in a crucible to a melting point of ±1064º Celsius.

8.3       Pouring the gold
The molten gold was cast in a greased slate form that had been preheated to prevent it from cracking. The Mint team must have hollowed out the slate themselves as the mine only cast gold bars and would, therefore, not have slate forms. The slate form was 5 mm thick, 7.5 cm wide and 15 to 25cm long.[38] In Perrin’s 1874-submission, gold strips with a thickness of 1/3 inch (8 mm) and a length of 6½ inches (16.25cm) is prescribed.[39] It seems to be a standard size, which underlines the thesis that the minting of Veldpond was not a trial-and-error exercise but that somebody at Pilgrim’s Rest had knowledge on minting gold coins. The question arises around who it was and about the whereabouts of Perrin who was in Mozambique for the duration of the war. Was Cooney the man with the man with the knowledge?

Slate wherein the molten gold was poured.
Coins and pieces of rolled out gold are on top of it[40]


8.4       Rolling the gold
The rolling mill is the most important machine in the whole process of making gold coins, according to Perrin. He prescribed cylinders of no less than 1 ft in diameter (30 cm).[41] Mines did have big rolling machines with which steel plates were bent. A logical conclusion is that the minting team used that machine for rolling out the gold.[42]

The cast gold strip had to be rolled out several times until the correct thickness was reached. After each rolling session, the gold hardened and had to go through a process of annealing that entails heating it in an oven at a low temperature (200º Celsius) for 45 minutes and then cooling down slowly. When the desired thickness was reached, the gold strip was softened once more so that it could be cut into circular discs and the design imprinted on them. The correct heat treatment of the gold plates was most important as it could lengthen the life of the dies.

Kloppers[43] told journalists that the Lydenburg alluvial gold cracked when it was rolled out and that he got the bright idea to use mercuric sublimate[44] from the mine’s first aid stock and added it to the gold, after which it rolled out like butter. It is not clear for what the mercuric sublimate was actually used as it would evaporate when heated. The Field Mint did made use of mercuric sublimate to recover golddust for which £1 was paid to the mine[45]


8.5       Turning the dies
The dies had to be made out of small iron rods of 20mm wide and 15mm thick that would fit in the mine’s punching machine.[46] The electric metal lathe in the mine’s workshop was used but it had to been turned by hand. After Reid turned out each die, heating it to a light straw colour, keeping it at that temperature for 30 minutes and then cooling it down slowly to be annealed. That would give a soft enough product for Kloppers to engrave.

8.6       Letter design
Kloppers designed the coins. His first effort was engraved on one of the mine’s copper rulers and then imprinted in lead. This design was rejected. Marshall[47] got the ruler with the proof dies and Field Cornet Pienaar[48] the lead proof pieces, which they kept as souvenirs.

Rejected proof dies on a copper ruler of the mine[1]

Proof coins, in lead

The second design was accepted. Becklake[50] wrote in his book:

It will be acknowledged that the later dies are greatly superior in design and artistic merit to the earlier pair tested, and one is impressed, in considering these pieces, with the skill and ingenuity which was displayed, firstly in the work of refining the gold (Mr. Cooney was the essayer), later in melting and pouring the necessary gold bars, and, finally, in stamping these blank pieces.


8.7       Engraving the dies
According to Becklake[51], Reid and Barter, beeswax was put on the surface of the dies and Kloppers drew his design in mirror writing on it. An acid that eroded the design in the steel was dropped on to it. Kloppers denied it and said that the design had been drawn on the steel with a pencil. Kloppers’ version is the correct one as scratch marks on the coins shows that Kloppers engraved the design with a fine chisel and a light hammer. On the one die was engraved EEN POND and on the other ZAR 1902.  The small chisel Kloppers used also had to be made in the workshop.[52]

8.8       Hardening the dies
The next step was hardening the dies. Kloppers claimed that he did it and that six dies cracked in the process. Reid the blacksmith applied case hardening and none of the dies cracked.[53] With case hardening the dies were packed in a mixture of ground bone and charcoal inside a container that was then sealed off and heated. The outer steel absorbed the carbon, thereby creating hardness on the outer steel, while still preserving the toughness of the softer iron core. Uniform hardening by heating and quick cooling down would have created a product too brittle for stamping the coins.[54] Both Pienaar and Kloppers testified that only one pair of dies had been used.[55]

8.9       Cutting blanks
Blank circular discs were cut out of the gold strips with the small hand-punching machine in the photo below. The machine was a small screw press that had been used at the mine to cut holes into steel plates for joining them together with bolts. The sizes of standard punches are ⅝ and ⅞ inches. Converted to metric measure, ⅞ inch equals 2.1875cm and this gives us the size of a Veldpond of which the diameter was 2.28cm. With the pressure on the blanks when the press was turned on, the gold would expand to the milled edge.[56] The result was a somewhat smaller gold pound than the standard but, to compensate for that, the Veldpond was a bit thicker than a standard gold pound.

Blank discs could only be punched out of the middle of the gold plates, because the sides would be thinner than the middle.[57] The bits and pieces as well as discarded blanks, were melted, poured, rolled, annealed and cut again.

According to Stoker[58] every coin was weighed on an essayer scale and those that were too heavy were scraped off and those that were too light were melted again. Mr JT Becklake, later head of the Royal Mint in Pretoria, weighed 17 Veldpond and found that the weight varied between 7.544 grams and 8.508 grams.[59] The difference in weight could be ascribe to the fact that gold is a soft metal and that some coins had weared out more than others.

Small hand-punching machine of the TGME mine,

compared to Perrin’s sketch of 1874

8.10     Stamping the blank pieces
For imprinting the blank discs with the coin marks, the team used the mine’s big electricity driven punching machine. Electricity was not available and the mint team had to apply muscle power. Strong poles were attached to the flywheel, which made it possible to apply sufficient manual force for stamping the coins.

The big punching machine[60] of TGME

compared to Perrin’s sketch of 1874

Strong poles attached to the flywheel[61]

The team at Pilgrim’s Rest skipped one stage that is usually applied to minting and that was to provide the coins with a raised edge.

The engraved steel dies were attached to the machine: obverse to the top and reverse to the bottom. Reid made a collar for the outer edge. Kloppers filed flutes on it. He judged it by eyesight and at the end there was an opening that was too big for one flute and too small for two. He then made two small flutes close to each other with a thinner file (5 o’clock position seen from the ZAR side).[62] The milled collar was attached to the reverse side die. [63] With a blank gold disc in-between, the screw was turned on to imprint the markings on both sides of the coin.

The two flutes in the milled edge close to each other are characteristic of a Veldpond. This is however not a test of originality. Veldpond did not always impress uniformly and the flutes were not all filled up. A well-impressed Veldpond would have 76 equal flutes with the two small flutes in the milled edge.

In a letter from Willy Barter addressed to John Hunter McLea[64] he mentioned a ringing test.  That would have been to test the coins for cracks and flaws.  


Two members of the ZAR Executive Committee (Cabinet) of the ZAR government, General Lukas Meyer and Mr JC Krogh accompanied by the secretary of the Government D van Velden visited Pilgrim’s Rest during May 1902 to inform the burghers of the peace process and to elect representatives for the discussions at Vereeniging. General Muller was elected to attend the peace talks and he had to leave Pilgrim’s Rest. A restructured line of reporting became necessary and a Mint Commission, chaired by Pienaar came into being.

Van Velden, General Lukas Meyer & JC Krogh

Veldpond brooch made for J.C  Krogh

On 5th May a Mint Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Pienaar. Philip Carl Minnaar (1876-?) who had been the Justice of peace at Pilgrim’s Rest was appointed as secretary of the Mint Commission[65], Willy Barter as treasurer and JS Joubert as additional member.

Pienaar (chairman), PC Minnaar (secretary, WJ Barter (Treasurer) & JS Joubert  (additional member)

William Joseph Henry Barter a pro Boer Irishman had been the sheriff of Pilgrim’s Rest since the middle 70’s where he established an espionage network in the area to expose the smuggling trade of firearms to chief Sekhukhune.[66] During the Anglo Boer he was sworn in as war commissioner for the Lydenburg district and served under General Ben Viljoen and later General Muller. He was a correspondent for the Standard Diggers News and The Star. The British police was trying to capture him for sending war news abroad.[67] 

Johannes Stephanus Joubert, the additional member of the Commission who had been the ZA Government’s Mine Commissioner at Pilgrims Rest was omitted from the list of people who got medals for the work they did for the Field Mint. It is still unsure whether he stayed on as a member of the commission up to the end and received a medal or not.



The final product is a particularly beautiful gold coin with a handmade character. Veldpond is classified as Siege Pieces or Money of Necessity. While the team was still in the process of making the coins, the Boers realised the exceptionality of the Veldpond and the burghers exchanged one pound for a Veldpond.  After the war, British soldiers paid several pounds to get hold of a single Veldpond.

The two government gentlemen Meyer and Krogh were so impressed with the activities of the ZAR Field Mint that they gave an order on 5 May 1902 that everyone involved with the Veldpond was to be given an award (gold plaatje). Three days later on 8 May 1902, awards were issued to General Muller, Field Cornet Pienaar, Kloppers, Minnaar, Reid, Graham, Cooney, Marshall and Barter[69]. In total nine of these medals were awarded.[70]

Both sides of Field Cornet A Pienaar’s Medal

Kloppers’ Medals                    

Both sides of Reid’s Medal                                  

The clover shaped medal was cut out of a gold plate with a jeweller’s saw. The ZAR Veldpond mark was struck in the middle on the obverse side. On the reverse side, the recipient’s name and the words Staats Munt te Velde 1902 were engraved. The decorations around the medals were most likely also done at Pilgrim’s Rest, because they look alike.

Who the person is that was responsible for making the medals, is a question that has not been answered yet. Two possibilities present themselves in this regard. The one is that the Swiss, Jules Perrin did it. He was an essayer and head of the Mint in Pretoria until the British closed it down, and after the war he opened a jeweller’s business in Schoeman Street, Pretoria.[71] His whereabouts during the war are not clear. After the war he and the German born pro-Boer, AH Hanneman[72] who was the owner of a hotel and shop at Komatipoort, took the oath of allegiance on 30 June 1902 at the office of the British Consul General in Lourenço Marques which indicates that he could have been in the vicinity of Pilgrim’s Rest.[73] No trace can be found that he had been in Pilgrim’s Rest during the war and his name is not mentioned by anyone involved with the Veldpond and the medals. According to Ernest Meyer, the bookkeeper of the ZAR Mint in Pretoria, Perrin was not positive supportive of the Boer cause, which makes him an unlikely candidate for being involved in the activities of the Field Mint.[74] The other possibility is that Michael Cooney, an essayer with goldsmith knowledge, made the medals. Whoever made the tokens, the question is where did the jeweller’s saw came from, with which they were cut out of gold plate?


On 1 June 1902 the contributors also received a Veldpond with a blank reverse side on which the name of the receiver could be engraved, as a reminder of the work being done for the Field Mint. These one-sided Veldpond have smooth edges without flutes. It is uncertain who received these. Reid, Graham, and Pienaar got one and Marshall two[75], It seems unlikely that Cooney got one as he left Pilgrims Rest earlier than the other men and also because he engraved a Veldpond for himself with his name on as reminder.

 “Pienaar veldcornet Staats Munt te Velde”          

“ZAR 1902”  

“WG Reid Staats Munt te Velde”

Left: “Presented to Alexander Marshall by General Vilgeon (sic)”[76]

Right: “Presented to Alexander Marshall for auld langsyne by AC  Pinnar (sic) vc”

Left: “D Graham Staats Munt te Veld”  &  “ZAR 1904”

“M.J. Cooney – essayeur – staats munt – Pelgrims Rust”


Cooney mentions in a letter to his niece that 530 coins were made:

When peace was proclaimed between the British and the Boers (papa will explain to you) we had only fairly started to make the crude coins of which enclosed is one, and all we made when the British supplanted the Boers in the Transvaal by treaty was 530 Coins.[77]

Reid says in his war memoirs that 400-500 pound were distributed amongst the Boers[78] and that the rest was handed over to the government. According to Kloppers, General Lukas Meyer took 80 coins with him when he left for Vereeniging for the peace talks.[79] Barter wrote in a letter, dated 6 September 1932 to John Hunter McLea, that gold to the value of more than £500 pound was used.[80] In an autographed signed letter addressed to Dr A Kaplan, General CH Muller states that 525 Veldpond were produced.[81] 

Two very interesting financial documents[82] came to light recently. It reveals that the first Veldpond was made on 9 April and that a total of 145 Veldpond were minted during that month of which £10 were handed over to General Muller on 21 April 1902, £10 paid for a mule that the ZAR bought from Marshall (24/4/02) and £25 handed over to General Muller on 3 May 1902. The balance is indicated as £100 and that was handed over to D van Velden, secretary of the ZAR Executive Committee during the first week of May 1902.

The other document is a financial statement for the period 10 May to 1 June 1902 signed by Barter, Pienaar, Joubert and Kloppers. It states that raw gold of the value of £426-19 (142-6-14 ounce) was handed over to the Mint Master in May from which 525 Veldpond as well as a balance of gold to the value of £144-16-0 were received at the end of May. (See Annexure B)

The expenses paid (10 May-1 June 1902) were the following:

Graham, Reid, Cooney, Kloppers each ₤3 for necessities                   12-0-0
Sublimate                                                                                                      1-0-0
Tobacco                                                                                                        1-0-0
Pienaar for maize                                                                                        2-0-0
Mint Master remuneration                                                                       10-0-0
D Graham remuneration                                                                             5-0-0
W Reid remuneration                                                                                   5-0-0
Assayer (MJ Cooney) remuneration                                                       20-0-0
Natives’ remuneration                                                                                 6-0-0
Silver                                                                                                           0-11–6

The conclusion that can be drawn from these to financial statements is that 145 Veldpond were minted in April up to 9 May and 525 up to 1 June 1902.

According to Kloppers, they continued their work until 7/8 June 1902 and produced a total of 968 Veldpond.. [83] None of these claims could be verified. The value of the raw gold used during May plus the coined gold for that period ad up to a total of ₤967-2-6 which is not the total of Veldpond coined at the Field Mint.

The burghers did stay on at Pilgrim’s Rest up to 7/8 June waiting for General Muller to return form Vereeniging, to lead them in laying down arms at Potloodspruit but the Boer Republics and the Field Mint ended together on 31 May 1902. The financial statements reflect that the Field Mint came to a standstill when peace was declared. This is confirmed by Reid[84] as well as Cooney[85]. Engraving the blank Veldpond and making the decorations for the medals could have been done during the first week in June.


Hugh Hughes was appointed as General Manager of TGME after the war and on 14 July 1902 he reported as follows after visiting the mine at Pilgrim’s Rest:

The machinery in the workshop is in splendid order. The Boers used our punching machines for the minting of a few hundred 1902 sovereigns… The three large safes inside the strong room were not touched in any way. The cash balance of £137-0s-10d was intact.

He also mentioned that bar gold to the value of £17 000 was untouched by the Boers.

At the first annual general meeting of the TGME mine in 1902 in Johannesburg, the chairperson said the following:

The action of the Boer authorities in the Lydenburg district in connection with the mines under their control has been highly creditable to them. Of course, they commandeered all stores and material of which they could make any use, but they avoided wanton destruction. It must be remembered in this connection that our property, which is scattered over a great area, was under the control of the Boers throughout the whole period of the war, excepting for a few days when General Buller’s forces passed through Pilgrim’s Rest.[86]

Our manager, on his return, found all the Company’s safes, books, documents, and plans as he had left them in the strong room. He found unlocked in our store room the lead bullion for September and part of October 1899 and, above all, he found practically intact the whole of the buildings, plant and machinery, valued at 200 000 pounds.[87]

Many counterfeit Veldpond, is said to have been struck with the Veldpond dies after the war. In 1934 the Mint master of the Royal Mint in Pretoria, Mr Becklake, began a search for the original dies. At that time, it was believed that Lord Kitchener had seized them. Becklake’s search into Kitchener’s correspondence revealed that it was never in his possession.[88] Two years later professor EHD Arndt discovered that when General Muller came back from Vereeniging to assist his commandos with laying down arms, Kloppers handed the dies to him around 14 June 1902.[89] General Muller donated the pair of Veldpond dies, between 1910-1914, to the diamond magnate Sir T Cullinan. In 1939 Sir Cullinan’s widow knew nothing of it and in a letter written by her secretary it is stated that the dies were most probable been thrown away by one of the employees.[90]

Alex Marshall had a camera with which he took several photos of the Boers at Pilgrim’s Rest. After the war he took his photos to Turnbull & Sons, Photographers, Jamaica Street, Glasgow in Scotland[92] to be developed. He published a book, Photos of Boer Commandos taken at Pilgrim’s Rest. One of the photos in the book is the well-known photo of the mint team posing at the small punching machine. The big machine that was mainly used was too heavy to be carried out into the sun for a photo and therefore the small machine was used to pose at.

PJ Kloppers; Sixpence an employee of the TGME; WG Reid; AEG Pienaar; Dick Graham. Absent:  MJ Cooney

The photo was presumably taken during the first week in June, after peace was declared. Cooney is not on the well-known photo of the members of the Field Mint, because he had to flee before the British military police could arrest him on charges of spying on the British troops, for giving a Boer, named Kraemer, an electric battery for firing dynamite and as he had made a bomb for General Viljoen with which the bridge over the Spekboom river was blown up.[93]

In 1936, a diorama[94] of the State Field Mint with the mountains of Pilgrim’s Rest in the background was set up for the stand of the Pretoria branch of the Royal Mint at the Empire Exhibition in Johannesburg.[95] The head of the Mint, Mr Becklake, took a photo of the original press at the Transvaal Gold Mining Company’s workshop in Pilgrim’s Rest, especially for the exhibition.

The diorama of the mine workshop where the Veldpond was made

The mine’s punch machine as photographed by Becklake

for the Empire Exhibition in Johannesburg

The production of Veldpond in the workshop of the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates Ltd (TGME) at Pilgrim’s Rest was a remarkable achievement. It speaks of specialized knowledge, skill and creativity. This article is an attempt in acknowledging every member or the team for their contribution in making the Veldpond.


AM v S             Die laaste stukkie republikeinse goud. Mnr PJ Kloppers: Die waarheid oor die Kruger-veldponde in Fleur January 1947.

Arndt EHD        The South African Mints. Publication of the University of Pretoria Serie III. Arts and Social Sciences No 9. Pretoria. 1939.

Arndt EHD        Notes on an interview with Kloppers. 29 October 1939.

Arndt EHD        Concept of Arndt’s book and notes of Kloppers. 29 January 1940

Arthur AM.       Paper currency of the Anglo-Boer war 1899-1902. in Journal no 1. The Association of South African Numismatic Societies. 1987.

Barter WJH      Letters addressed to Colonel Serjeant 1 September 1902

Barter WJH      Letter addressed to J Hunter McLea, published by AH Smith’s in an article “Marshall’s Souvenirs of the ZAR Munt te Velde” in Notes and News March 1976 Part 22 No 1.

Becklake JT     Aantekeninge oor Muntstukke van die Suid Afrikaanse Republiek. Paper presented to the South African National Society Pretoria Branch. 1933.

Becklake JT     From Real to Rand: The story of Money, Medals and Mints in SA..

Central News Agency Ltd Cape Town.1965

Becklake JT     Notes on the Coinage of the South African Republic. Numismatic Chronicle fifth series Vol XIV 1934.

Cartwright A    Valley of Gold. Howard Timmins. Cape Town. 1980.

Cooney MJ      Letters addressed to his niece Maggie.

Engelbrecht CL Money in South Africa. Tafelberg. 1987.

Engelbrecht CL Die verhaal van die Veldponde in Opsaal. June 1950

Erasmus JJP   Die Zuid-Afrikaancshe Republiek se Staatsmunt te velde. Unpublished manuscript. 2006.

Erasmus JJP Personal communication with Colonel Koos Erasmus. 2007.

Esterhuysen Matthy Ons Erfenis. Year unkown.

Government Proclamation       No 4 of 1904

Helme Nigel     Thomas Major Cullinan: A biography. McGrawHill 1974.

Kaplan A          Comments in Journal of the Institution of Certificated Engineers South Africa. December 1946.

Kloppers PJ     Hoe veldponde gedurende die oorlog geslaan is. Vaderland 21 Augustus 1936

Kloppers PJ     Herinneringe 1901-1902. Manuscript 5124 in the War Museum of the Boer Republics 26 June 1931. Bloemfontein.

Kloppers PJ     Letter addressed at professor Arndt. 11 July 1939;. 2 August 1939; 3 August 1939; 12 August 1939; 18 September 1939; 15 October 1939; 16 October 1939; 19 October 1939; 30 January 1940;

Levine Elias     The Coinage and Counterfeits of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. Purnel. Cape Town. 1974.

Mpumalanga Museum Services at Pilgrim’s Rest

Transvaal Gold Mining Estate Central Reduction Works.1896-1971

Pilgrims’s Rest Reduction Works 1896-1971

Marshall Alex   Photos of Boer Commandos taken at Pilgrim’s Rest during the war. Lundt Humphries. London. 1902.

Marshall Alex Letter addressed to Colonel Serjeant. 18 November 1902.

McCracken Donald P   The Irish pro-Boers. Perskor, Johannesburg 1998.

Meijer LP & JC Krogh. Letter addressed at PJ Kloppers. 5 May 1902

Meiring S         Ons eer hul Gedagtenis: Die geskiedenis van Philippus Johannes Kloppers (1874-1960 en Maria Magdalena Naudé (1881-1970). Unpublished manuscript.

MER                 ZAR 1902 Die Pelgrimsponde in Die Huisgenoot  5 February 1943.

Minnaar PH      Letter addressed at PJ Kloppers. 1 June 1902

Muller Chris H  Oorlogsherinneringe. Nasionale Pers. Cape Town. 1936.

Muller CH         Genl Muller vertel van die ou Veldpond in Vaderland 15 September 1936

Pienaar PS       Letter addressed at PJ Kloppers. 8 May 1902.

Reid WG          Personal notes in possession of his granddaughter R Landman

Rosenthal Eric From Barter to Barclays. Barclays Bank. Cape Town. 1968.

Rosenthal Eric               The Best of Eric Rosenthal. Cape Town. 1975.

Robson CR      Comments in Journal of the Institution of Certificated Engineers. South Africa. December 1946.

Roux JP           South African mints with particular reference to the war production of coins in Journal of the Institution of Certificated Engineers South African vol xix No 9 December 1946.

Schultz JO       Pilgrim’s Rest and the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902. The Pilgrim’s Rest Museum Research Department. 1999.

Shaw EM         ‘n Geskiedenis van betaalmiddels in Suid-Afrika. South African Museum. Guide No 5. 1956.

Smith Anna      Marshall’s Souvenirs of the ZAR Munt te Velde 1902. in Notes and News. March 1976 volume 22 No 1 Africana Museum. Johannesburg.

Stoker P        Die Avontuurlike Staatsmunt te Velde in Yskornuus. Desember 1953.

Stoker P          Mr Kloppers interviewed at his home on Sunday 29 October 1939.

The Coin Report Vol 1 No 4 Issue 4. The Gold ZAR Veldpond (Siege Coin) of 1902

            June/September 1996

The Coin Report           Vol 1 No 1. The (ZAR) gold “Veldpond” (Field pound): The last coin of the ZAR (1902)

Rand Daily Mail Thursday 9 October 1902

Rand Daily Mail Thursday 6 November 1902

The Star               Johannesburg 17 September 1927. Report on the Veldpond.

Thomas David Reed                  Letters and family information.

Vaderland  21 Aug 1936. Article on the Veldpond. Hoe die veldponde gedurende die oorlog geslaan is.

Vaderland 15  Sept 1936. Letter written by General Muller: Genl Muller vertel van die ou ‘Veldponde’.

Van Bart  Marthinus & Leopoldt Scholtz editors. Vir Vryheid en vir Reg Tafelberg.

Cape Town. 2003

Verwoerd Wilhelm       Transvaalse veldponde en Gouvernments Nooten. in Vir Vryheid en vir Reg. Editor. Marthinus van Bart

Viljoen BJ        Mijne Herinneringen uit den Anglo-Boeren-Oorlog. Amsterdam. 1902.

Volkskas          Goue munte/Gold Coins. Volkskas Beperk. 1969.

Wilson Peter    The Veldpond and its notorious ‘High A” forgery in De Nummis Journal No 5 of 2002. Publication of The National Numismatic Society of South Africa.


TAB CJC 1058 ref 1167

TAB LD 762 AG 2610/04

TAB MHG 11148

TAB MHG 2404/47

TAB MHG 8893/60

TAB MHG 89024

TAB MHG 4567/46

TAB MHG 5937/71

TAB MHG 24743

TAB Aanwins A551

TAB Aanwins A202

TAB Aanwins A185

TAB IOP4  IOMG 224/00 H Hanneman, Pretoria. re 600 bags of flour at Transvaal hotel Komatipoort

SAB GG 234 3/5239 Request of Master of the Royal Mint, Pretoria, for assistance in tracing the correspondence of the late Lord Kitchener relating to the seizure of the dies with which the “veld pond” was forged at Pilgrim’s Rest

TAB PMO 40 PM 2702/01 Inquiry re Mr WH Barter

TAB CS 8  841/01Proclamation No 4 of 6 February 1901 Disfigurement of Tvl coins

TAB CS 104  6738/02 Permit to return for Mr. Jules Perrin. Forwarding correspondence re above from Lourenço Marques to Pretoria

TAB SP 224 SPR 892/00 Staatssecretaris afdeeling b. landdrost Johannesburg zendt in  memorie vragende kwijtskchelding straf  van J Cooney                 

TAB SS R331/1900 Landdrost, Pietersburg gevangene MJ Cooney vraagt gratie          

TAB SS R7768/00 & CAJ 718 Proviand commissie Pretoria. H Hanneman komatipoort zendt in lyst van levensmiddelen voor handen in den winkel van police die gevlucht is.



ABSA Coin Collection with special reference to Mr Sinothi Thabethe

Professor David Reed Thomas for personal documents, photos and information

National Archives in Pretoria – the staff of the reading room

Mpumalanga Museum Services at Pilgrim’s Rest with special reference to the chief researcher Ms Judith Mason

Mr Anthony Govender who made most valuable information available

Mr HS Jordaan, retired metallurgist of Yskor, Pretoria

South African National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg

Voortrekker Monument Pretoria with special reference to Ms Estelle Pretorius and Ms Riette Zaayman, archivist of the Afrianer Erfenis Stigting.

War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein with special reference to Ms Elria Wessels

Copyright. All rights reserved

[1] Regering te Velde refers to a government that is not in their capital city any more, but on the battlefield.  Compare the military rank, of Field Marshall, which refers to a Marshall on the battlefield.

[2] Becklake, JT. Notes on the Coinage of the South African Republic in Numismatic Chronicle fifth series, vol xiv 1934:185.

[3] Proclamation No 4 of 6 February 1901.

[4] Muller, Chris H. Oorlogsherinneringe 1936:166.

[5] Pienaar, AGE. Boer Field Mint in Rand Daily Mail. 9 October 1902

[6] Vaderland 15 September 1936.

[7] Arndt EHD. The South African Mints. Pretoria 1939.

[8] Becklake, JT. Notes on the coinage of the ZAR 1934:7.

[9] Pienaar, AEG. Boer Field Mint in Rand Daily Mail, 9 October 1902

[10] National Archive Pretoria. MHG 4567/46.

[11] Muller, Chris H. Oorlogsherinneringe 1936:166.

[12] Nowadays called Director General.

[13] Plate 23 Marshall’s Book. Photos of Boer Commandos taken at Pilgrim’s Rest.

[14] Schultz JO. Pilgrim’s Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902

[15] Pienaar, AGE. Boer Mint Field in The Rand Daily Mail. 1902.

[16] National Archive Pretoria. MHG 8893/60.

[17] Meiring, S. Die geskiedenis van Phillipus Johannes Kloppers (1874-1960) en Maria Magdalena Naudé (1881-1970).

[18] AM van S. Die laaste stukkie republikeinse goud in Fleur, Januarie 1949.

[19] National Archive Pretoria. TAB Aanwins A551.

[20] Financial Statements of Field Mint in the National Archive. Pretoria.

[21] Information obtained from professor David Reed Thomas.

[22] National Archive Pretoria TAB SP 224 R892/00.

[23] Letter from Barter to J Hunter McLea, published by AH Smith’s in an article “Marshall’s Souvenirs of the ZAR Munt te Velde” in Notes and News March 1976 Part 22 No 1.

[24] Information obtained from professor David Reed Thomas.

[25] National Archives, Pretoria

[26] National Archive Pretoria. MHG 2404/47.

[27] Muller, Chris H. Oorlogsherinneringe 1936:166.

[28] Personal notes of WG Reid in possession of his granddaughter, Rentia Landman

[29] National Archive Pretoria. TAB Aanwins A202.

[30] Robson, CR. in Journal of the Institution of Certificated Engineers, South Africa. Dec 1946:244.

[31] Becklake, JT. Aantekenings oor Muntstukke van die SA Republiek. 1933:5.

[32] Pienaar, AGE. Boer Field Mint. In Rand Daily Mail. 1902

[33] Stoker, P. Die Avontuurlike Staatsmunt te Velde 1953:21.

[34] Photo of the Mpumalanga Museum Services at Pilgrim’s Rest.

[35] Schultz, JO. Pilgrim’s Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902   1999:23.

[36] Hydo electric power station that delivered 575 kilowatt. Information from Colonel Koos Erasmus.

[37] Erasmus, Koos. Die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek se Staatsmunt te Velde.

[38] Stoker, P. Yskornuus Desember 1953.

[39] National Archive Pretoria. TAB Aanwins A202.

[40] Slate as it appears on the group photo of the working team.

[41] National Archive Pretoria. TAB Aanwins A202.

[42] Information from Colonel Koos Erasmus

[43] Engelbrecht, CL.  Money in South Africa. 1987:84.

[44] Mercuric sublimate, HgCl2, also called corrosive sublimate and mercury bio chloride and very poisonous. It is used as an antiseptic in a 0.1% solution.

[45] National Archives Pretoria

[46] Information from Colonel Koos Erasmus

[47] Smith, Anna H. Africana Notes and News March 1976 Volume 22 No 1. W Makepeace bought Marshall’s souvenirs.

[48] Becklake, JT. Notes on the Coinage of the SA Republic. 1933:5

[49] These proof dies are in the ABSA coin collection in Johannesburg.

[50] Becklake, JT, Notes on the Coinage of the South African Republic. 1934:193.

[51] Becklake, JT. Aantekeninge oor die Muntstukke van die SA Republiek 1933:4.

[52] Stoker, P. in Yskornuus December 1953.

[53] Reid’s personal notes in possession of R Landman

[54] Information obtained from metallurgist HS Jordaan.

[55] Becklake, JT. From Real to Rand 1965:31.

[56] Information from Colonel Koos Erasmus.

[57] Levine, Elias. The Coinage and Counterfeits of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. 1974.

[58] Stoker, P. Yskornuus.  Desember 1953.

[59] Levine, Elias. The Coinage and Counterfeits of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek 1974.

[60] Photo from the Mapumalanga Museum Services at Pilgrim’s Rest.

[61] Kloppers’s drawing on Arndt’s manuscript. TAB Aanwins A202.

[62] Kloppers’ notes on Arndt’s manuscript. TAB Aanwins A202

[63] We know this because the Veldpond with one blank side which were issued on 1 June to the members of the Mint on the Field, have the ZAR mark on it, with a smooth edge. 

[64] Smith, Anna. Notes and News March 1976 volume 22 No 1 Africana Museum Johannesburg.

[65] Muller in Vaderland 15 September 1935.

[66] National Archive Pretoria. TAB SS 206 R744/76.

[67] National Archive Pretoria. TAB PMO 40 PM 2702/01.

[68] Veldpond in the ABSA Coin Collection.

[69] Copy of the letter from Meyer and Krogh to Pienaar in Becklake, Notes on the Coinage of the South African Republic 1934:12.

[70] Becklake, JT. Notes on the Coinage of the South African Republic 1934:11.

[71] National Archive Pretoria. TAB MHG 11148 (Perrin died in 1907 and the University of Pretoria bought his assay equipment).

[72] National Archive Pretoria. TAB SS R7768x00 & CAJ 718.

[73] National Archive. TAB Aanwins A202.

[74] TAB Aanwins A185

[75] Reid mentioned it in his memoirs.

[76] Both coins are part of the ABSA Coin Collection

[77] Letter in possession of professor David Reed Thomas.

[78] The coins were exchanged for one £ per Veldpond by the burghers.

[79] National Archive Pretoria. Aanwins 551.

[80] Smith, Anna. Notes and News March 1976 volume 22 No 1. Africana Museum Johannesburg.

[81] Kaplan, A. Journal of the Institution of Certificated Engineers, South Africa. Dec 1946 p 242.

[82] National Archives, Pretoria.

[83] In Kloppers se handskrif op Arndt se manuskrip vir sy boek South African Mints. 1939.

[84] Memoirs of Reid and letter of Cooney.

[85] Letter in possession of professor David Read Thomas.

[86] Cartwright, AP. Valley of Gold 1980:100.

[87] Cartwright, AP. Valley of Gold 1980:100.

[88] National Archive Pretoria. SAB GG 234 3/5239.

[89] National Archive Pretoria. Aanwins 202.

[90] National Archive Pretoria. Aanwins 202.

[91] Marshall, Alex: Photos of Boer Commandos taken at Pilgrim’s Rest during the war.  

[92] Marshall Alex, letter addressed to Colonel Sergeant 13 November 1902.

[93] TAB SS R331/1900

[94] Photo from Ons Erfenis by M Esterhuysen.

[95] Becklake, JT. Real to Rand  1965:50.

[1] National Archive Pretoria. TAB Aanwins A202.

[2] Pienaar, AEG. Boer Field Mint in Rand Daily Mail, 9 October 1902

[3] Vaderland 21 September 1936.

[1] Gold had been discovered in this area in 1872/73.

[2] Schultz, JO. Pilgrim’s Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902:38.

[3] The War Commissioner was responsible for the supplies of the commando. Before the war, Willy Barter was the Sherriff of Pilgrims Rest.

[4] A compound of  gold and mercury.

[5] Smith,  Anna Africana Notes and News.  March 1976 volume 22 No 1.

[6] MER. Die Pelgrimsponde in Die Huisgenoot 5 February 1943.

[7] National Archive Pretoria. TAB SS R331/1900.

[8] Rosenthal, Eric. The Best of Eric Rosenthal 1975:173.

[9] Schultz, JO.  Pilgrim’s Rest and the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 1999:23.

[10] MHG 89024 Alexander Marshall (1861 Scotland † 30-06-1935 Pilgrim’s Rest).

[11] Marshall, Alex.  Photos of Boer Commandos. 1902. Plate 1

[12] Marshall, Alex.  Photos of Boer Commandos. 1902. Plate 10.