There is no more famous South African coin than the Krugerrand. The iconic gold bullion coin is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The Gold Krugerrand essentially established and dominated the modern international gold coin market in the post-WWII world. Some 60 million Krugerrand coins have been sold worlwide since their debut in 1967. The total weight of gold comes to 53 million troy ounces, given the introduction of fractional sized Krugerrands after 1980.
Not surprisingly, the production of fractional (half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and tenth-ounce) gold bullion coins was another innovation by the Rand Refinery (part of the South African Mint) that other state mints around the world began to emulate.
The Krugerrand inspired many competitors due to its widespread success: the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf (1979), the Chinese Gold Panda (1982), the American Gold Eagle (1986), as well as gold bullion coins from Australia, Austria, and the U.K., among a growing list of other countries.
Each Krugerrand is struck from .917 fine gold, meaning their purity is 22 karats. This 22-karat standard is known as “Crown gold,” once used by the British Empire. The alloying of gold with 8.3% copper gives Krugerrands their orange-gold color. The original standard size contains a full troy ounce (31.1 grams) of pure gold by weight.
With only a few interruptions due to sanctions against South Africa’s (since abolished) apartheid regime, the Krugerrand has been an important outlet for the country’s vast gold deposits found in the Witwatersrand region. The coins traveled all over the world to an unprecedented degree. For instance, on average, Germany’s banks (led by Deutsche Bank) have purchased approximately 400,000 troy ounces of Krugerrands on average annually since production began. These gold coins have not only played a key role in global finance and trade over the last fifty years, but also serve as way to export value-added products from the immense South African gold mining industry.
Today, more than half of all Gold Krugerrands are actually sold within South Africa, accounting for roughly a quarter of the gold sold within the country. The 50th birthday of the venerable trade coin (which bears no denomination but is considered legal tender) even brought about the first Silver Krugerrand and Platinum Krugerrand issues from the South African Mint in 2017.
The popular monthly publication The Numismatist, which has been the official magazine of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) for more than a century, also had a feature about the Krugerrand’s 50th anniversary in this month’s issue. In addition to tracing the symbolism of the coin’s name and designs, created by Otto Shultz (obverse) and Coert Steynberg (reverse) respectively, the article points out the serendipitous timing of its introduction. The Krugerrand was born at a time when inflation and uncertainty about the changing rules of the global marketplace in the 1960s and 1970s made a gold bullion coin an attractive safe haven for investors.
Using gold bullion coins as a vehicle for providing a stable store of wealth is the lasting and most important contribution the Krugerrand has made to the world. You can find more about the history and symbolism behind these coins by following the preceding link.
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