Coins From Africa
When one thinks of gold in Africa, one immediately thinks of South Africa. To a far more significant degree than diamonds, it was the 1885 discovery of gold in what is now Johannesburg that led South Africa away from its agricultural identity to become the greatest gold-producing nation on Earth. Indeed, that area (the Witwatersrand Basin) contains about as much gold as can be found in the rest of the world. The two prospectors who stumbled on it soon sold their stake for a few hundred dollars. Subsequent (and future) extractions are worth many, many billions.
And when one thinks of gold coins from Africa, one immediately thinks of the South African Krugerrand. First minted by the South African Mint in 1967, it accounted for an incredible 90% of global gold coin sales by 1980. Some 50 million ounces of gold are owned by investors and collectors around the world in the form of Krugerrands. Its spectacular success singlehandedly created the international gold coin market as we know it today, as other countries followed suit (in order: Canada, Australia, China, USA, and Great Britain) with their own bullion coins.
Gold and African Civilization
Africa’s gold history is exponentially older and deeper than the Witwatersrand Rush. Its original discovery likely led to the spread of human settlement. Along the Nile River, the Nubians are known to have been methodically extracting and processing gold as early as 2000 BCE. By 400 BCE, Saharan civilizations had made contact with those on the Mediterranean and were trading gold for horses, textiles, and salt. West Africa supplied most of the world’s gold for more than a thousand years up until 1500.
Gold production remains significant, as Africa supplies an estimated 30% of world supply. This is carried out mostly by large corporations but smaller operations exist, notably in Ghana where up to 50,000 people, known as galamseyers, are believed to be working in the substantial gold deposits found in the southern part of the country. They work the pits, tunnels, and sluices by hand in often dangerous conditions, with high accident rates and risk of mercury poisoning.
Notable Coins from Africa
Gold Krugerrand Coin
The mighty Krugerrand is the ne plus ultra of African gold coins. There is little else in the category. We may mention the Krugerrand’s predecessor, the Rand. The 2 South African Rand gold coin was issued from 1961 to 1983 with a weight fractionally below 8 grams and fineness of 91.7% and it remains the discerning collector’s favorite, rare as it is.
Elephant Gold Coin
The Somali Gold Elephant of the African Wildlife series is produced by the Bavarian State Mint (Bayerisches Hauptmünzamt) in Munich. The mint’s most popular product today is the Somali Elephant.
The Gold Dinar
There is also the gold dinar, possibly the first pure gold coin in world history, first issued around 700 CE in North Africa, and privately issued under special circumstances today. According to Islamic law, it contains the weight of 72 grains of average barley. The modern equivalent is 4.44 to 4.5 grams. These coins are rarely used for exchange and are not legal tender. Certain investors may hoard them as bullion for savings and wealth protection.