No other government-issued gold bullion coin has enjoyed the same level of sustained success and popularity as South Africa’s Gold Krugerrand.
It was first introduced by the South African government in 1967. In the five decades since, it has set the standard model for a gold international trade coin. All of today’s modern bullion coin series from other state mints are patterned after the — tremendously successful — experiment of the Krugerrand.
One of the things that made the Krugerrand unique was its lack of a denomination. It has no legal tender face value, which means these coins are traded based on their weight as bullion alone (i.e. the melt value of their gold content).
This strategy makes sense when you realize that South Africa has a long track record as one of the most gold-rich regions found anywhere on Earth. For much of the 20th century, the country accounted for by far the largest proportion of the world’s gold mining output. Most of this newly mined gold came from a single area within South Africa, the Witswatersrand Basin.
Believe it or not, more gold has been mined from Witswatersrand in only the last century than than the amount of gold extracted from the ground in all of human history combined up to that point! This incredible fact is no doubt due to the advancement of human engineering, technology, and equipment. Yet it also speaks to the spectacularly vast precious metal resources that are located in this particular part of South Africa.
The advent of the Gold Krugerrand was the perfect outlet for this massive quantity of gold flowing from the Witswatersrand region. It was a win-win situation for both sides of the equation: On the one hand, investors around the world finally had a way to buy physical during an era where every government around the world had abandoned the gold standard and ceased production of circulating gold coins. On the other hand, the export of these gold bullion coins generated a windfall of profit for South Africa’s economy.
The name of the Krugerrand is a compound word derived from two sources that make perfect sense: 1) Paul Kruger, the “founding father” and president of the South African Republic (ZAR), who is pictured on the obverse of the coin; and 2) the rand, the name of the country’s currency.
For this reason, the Gold Krugerrand is an obvious vehicle for South Africa’s history and national heritage.
On the reverse design that was created by the artist Coert Steynberg, a type of antelope native to South Africa known as the springbok is shown prancing along to the right. It divides the four digits of the year-date, with two numbers appearing on either side of the animal. “KRUGERRAND” stretches across the top half of the rim. The bottom rim includes the inscription “FYNGOLD 1 OZ FINE GOLD,” using both English and the national language, Afrikaans.
The same is true of the obverse inscription: It reads “SUID-AFRIKA” and “SOUTH AFRICA” across the outer rim, using both languages. Afrikaans was derived from Dutch, as many of the original European settlers in the country were from the Netherlands. Afrikaans shares a syncretistic or “creolized” relationship with other dialects native to Africa. Incredibly, it is just one (along with English) out of eleven official languages spoken in South Africa.
The springbok is used elsewhere as a national symbol, serving as the mascot for the country’s popular national rugby team. Kruger’s portrait on the obverse was created by Otto Schultz, with small adaptations made by engraver Tommy Sasseen from the original image by Schultz.