1-oz-krugerrand-springbok-sideOn July 3rd, 1967 the first Krugerrand was stuck by the South African Mint. That first year they stamped out 40,000 regular Krugerrands, and an additional 10,000 of the specially prepared, and targeted toward collectors, proof Krugerrand. Over 54 million coins later, the Rand Refinery reports it's the most popular gold bullion investment coin in the world. The history of the Krugerrand doesn't begin at the mint- it doesn't even begin with the Rand Refinery which stamps out its blanks. The Kruger's history starts with a gold rush.

In South Africa there's a range of hills that run east/west for sixty miles. They're called "Witwatersrand". They're also some home to some of the richest gold deposits on earth, part of a "Golden Arc" where most of the mines are located. This arc is over 500KM and runs Southwest from Evander to Welkom. There's conflicting data, but gold was discovered in 1884 or 1886 depending on which history book you read. Predictably the discovery led to war for control of such vast resources. Paul Kruger was president of the Transvaal at the time, and the discovery of gold combined with the influx of foreigners led to the Second Boer war in 1899. The Boers fought hard but lost, and the Transvall was absorbed back into the British empire in 1902. Twenty years later the next piece in the Krugerrand destiny was placed.

The Rand Refinery was created ninety years ago by the Transvaal Chamber of mines, to refine all the gold found in Witwatersrand. It has grown to be the largest single site refinery in the world, putting out coin blanks, bars, and items for the jewelry industry. According to their about page, the Rand Refinery refined 80% of South Africa's gold in 2005. Every Krugerrand began as a blank provided by the refinery.

Between Executive Order 6102 and the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, American citizens were effectively banned from owning gold bullion. They could however, own foreign coins. The South Africans cleverly made the Kruger legal tender, and also stamped the weight on the Krugerrand, making it easy to trade known quantities of gold without having to melt and assay the gold. This allowed Americans to legally own Krugerrands, however it was illegal to import them until the South African government ended Aparthied and western sanctions were removed in the mid 90s.

Coert Steynberg was a talented sculptor in South Africa. He is well known for creating the statue of Paul Kruger in the largest game preserve in South Africa, Kruger National Park, and for his Springbok antelope, which graces many coins including the Krugerrand. Otto Schultz is responsible for the obverse of the coin, a bust of Kruger. He caused a bit of a stir when he placed his initials, OS, on the bust of Kruger on another coin. OS translates to Ox in Afrikaans, and political opponents started referring to "Dumb ox Kruger". Needless to say the initials were removed on the coins- and don't appear on Krugerrands either.

In 1980 South Africa introduced the fractional, or miniature Krugerrands. With this advancement, all an investor had to do was check the current price of gold, then buy the selected Krugerrand gold coin. Due to the unrivaled success of the 1 oz Krugerrand, the mint introduced a 1/10 oz Krugerrand, with a mintage of 857,000 and 60 proofs, the 1/4 oz Krugerrand, with a mintage of 534,000 with 60 proofs, and the 1/2 oz Krugerrand, with a mintage of 374,000- and you guessed it, 60 proofs. That same year the mint stamped out 3,143,000 of the full size krugers, with 12,000 proofs. The Krugerrand recently celebrated it's fortieth anniversary, and it looks like there will be many more to come.