The Strachan and Co 2/- haul

In 2004 a prominent token coin collector in South Africa contacted me to let me know that there were rumours of a large haul of about 500 hundred S&Co 2/- pieces being offered for sale by a "policeman who lived in the Pondoland region". The Pondoland region borders East Griqualand. A few months later my numismatic friend contacted me to tell me that the "deal had been done" and that he had personally acquired a large number of the 2/- coins being sold. At the time I referred to these coins as the second recent large cache of S&Co discovered.

The timing of the deal was quite symbolic as I was just about to put into print the limited edition, presentation hard copy edition of my book "Children of the Mist". In each of the books I had decided to have a small leather bookmark with a S&Co 2/- (set one) attached to the end. The symbolism of the coin in the bookmark was the original Griqua bank note in Rev William Dower's 1902 book "The Early Annals of Kokstad and East Griqualand".

I was running short of these coins and mentioned this fact to my numismatic friend who quickly came to my aid and sent me several of the single sided coins so that all twenty copies of the hard copy edition would have the coin. On the reverse of each coin placed in the book I used a sharp instrument to engrave the initials "MD" - the symbolism will not be lost to anyone who has read "Children of the Mist".

I never knew who the policeman who had offered the coins for sale was or how he had acquired the coins but it was clear that the large haul, now in the hands of dealers and collectors, became the subject of the "quick buck" syndrome.

At this time I pondered on how the policeman had acquired them but had no clear basis on which to work. Having personally counted the tokens at Strachan and Co I know that the coins were all mixed up regardless of type or denomination. So how did several hundred 2/- (only) Strachan and Co coins land up in the hands of a policeman?

In my book "Children of the Mist" I describe, based on first hand reports, a historic meeting held in East Griqualand in 1912... here is the relevant extract (page 323)

Earlier, in 1912, much to the concern of the white settlers, a meeting was held at which many natives and Griquas were present. The people came from all over East Griqualand, Umzimkhulu, Mt. Ayliff, Mt. Frere and Matatiele. A fervent follower of Le Fleur, Adam Smith addressed the people from the back of a wagon.

Adam Smith told the people that Andrew Le Fleur would soon return, and that when he did the land would be given back to Griquas and be put under his chieftainship. Smith said that all those present who supported Le Fleur's role as chief over East Griqualand must sign a list that he handed down to the gathering. He asked those assembled there to pay 2/- so that when Le Fleur came, Smith could show him the list and the support he had in the territory. Smith said the government had given East Griqualand to the Griquas and that any headman who did not follow his advice would be discharged by Andrew Le Fleur on his return. Smith said that anyone who did not follow his advice would be chased away from East Griqualand with the unwanted white settlers who had taken over their lands. The people were ecstatic and freely signed the list, and each paid 2/-. Lucas, like many others there, used one of his Strachan and Co. coins. The bucket used to collect the money was soon too heavy to carry.

As a result of this meeting, when Le Fleur returned to East Griqualand in 1916 the whites once again prepared for civil war.

Over the last few weeks the background to their origins has become clear in my eyes. In recent years there have been major changes in South Africa and I know, first hand, that a lot of valuable documents, books and artifacts are finding their way onto the open market. Just last month I purchased several rare blue books from a major South African antiquarian book store. The Parliamentary books from the 1800s originated from the State Library at Pretoria. It is a fact that South Africa's pre-1994 history is being bled from the system. This is a tragedy.

I am hypothesizing that the bucket of S&Co 2/- that had been impounded by the police after this meeting in 1912 had been kept in a police vault somewhere in East Griqualand (probably Kokstad). The policeman recently (post-2000) came across the find and then offered them for sale. Based on my very personal involvement with the recording of the history of the S&Co there is no other salient argument I can think of.

If my hypothesis represents their history then the S&Co 2/- pieces that have sold so cheaply in recent years (by flooding the market) have their own unique collective story and are historically extremely valuable. Each coin in this haul represents a Griqua who was willing to put several day's wages into the bucket to support his leader Andrew Le Fleur. I personally acquired a block of fifty of these 2/- coins from a seller on BidorBuy, when many were being dumped in 2007, for just over ZAR1,000 (or about ZAR20 each). The coins have since stabilised at a much higher price. Once the selling off of this cache of coins is complete expect the S&Co 2/- to make a dramatic return in value.

Every coin has its history and this recent haul of S&Co 2/- should be recognized for the potential twist that they played in the dying days of the Griqua's stand for freedom.

This explanation also supports the fact that, because of the scarcity of coinage in this remote region, the S&Co were the accepted currency of the indigenous people - even in 1912.

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