The Krugerrand refers to the bestselling gold bullion coin of all time, which is produced by and was developed in the Republic of South Africa. This grandfather of the modern gold bullion coin phenomenon was first struck in 1967 in an effort to help market gold produced by the South African republic via its South African Mint. It became so wildly successful that by the year 1980, the Krugerrand represented an astonishing 90 percent of the entire worldwide gold coin market.
The name is a composite of two concepts. Kruger was the first great South African president of the independent republic, who is shown on the coin’s obverse. Rand is the name of the South African currency units. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the issue took a severe hit in distribution as a number of Western nations issued economic sanctions on the government of South Africa for its white-dominated government policies of apartheid, or legal racial segregation of whites and blacks. The coin could no longer be imported into Western Europe until the end of the apartheid sanctions.
While productions levels have varied hugely, they were never greater than during the second half of the 1970s. The first three years of 1967 to 1969 saw 40,000 coins struck every year. By 1970 this number had dramatically grown to more than 200,000 individual pieces. In 1974 over a million coins became struck to keep up with rapidly growing demand, and in year 1978 production peaked at six million coins. After apartheid officially ended and restrictions to Western gold markets were lifted in 1991, the production gradually increased once more, but not before it plunged to an abysmal low of only 23,277 pieces in 1998.
Part of what encouraged the outstanding popularity of this enduring and trailblazing gold bullion coin had to do with its durability. Because the South African Mint struck it in a solid copper and gold alloy, eschewing pure gold, it would not easily dent. The mint also demonstrated its forward-thinking creativity by introducing fractional ounce gold coins in the one half ounce, one quarter ounce, and one tenth ounce sizes. Thanks to this farsightedness in the planning, design, and innovating of the world’s first bullion gold issue, the Krugerrand has sold an incredible more than 50 million ounces of gold. In peak demand years for the pieces of from 1974 to 1985, the United States private gold buyers by themselves acquired over 22 million gold Krugerrands.
In many ways, the Krugerrand became a victim of its own appeal and mega success. It encouraged the other major gold producing powers of the world to strike their own variations on gold bullion coins. Canada came next with their famous beloved Canadian Gold Maple Leafs in 1979. This was followed by the Australian Nugget in 1981, the China Gold Panda of 1982, the American Gold Eagle launched in 1986, and the Great Britain Britannia coins of 1987.
A true testament to the enduring, lasting legacy of these South African gold pieces lies in the fact that numerous private mints the world over have tried to cash in on the popularity of the Krugerrands to make their own gold and silver bullion pieces in the style of the hit South African coins. Some of them go so far as to actually copy the full design of the Krugerrands, with slightly altered inscriptions underneath the pictures on the obverse and reverse. Such bullion rounds are not sanctioned by the Government of South Africa or its South African Mint. This means that they lack any legal tender value or official approval whatsoever.
In 2017, the South African Mint used the occasion of the 50 year anniversary of the Krugerrands to issue a special commemorative year gold edition in a full range of sizes. They also launched their first platinum bullion Krugerrands as part of the commemoration events.