1-4 oz krugerrandsWhen someone mentions gold coins, most people think of two items. In times of old they think about Doubloons and pirate treasure chests, or they think about one of the most well known modern gold bullion coins, krugerrands. As an interesting side note, a Spanish Doubloon is only 6.8 grams, a Krugerrand is 33.9 grams, so it would take just a hair under 5 Doubloons to equal one modern Kruger. Of course the level of purity isn’t the same, but we’ll get to that in a bit. So how did Krugerrands come to be known as the most popular gold bullion coin in the world?

The answer begins in the gold rich regions of South Africa known as Witwatersrand. Africa is blessed with some of the most copious natural resources on the planet, and this gold band of ridges sparked more than a passing interest from adventurers, miners, and even governments seaking fortunes. Wars were fought for control of the area, and eventually South Africa became a part of the British empire, obtaining status as an independent Republic in the last sixty years.

Almost 100 years ago the Rand Refinery was established to take precious metals and refine them into marketable form. Along with the South African Mint, they are responsible for the genesis and continued distribution of Krugerrands throughout the world. In 1967 they introduced this unique and exciting coin offering to the world. The 1 oz gold krugerrand coin had several features that set it apart from the competition. For one thing, it had the gold weight stamped right on the coin. Previous mintages always carried a denomination, but by stamping the amount of gold of the face, they established the primary purpose of this coin as a means to buy and sell gold bullion. Having the value stamped on the coin prevented the need to melt down and assay the gold, which greatly helped in the Kruger’s quick adoption.

The South African Mint also did something else quite clever. Instead of releasing the Kruger as pure 24K gold, they alloyed it with copper. Pure gold by itself is quite malleable, and is easily scratched, dented, and bent. For example, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, a competitor to the Krugerrand is currently 24K. Because of this it is not uncommon for collectors to accidentally damage a coin while handling it, and they require special consideration when removing them from their storage sleeves. Krugers don’t suffer from this problem. The copper makes up about 1/12th of a Krugerrand’s composition. The copper allows provides a destinctive ruddy golden brown hue to the coins, which makes them easily recognizable. You may be wondering if a one ounce Krugerrand contains one ounce of gold- or if that copper “dilutes” your gold content. The answer is no- the coins are actually heavier than the one troy ounce stamped on their reverse, rest assured you’re getting the full portion of gold you’re paying for.