The South African Mint – home to “OOM PAUL” minting press.

One of the oldest working coin presses in the world, affectionately known as “Oom Paul” stands proudly in the centre of the South African Mint’s on-site museum, but very few people know its rich history.

Oom Paul was manufactured in 1891 for use in the first mint established in Pretoria in 1892. It is one of the features in our museum and has an interesting history to share.
With the discovery of gold in the Johannesburg area in 1886, and the subsequent influx of treasure seekers from all over the world, the President of then Zuid Afrikaanse Republik saw the urgent need for the new Republiek to have its own coinage.

In 1890, the Volksraad (government) granted a concession to a consortium of Dutch, German and British investors to establish the National Bank of the ZAR and granted them permission to operate a mint, and as a result, President Kruger ordered two mint presses from Ludw. Loew & Co. in Berlin to be used in the newly established mint in 1892, which was built on Church Square, Pretoria. The machines had a manufacturing date of 1891.

Although the ZAR Mint was closed down when the British forces occupied Pretoria in 1900, the mining and banking community felt that South Africa should have its own refinery and mint and thus a Royal Mint branch was established in Pretoria

In 1923, the first gold pound was struck in the newly opened Royal Mint branch, and “Oom Paul” was once more set to work, with the other minting press used for spares.

More than 8 million coins were minted between 1892 and 1900 on the “Oom Paul” including the recently discovered “Lost Hoard” ponds and half ponds, as well as the Sammy Marks golden tickeys.

Gold sovereigns (gold ₤1) were also minted on “Oom Paul” and exported to Argentine, Australia, Brazil, Dutch East Indies, India, Ceylon, Burma, Straits Settlements and the United Kingdom From 1925-1933, during the era when South Africa was governed by the British.

Sammy Marks golden tickey

The special 1947 crowns which were made for the visit of the British Royal family, were also made on “Oom Paul”.

In 1961, when South Africa broke away from the commonwealth and became a Republic, the first decimal 1c coins were struck on “Oom Paul”.

1967 Gold Krugerrand

“Oom Paul” was used to strike the first legendary bullion Krugerrand which was conceived when the concept of a legal tender gold coin linked to the daily gold price was introduced in South Africa in 1967. The first gold Protea and first R2 collectable coins were also minted on this historical press in 1986, followed by many other various 24 carat gold coin series by the South African Mint.

In 1986, “Oom Paul” was moved from the Mint in Visage Street to the new “Johannesburg Mint” at the local theme park named Gold Reef City (GRC) which is a re-creation of historical Johannesburg as it was in the hey-days of gold pioneering.

The GRC Mint was built to fit-in with the theme of the Park and thus is an exact reduced replica of the old Royal Mint in Pretoria. Here, “Oom Paul” was used to strike thousands of GRC mintmarked Krugerrands.

When the new modern Mint in Centurion opened its retail outlet called Coin World in 1996, “Oom Paul” was relocated back to Pretoria where it currently resides, fully functional and minting the new bi-metal R5 with a special “CW” mintmark for visitors to see.