Scott Balson's trip to South Africa -
2nd - 3rd September 2006 - Johannesburg

Perth : Johannesburg : Pretoria : Pietersburg : Pilgrim's Rest : Ladysmith : Champagne Castle : Estcourt : Durban : Ixopo
Kokstad : Port Elizabeth : Plettenburg Bay : Cape Town : Victoria West : Griquatown : Mafikeng : Johannesburg : Perth

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2nd September - 3rd September

This was my first full day in Gauteng, Africa.

After my restless night I left my hotel room at Garden Court at about 6am and wandered around the amazing Nelson Mandela Square - a network of upmarket shops in Sandton that would be proudly adopted by the most elite of neighbourhoods. The square was bordered by Sol Kerzner's eccentric Sandton Sun and the older Sandton City complex making up an enormous interlinked multilevel shopping complex. The place was practically lifeless - and was perfect for taking photos as the sun rose in an African sky. From here you did not see the dirty smog that was so apparent from the sky.

This first batch of images were taken at Sandton. It is interesting that many of the stores now in Nelson Mandela Square were once locate at the now deserted Carlton Centre in Johannesburg - now overrun by squatters and a dangerous place to walk about. More below in the next batch of pics.

Below we meet the people who I met on this first day, Geoff Klass from the amazing bookstore Collector's Treasury, the warm Dr Paul Bayliss from the ABSA Museum, my children, Lili Callinicor (Chair of the National Heritage Council in S Africa) and Prof Edward Webster (Professor of Sociology) from the University of Witwatersrand.

Sandton Sun at night

Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton City

Nelson Mandela Square

One of many upmarket shops

Another view of Sandton Sun

Nelson Mandela Square

The enormous statue of Mandela

which stands about 20 ft high in

the main courtyard

The roof in Mandela Square

Sandton Sun at night and

from the inside during day

Trip to Johannesburg

At about 9.30am I took a taxi into Johannesburg so that I could meet with Geoff Klass from the amazing bookstore Collector's Treasury (cnr Philip and Commissioner streets) and Dr Paul Bayliss from the ABSA Museum (cnr Fox and Polly streets).

The trip to the city was one filled with apprehension because of what I had heard and seen on the web. Maybe it was because it was a Saturday but I was pleasantly surprised because there were not too many Africans and no gangs to see and the rubbish had been carefully collected and placed near overflowing bins - not lining the gutters as I had seen.

My coloured taxi driver told me that he would not drive through Hillbrow which was now run by Nigerian drug lords.

Collector's Treasury is located in a seedier side of town but secure by a permanently locked metal gate. The multilevel shop owned by Geoff Klaas is filled with an extensive range of Africana books - one of the finest I have ever seen. It is also protected by a number of security doors that would make a bank safe in Australia look like a children's playground! The books that particularly impressed me was a complete two volume set of Burchell's 1806 work in fantastic condition - and a price tag of US$10,000. There were copies of Campbell's first and second travels and much more. I spent over ZAR3,500 in the shop buying five books which I had sought for a long time - leaving well pleased.

The ABSA Museum, old Volkskas, boasts the finest collection of South African numismatic items in the world and have an enormous safe in which the more valuable numismatic items including patterns, Veld Ponds, Burgers Ponds and the Strachan and Co trade tokens are safely stored. Paul Bayliss and I chatted  over a cup of tea about the controversy I had created resulting from my research into the Griquas - namely that the widely accepted theory that the c 1820 tokens had been circulated by the people at Griquatown was nothing more than a poorly researched fable. I also discussed the role of Strachan and Co tokens as South Africa's first indigenous coinage.

Paul wants to organise a debate next year - he s going to try to set up a dinner in which I can debate the subject with prominent detractors ... a  numismatic slug fest where we can arrive at a definitive outcome rather than sparring in the shadows. I have absolutely no doubt that my research will come up trumps - after all Spink in London has already endorsed it.

Both meetings were great and I have committed to send ABSA a set of the Larkan dunny tokens and a copy of my book on the Strachan and Co tokens.

The road to Johannesburg

The freeway bypass

looking down at the city

The city streets

The deserted Carlton Centre

Busy streets and

pavement shopping

Geoff Klass in his office

The coins secure in the

ABSA bank vault

The amiable Dr Paul Bayliss

The Griqua Pond Note at ABSA

The 1870 Griqua Patterns and
failed tokens

The roof in Mandela Square

Sandton Sun at night and

from the inside during day

Return to Sandton

At about 1pm I returned to Sandton with Dr Paul Bayliss - I met my children in South Africa - Kerry Leigh - who will graduate as (medical) Dr Balson in a few months and Richard who is set to get straight "As" in all subject when he completes his high school education this year. Richard is going for a scholarship and is set to study mechanical engineering at University.

Image right: Kerry-Leigh, Giuseppe, Richard and Scott at lunch.

Accompanying Kerry-Leigh (who turns 23 on Monday the 4th September) was her fiancee and boy friend of six years Giuseppe Virgillito.

After lunch at Butchers Grill in the Nelson Mandela Square complex we walked around the shops.

We had tea at my hotel before they left and I met Lili Callinicor (Chair of the National Heritage Council in S Africa) and Prof Edward Webster from the University of Witwatersrand at Nelson Mandela Square. (Image of Lili and Edward below) After a long and interesting discussion I returned to my hotel and had a much better sleep - my body is now getting used to the new time frame.

3rd September

My day was taken up with three meetings.

The first with my good numismatic friend Allyn Jacobs who has the finest collection of S African tokens in the world. I took a taxi to Allyn's house and enjoyed an excellent lunch with him after looking through hundreds of trade tokens - including many rare and man unique pieces. In fact Allyn told me I was the first collector to enjoy this honour. His coins are beautifully presented in coin books with background information, images and more.

Image right: Allyn with book

Soon after arriving I presented him with a copy of the limited edition (20) book "Children of the Mist". Allyn also has a great collection of valuable Charles I siege silver pieces which are today worth thousands of pounds. He gave me some of his rare token coin spares including a couple that filled my gaps in my East Griqualand collection. Some of his extremely rare/unique tokens from this region can be seen below. I will be sending him some more of the Larkan varieties and a copy of the book "Kence, the trade tokens of Strachan and Company".

More pictures of this meeting and some of Allyn's unique and comprehensive collection can be seen below.

I was sorry to have to dash at 3.30pm but I had a 4pm meeting with a sub-editor of the Business Day's Weekend Review. Mlungisi Zundi is the face of the new South Africa an African reporter with a deep interest in the wrongs of South African interest. I met Mlungisi in the foyer of the Sandton Sun Hotel and we chatted for about an hour, discussing the Griqua people and their history. The reporter had some deep-seated issues with the Griqua/coloureds viewing them as a people who sided with the whites and who fought the blacks. He found it hard to comprehend that an Australian had such an interest in the Griquas, the Children of the Mist.

As a result of the meeting Mlungisi is driving down to Kokstad this Thursday to meet with my friend Milner Snell (I have put him in touch) so that he can get some background from the horses mouth. Milner is the curator of the Kokstad museum.

At 6.30pm I had a meeting with two Boer War enthusiasts, Sandy Buchanan and Roger Fritz at the Nelson Mandela Courtyard. We shared a glass of wine and chatted for about an hour about the Boer battle fields. Their knowledge and interest in this area was all embracing. 

Image right: Sandy Buchanan and Roger Fritz

Southern Sun hotel where I
stayed in Sandton

Allyn in his secure area where
he does his coin work

Allyn Jacobs with the book

The views from Allyn's large and

beautifully managed garden

Collector of fine items

St Barnabus Mission, Ntlaza

Dawood Amod (Ixopo)

G Roe Scott (Umzimkulu)

Early English siege pieces

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