Kruger Money Box:

TRANSVAAL MONEY BOX

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Cast iron figure of Kruger with a pipe, Transvaal Money Box in bold on the top hat and By Permission of the Proprietors of the Westminster Gazelie across the back between the shoulders, the pipe in loose in the mouth but cannot be detached, painted in white, green, brown and gold, screw in the back to open the bank, seven holes in the base.

Weight 1.2 kg, height 15 cms, width 11 cms.

This is a later but still contemporary (circa 1900?) reproduction of the original money box which was produced by John Harper Limited, 1885.

The Harper box has By Permission of the Proprietors of the Westminster Gazette inscribed across the back and the pipe was longer.

Research for this description is taken and from and with acknowledgment to Dayne’s Discoveries – https://skolmen.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/history-of-the-paul-kruger-transvaal-money-box/

Paul Kruger was seen as a giant among his people, at a time when the Boers had just defeated the British army at Majuba Hill (1881), and caused the British Government to sue for peace, so ending the First Anglo-Boer War in the Boer’s favour.” (Source: The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum).

Around this time a drawing depicting Paul Kruger, done by well-known British caricaturist and political cartoonist, Francis Carruthers Gould, had been published in The Westminster Gazette, which was an influential Liberal newspaper based in London – known for publishing sketches and short stories.

It seems that John Harper & Co. Ltd, who were iron founders and domestic hardware manufacturers, of Birmingham, and/or of Albion Works, Willenhall, Staffs, saw this drawing and thought Kruger would be the perfect subject to front as a symbol of security for a money box. The drawing would serve as the model for the money box, however, since the likeness was so strong, Harper asked for permission from the Westminster Gazette before proceeding – in order to avoid possible copyright implications (Source: The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum). The first Kruger money banks were made by John Harper & Co. Ltd. from 1885 to early 1900. The picture below is taken from one of their old catalogues in 1902.

The original Harper money boxes are very scarce and are highly prized by vintage money box collectors, however, there are the alternative “Gazelie” banks that have grown in popularity over the past century. Some collectors seem to draw a line in the sand here. If it doesn’t say Gazette, it’s not Boer War, it’s not an authentic antique, and it’s a “fake.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Gazelie banks were made around the same time as the Harper Banks. Other manufacturers saw the original Harper banks and identified a market that Harper was missing. And so they made their own semi-mechanical Transvaal Money Boxes – making the pipe thicker and movable. Whenever a coin is deposited into the top of Kruger’s hat, a lever makes his pipe jiggle up and down, surely a delight for kids of all ages!

The inscription on the back was also slightly altered to “By permission of the proprietors of the Westminster Gazelie” for the exact same reason John Harper clearly printed Gazette on their banks. The new manufacturers didn’t want to have any copyright problems.

The main differences between the original Harper money box and the Gazelie money box are the following:

The pipe – The Harper money boxes have non-mechanical/ fixed pipes that are long and slender and point downwards. Whereas the Gazelie money boxes have semi-mechanical/ movable pipes that are thicker and point outward instead of down.

The wording on the back – The Harper money boxes state Westminster “Gazette” on the back. Whereas the Gazelie money boxes state Westminster “Gazelie” on the back.

Quality of the casting – The Harper money boxes seems to be a finer quality casting than the Gazelie money boxes. The inscriptions on the hat and back are more prominent and finely engraved on the Harper money boxes. The Harper money boxes also show a three line crease on the middle left hand side of Kruger’s jacket that is not found on the Gazelie money boxes.

The holes underneath – The Harper money boxes have 18 holes in a clearly repeatable pattern. Whereas the Gazelie money boxes have 7 to 9 holes mostly drilled in random patterns. The price – The Harper money boxes are extremely rare and can fetch a hefty amount on auction.

The Gazelie money boxes are more common, and although these are not considered to be originals, they are still antiques which hold value among cast iron/ money box collectors.

  • Sold By: Clarke's Africana & Rare Books
  • Contact Person: Paul Mills
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Telephone: 021 794 0600
  • Preferred Payment Methods: Visa & Mastercard via PayGate secure links and Bank transfers.
  • Trade Associations: ABA - ILAB, SABDA


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