MUSANA — A number of people sitting on various amounts of Rhodesian coins here are on edge following reports there are buyers willing to part with huge amounts of US dollars just to lay hands on the ancient coins.
This follows reports from Masvingo that buyers, mainly from South Africa, have invaded the province dangling irresistible offers of up to $1 500.
A recent visit to Musana communal lands, where a number of villagers have stashes of the coins, revealed that a lot of people were anxious to offload the coins in a rare opportunity to amass instant riches.
Most villagers with the coins are already having visions of wealth but are wary of being ripped off by middlemen to whom they may sell their “treasures” at a pittance while they would then go and make a killing when they, in turn, sell the ancient coins to the real foreign buyers.
One of the villagers, Agnes Mavhu, cannot wait to get a clearer picture of the whole saga so that she can quickly get into business.
She says there have been a number of people coming to Musana offering to buy their old coins, but they are not happy with the offers.
“We believe that the coins should actually cost more than what they are offering,” she says. “So the people whom they approached refused the offers. They are probably just middlemen for other people who are offering more money.”
She adds that when they saw in the initial story in this paper and phoned, they thought the news crew was going to bring buyers.
Mavhu, who is a young woman, says the coins that she has are an inheritance from her late grandmother.
Mavhu’s uncle, 71-year-old Headman Chaitezvi (real name Peter Nharo), has many coins in various denominations, whose dates of mint range from 1936 to 1977.
Headman Chaitezvi still nurses nostalgic memories of the things he could buy with those coins in Rhodesia.
He explains how he has managed to preserve the coins as many people, especially in urban areas, are no longer in possession of them.
“When we are in the rural areas and money is no longer in use, we don’t throw it away,” he says. “We just keep somewhere safe.”
He adds that he had also as a hobby been picking up coins that other people threw away. That preservative nature could just be what they needed to earn some money as collectors are offering a lot of money for the valuable old coins.
Collectors of old money are usually skilled at grading ancient coins. The physical condition of the coin often determines its value. Possessors of the coins are also encouraged to be able to accurately grade the coins so they will not be cheated by collectors.
Collectors are prepared to pay a lot of money for ancient items to grace their private collections in archives. These usually include old cars, stamps, notes and coins.
A number of websites, including e-bay and www.bidorbuy.co.za advertise the purchase and auctioning of such coins.
A sample from the e-bay website shows that a Rhodesian stamp, Rhodesia 207 MNH Crest, Arms of Rhodesia, is fetching $1,01, a 1979 $10 note is fetching $56, a Southern Rhodesia 1932 one shilling silver coin is going for $32,11 while a 1934 two shilling coin is fetching $64,22 and a 1934 two shilling coin is going for $64,22.
Another website, http://en.allexperts.com, also answers questions from people with the old currencies. One collector says the value of a coin depends on denomination, date, number minted and condition of the coin, including amount of wear (grade), any dents and scratches or cleaning as well as collector demand for it.
“The scarcest Southern Rhodesia coins include the 1939 and 1946 two shillings,” the website says. It adds that with moderate wear, the 118 coins of a Southern Rhodesia complete collection (1932-54) may be worth about $1 800 or more, depending on the level of collector demand. If the set contains the 31 coins of Rhodesia & Nyasaland (1955-64) that would add another $65 and the 26 coins of independent Rhodesia (1964-77) $10,” says a collector on the website.
The rush for the Rhodesian currency comes barely three months after another recent hunt for old cast-iron pressing irons and three-legged pots.
“We are now worried that we could have the same issue here,” says another villager.
“People can come here and offer us ‘sick’ (little) money and then go to sell the coins at much higher prices. So we really need to know how to identify the genuine dealers rather than work with middlemen.”
Another villager, Robson Mapowu (65), says when they first heard that the old coins could fetch them a lot of money, they dismissed it as a baseless rumour.
“Our problem is that we don’t know how to get the money (old coins) where it is needed,” he says.
“We fear a recurrence of what happened concerning cast-iron irons where some people were duped.”
Although it is believed most people are after precious minerals contained in the irons, pots and coins, others believe it is simply a case of collectors wanting to beef up their treasured archives.