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Netherlands Antilles bullion that never was

Started by eurocoin, April 29, 2016, 11:23:45 PM

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Netherlands Antilles bullion that never was

Early 1980 the government of the Netherlands Antilles was planning to issue a coin called 'The Queen of Saba'. They were planning to do so as the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles received a letter that was written by NATO secretary Joseph Luns. In this letter, which was written on writing paper of the NATO, he recommended the idea of a Dutch company (Ofir Export) to issue a bullion coin called 'The Queen of Saba'. This company was owned by his son Huib Luns. The name of the coin was derived from the Queen of Sheba, she is a queen in the Old Testament who visits King Salomon. The visit was related to the craving for gold. This coin would be issued to compete with the Canadian Maple Leaf and South African Krugerrand on the bullion market. The latter lost a lot of popularity due to South Africa's Apartheid at the time. Huib Luns was planning to issue 1 million of the coins per year with support of Merrill Lynch and Westway Metals Corporation. Until the government found out about it. They served a motion of no confidence against minister Marco de Castro who was in charge of this bullion coin. Also the dismissal of the director of the Central Bank of the Netherlands Antilles was demanded. At the time, the project was cancelled and the 1.3 million guilders that the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles had already paid for the 100 shares Ofir BV (total price of 3.75 million guilders) had to be refunded. The only reason why Huib Luns refunded the money was to prevent his father from being tarnished. Apparently the bank of the Netherlands Antilles paid 15 times face value for the shares while the other 2 shareholders, Luns Jr. and his wife, bought shares Ofir BV for face value just a few days earlier. The original face value of these shares was 1,000 guilders each. Furthermore it turned out that the director of the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles was the commissioner of Ofir Curaçao. Also allegedly Queen Beatrix didn't like the lettering 'Queen of Saba' with a portrait of the Queen of Sheba. A parliamentary inquiry was held in which all ministers and the directors of Ofir BV were interrogated. This enquiry was rather pointless as not much new information was found. Luns Jr. (who was in the media referred to as 'the King of Saba') didn't like that the deal was cancelled and sued the government of the Netherlands Antilles in 1984. He demanded 1.9 million guilders in damages. Allegedly he had written promises of minister De Castro about the issuance of the coin. The government of the Netherlands Antilles however informed him that the court in Amsterdam would be incompetent and that he should start the trial over again in a court at the Netherlands Antilles. Luns Jr. never continued the trial against the government of the Netherlands Antilles. Early 1986 Luns Jr. And the government of the Netherlands Antilles reached an agreement. According to De Castro (who remained prime minister as the government decided that he was not guilty of corruption) he didn't get any damages. Years later however Luns Jr. told in a newspaper that it would have been lucrative for all parties involved if the coins would have been issued.

The story has now been long forgotten, only 18 trial strikes (6 series) remain. While there were initially rumours about plans that they were going to open a factory on Saba to produce the coins, these trial strikes were minted at the York Mint in Birmingham. 1 series was bought by the British coin dealer Format Coins after the York Mint went bankrupt. They later sold it to a collector. Another series of these trial strikes was gifted by the Curaçao International Trust Company to The Curaçao Museum in 1987 but wasn't found there when I enquired about it a few months ago. 3 series are held in private collections.

The trial strikes have been minted in gold plated bronze. The denominations of the coins are respectively 125 gulden (1/4 ounce), 250 gulden (1/2 ounce) and 500 gulden (1 ounce).

Queen of Saba.jpg

Queen of  Saba.jpg


Auction archive

The series of 3 pattern coins that can be seen in the photos in the first post of this topic:

   Auctioneer      Date      Starting price      Price realised   
   Dix Noonan Webb      10 December 2009      Unknown       300 GBP   
   MPO Auctions      28 May 2010      1,200 EUR      Unsold   
   MPO Auctions      21 May 2015      500 EUR      1,700 EUR   

Uniface trial strikes of the obverses and reverses of the 125, 250 and 1000 gulden coins. Total of 6 pieces.

   Auctioneer      Date      Starting price      Price realised   
   Dix Noonan Webb      10 December 2009      Unknown      400 GBP    
   Bonham Auctions      23 April 2014      Unknown      900 GBP   

All 'prices realised' are hammer prices. Buyer's premium and any other fees are excluded.


Ofir (Luns) was also the issuer of bullion medals with denomination called "kroningsdukaten". The were struck at Sola, a tableware factory in Zeist, in the Netherlands.

At the time, they were priced by Ofir at almost ƒ1000, while their gold content was less than ƒ300. Ofir claimed its margin was 14 to 18% and said the rest was for cost and taxes, but it said the issue would keep its value through its scarcity. I would be surprised if the pieces would do more than melt value today, for total lack of takers.

To help finance Ofir, Joseph Luns and his wife each bought ƒ15 000 of shares in the company. They lost the money. Huib Luns gained a reputation of a never-do-well and disappeared from sight.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


Huib Luns with the Kroningsdukaat.jpg

Huib Luns with the "Kroningsdukaat".

You are right indeed, as far as I know there are no other coins/medals that were issued by Ofir besides the Queen of Saba and the Kroningsdukaat. They however once introduced a cutlery made out of pure gold (manufactured at Sola). It wasn't a big success and was later melted for the production of the Kroningsdukaten.


That's quite a story, Niels. Has it ever been told before? At least now we know more about the mysterious York Mint. The designs are rather poor, unfortunately. Excellent research, though.  :like:
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.


Quote from: <k> on April 30, 2016, 12:40:08 PM
That's quite a story, Niels. Has it ever been told before? At least now we know more about the mysterious York Mint. The designs are rather poor, unfortunately. Excellent research, though.  :like:

Thank you, <k>. As far as I know nobody has written about this story or even referred to it since the late 80's. I had to gather the information from contemporary newspaper articles. I guess that even the current owners of these patterns don't know the story behind them  :)


Very well done. You should consider sending your article to a Dutch or other national numismatic magazine. Or even an article on York Mint / York Stampings.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.


Over Christmas I was very surprised to sudenly hear comments of Huib Luns (who these days prefers to be referred to as 'Hubert' and lives in Belgium), on the radio. He was asked for comment about new revelations regarding questionable behaviours of his father. This following the release of records at the National Archives, that the Dutch intelligence agency made about him.


The kroningsdukaat was also minted in .9999 pure silver. 15,5 g and was offered at the (outrageous) price of f 195. I have attached a newspaper advert offering both medals. It should be remembered that at the time of the abdication of Juliana and the inauguration of Queen Beatrix in 1980 there was a coin collecting craze and prices of many Dutch coins reached an all time high. Also many coins from circulation were hoarded causing problems with payments. I remember 1 cent coins dated 1980 selling for more than f 1 a piece. Also the Rijks Munt cashed in by offering proof sets containing 1 and 2½ Gulden coins, commemorating the change of reign. These were sold for f 30 each. These can be bought now for about €2. And indeed the kroningdukaat can now be bought at their  silver/gold value (15,5 g silver or 6,22 g gold).

It is also interesting to note that the grandfather of the issuer of these medals and thus the father of Joseph Luns was the well-know painter, sculptor and medalist Huib (Hubert Marie) Luns (1881-1942)


Alex Island

eurocoin thanks for the interesting topic!
I wonder how the name of the Queen of Sheba and the issue of gold coins is connected in this case with the island of Saba?
Saba Island belongs to this group of islands and its name is sometimes found on coins. Once I saw some interesting ones, here is one of them:
Beatrix, 50 Gulden 1983 Struck at a private mint, 27.97 g (38 mm) bronze/silver
All islands around the world & islands coin