Madiba’s Midas touch goes for $10-million in bitcoin

Nelson Mandela. (AFP)

Nelson Mandela. (AFP)

A South African businessperson living in Canada has managed to sell his collection of four gold castings of Nelson Mandela’s hands for $10-million – in bitcoin.

During a conference earlier this month Malcolm Duncan – a South African businessperson who has been living in Alberta for the past 12 years – sold the castings to an Ontario based cryptocurrency company called Arbitrade.

The full collection is made up of two Mandela fists, his full hand and a palm impression. It will be handed over to Arbitrade in late April.

In 2002, Mandela sat down to have his right hand casted by South Africa’s Harmony Gold mining group. Each set weighs 9kg and is composed of 99.999% pure gold.

The original plan was for Harmony Gold to cast 27 sets for each year Mandela was in prison but the project was stopped after only one set was completed.

According to Duncan, this set was sold to him at double the R1.8-million purchase price with the understanding Harmony would give half to Mandela’s charities.

“His fingerprints on his gold hands are probably more prominent than mine on my own hands. They really succeeded in getting the definition on the hands,” Duncan said.

“They managed to get this gold to flow into the mould and pick up the most detailed fingerprints. He cut his thumb quite badly on Robben Island, his right thumb, and you can see it.”

So far, Duncan has been paid a bitcoin deposit that has been converted to $50 000. The rest of the amount will be paid out in quarterly instalments of at least $2-million starting on April 30.

Arbitrade is responsible for handling the conversion of the bitcoin funds to US dollars but Duncan says he might keep some of it in cryptocurrency in case it appreciates in value.

Art Dealers accepting bitcoin

Artists and gallery owners hope that bitcoin will encourage more individuals to buy art.

An art gallery in London’s renowned Cork Street accepts bitcoin and other digital currencies not because it is driven by demand, but rather because gallery owner Eleesa Dadiani believes cryptocurrencies will become the new normal, reports the BBC.

In 2017, the US saw its first contemporary art sale with bitcoin when American artist Mark Flood’s painting, Select a Victim, sold for 12.3 BTC (equivalent to $100 000) in New York. The sale was managed by The White Company which claims to be a purveyor of fine art and luxury goods specialising with “clients in the cryptocurrency space”.

Cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Dash, Litecoin, and Monero are run on blockchain, which is in essence a digital record of all transactions.

For Daiani, it is the “biggest thing since the internet” with its “boderlessless, open source, decentralised peer-to-peer network that governments cannot shut down.”

“One of the main advantages of Bitcoin is anonymity,” said White Company’s chief executive Elizabeth White, “and we highly respect the privacy of our clients, even communicating with them through secure methods such as Signal and Telegram if they wish.”

Mashadi Kekana
Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA. 
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