Canadian cryptocurrency exchange firm Arbitrade bought four gold casts of the first black South African president’s hands for a massive USD 10 million, to be paid in Bitcoin, at its PDAC conference recently. The firm was planning to launch a global “Golden Hands of Nelson Mandela” tour to educate young people about the anti-apartheid icon’s life.
The casts make up a collection of items known as the Nelson Mandela Golden Hands Collection and comprise three life-size impressions of Mandela’s hands and two others of his palm and fist.
The previous owner, Malcolm Duncan, who now lives in Canada, bought the casts from mining group Harmony Gold in 2002 for about USD 31,000. Half of the money paid to Harmony Gold was meant to go to charity, but it remains unclear as to whether that happened, despite Harmony insisting that the appropriate paperwork to verify its provenance was supplied at the time. The casts were created by the company in 2012, twelve years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years behind bars. Harmony Gold is one of South Africa’s leading gold producers.
Arbitrade has paid Duncan a Bitcoin deposit that has been converted to USD 50,000, the rest payable in quarterly instalments of over USD 2 million.
“They take possession when I have the dollar amount in the bank. At two-and-a-quarter million at a time, they take one hand at a time,” Duncan was quoted as saying.
There have been numerous attempts to acquire artefacts since the former African leader’s death as hundreds of pieces of art of artwork bearing his name began to flood the market, although allegations of forgery finally ended the speculation.
This is the first time artefacts of Mr Mandela have been sold in Bitcoin. Arbitrade, which is currently building a facility in Waterloo, Ontario, is due to launch an initial coin offering and plans to mine its own cryptocurrencies and trade others.
Duncan maintains that he has the only four surviving cast sets in circulation. Many works were destroyed under the orders of Mandela himself.