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Who Are On South Africa’s Money Of All Time. Photo KnowInsiders

What is South Africa’s currency?

Rand (ZAR, R) is the national currency of South Africa. It is broken up into cents and can be distributed as both coins and banknotes.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is the primary bank that issues and distributes South African’s money. The bank is actually celebrating its 100th birthday this year in 2021.

Since introducing the rand in 1961, the SARB has controlled the creation of coins and banknotes for the currency. Between 1961 and 1989 there was some shifting of the initial rand coins. The original banknotes were also re-released various times over the years.

Rand banknotes feature multiple languages

As South Africa has eleven national languages, each of them is featured on at least one of the rand banknotes currently in circulation.

On the R 10 note there is English, Afrikaans, and SiSwati, while on the R 200 note you’ll find English, Sesotho, and isiZulu, for example. The eleven languages include English, Afrikaans, isiSwati, isiNdebele, Setswana, Tshivenda, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Xitsonga, Sesotho, and isiZulu.

Where does the name “Rand” come from?

The South African currency name is derived from the word “Witwatersrand” which was the name of the high escarpment upon which Johannesburg, one of the capital cities, is located.

How South Africa makes world class coins

The first step in the coin production process is their graphic design. In-house engravers and designers propose various ideas in rough sketches, and then painstakingly translate this into three-dimensional sketches that can be engraved onto the coins. Given the minute size of the artwork on coins, the complexity of coats of arms, official details and portraits present on most coins, this is not a small task.

Once the team has locked down a design, the client will choose the material. This is usually cupronickel or various aluminium, but can sometimes include exotic alloys with special features – for either aesthetic or security purposes.

From this point on, South Africa’s advanced facilities automate much of the process. Blank sheets move through rollers and precise electronic measuring devices to ensure the correct dimensions. They then arrive at a punch that knocks out perfect blank metal circles from the large strips.

Blank coins then arrive at high-speed presses loaded with the designs. These strike the blanks with force to impart the decals and intricate details, such as national symbols, political figures, various images, and the denominations. And with that, they’re ready to make their way into national circulation.

What color are South Africa’s banknotes and coins?

The coins currently in circulation are divided into series by color:

Red: includes 1 cent, 2 cent, and 5 cent coins. These coins feature birds and are made with a steel core plated with copper alloy;

Yellow: includes 10 cent, 20 cent, and 50 cent coins. These coins feature flowers and are made with a steel core plated with copper and tin;

White: includes 1 rand, 2 rand, and 5 rand coins. These coins feature antelopes and are made with copper core plated with nickel.

What animals are on South African money of all time?

The rand banknotes currently in circulation feature Nelson Mandela on the front and one of the ‘Big Five’ wild animals on the back:

Photo Pinterest
Photo Pinterest

R 10 note – green with a rhinoceros;

R 20 note – brown with an elephant;

R 50 note – red with a lion;

R 100 note – blue with a cape buffalo;

R 200 note – orange with a leopard.

Animals on coins

Pull a handful of coins out from your pocket and you’ll notice that they display a variety of plant and animal life.

The highest denomination coin, the five rand, features the black wildebeest. The two rand coin features a kudu, and the one rand a springbok – South Africa’s national symbol. The springbok also features on the Krugerrand, and several other official items in the country. The smallest denomination coin still in wide circulation is the 50 cent coin, and it features the iconic strelitzia, or bird of paradise flower, native to South Africa.

The smaller denominations – 20, 10, five and one cent pieces – are no longer in wide circulation, but they feature iconic plants and animals also native to South Africa, including the protea, arum lily, and the country’s national bird, the blue crane.

Who are on South African banknotes of all time?

Let’s take a look at the history with lots of changes.

Between 1961 to 1991, the banknotes' front face had the face of Jan van Riebeeck, with the first issues carrying just his face. The later issues had various additional symbols accompanying his face, such as the protea, Cape Dutch Architecture, vines, the Voortrekker Monument, the Great Trek, Union Buildings, and the springbok.

Photo IOL
Photo IOL

The reverse sides had imagery depicting Jan van Riebeeck's sailing ship, the Johannesburg city centre, farming, agriculture, mining, and fauna and flora.

The SARB's first banknote collection comprised four values: the R1 note, R2, R10, and R20. The second issue added a R5 note, while the third issue added an R50 note.

From 1992 to date, South Africa has had five banknotes with four editions. Between 1992 to 2011, the first three had the country's big five animals on their faces, with the different economic sectors on the reverse. In 1994, the notes were written in African languages for the first time. They were previously limited to English and Afrikaans.

In this file picture, former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus holds bank notes bearing the image of former President Nelson Mandela. Picture: AP
In this file picture, former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus holds bank notes bearing the image of former President Nelson Mandela. Photo AP

In 2012, the SARB brought in new banknotes commemorating South Africa's first democratic President Nelson Mandela. The notes were also released 28 years after his release from prison. The note face front featured the former President, and unlike in the editions directly before, the big five animals were placed on the reverse side of the notes.

Photo Bloomberg
Photo Bloomberg

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) later released commemorative notes in 2018, celebrating the 100th year since the birth of Mandela. They are also an ode to his life and his role during the apartheid struggle. They feature his face on the front and depict places of significance in his life, such as his capture at Howick, his place of birth, and Robben Island.

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