ZA Currency: Coins

Not surprisingly, it was with the completely democratic government of 1994 that the old Rands featuring Jan van Riebeeck, founder of Cape Town and a Dutch colonial administrator, were done away with. Riebeeck was on the South African Pound banknotes since the 1940's, and then with independence in 1961, was on the new South African Rand (both written in English and Afrikaans). The post-apateid currency was multi-lingual and apolitical.

Before the 1990s, the exchange rate of Rand:Dollar was 2-4:1. During the regime change, it shot up to above 10:1. Since then it has come down to 7-8:1, with the all time worst after September 11th, 2001 (13.8:1). With the high inflation by 1995, the 100 and 200 R bills were introduced for the first time. 

So here are the coins. My enthusiasm for them is much lower.

On the 5 R is the blue wildebeest. The 2 R shows off the elegant and ubiquitous impala. The 1 R features the Springbok. Since 2001, each coin has "South Africa" written in one or two of the 11 languages, and they change coins every year (its the same in some languages though, e.g. Northern and Southern Sotho, and very similar to others, Tswana). The 50c is the familiar bird of paradise (or wild banana, Strelitzia). 20c is the national flower, the Protea. 10c is the Arum lily, and 5c is the national bird, the Blue Crane. The 1 and 2c coins had sparrows and an fish-catching eagle.

What is interesting is that before the 1970's, they had half- and quarter- pennies and other nonsense, but in 2002, they stopped producing their pennies and 2c coins. All transactions are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. If a price says a modest 1.99, guess again, it's 2 R (do you smell gasoline?). When April 2012 rolls around, there will be no more 5c coins either, so everything will be rounded to 10c.


  1. I wish the US would get rid of the penny. As for your previous post about the paper currency, I wish we would adopt more colorful paper currency that vary in size by value. This would make it harder to counterfeit, and make it easier for the vision impaired. The penny has to go though.



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