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THE TIMELINE OF MONEY DESIGN CHANGES IN SOUTH AFRICA BETWEEN 1652 AND 2023

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THE TIMELINE OF MONEY DESIGN CHANGES IN SOUTH AFRICA BETWEEN 1652 AND 2023

By: Nthabiseng Nzuza & Julia Montlha, curators, DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History

Introduction

The history of money in South Africa originated as far back as 1652 with the arrival of the first European settlers (Dutch East India Company) in the Cape, tracing the evolution of commerce, struggles, culture, and society. For centuries acquiring goods and services had been at the core of every civilisation, and to acquire these, people needed to have objects or commodities of value in order to participate in the exchange. This could be in the form of a bartering system where bartering with items of value was the prevalent form of trade or buying by using minerals or money depending on the currency that was used at that specific time. Barter trading is the trading of goods and services between two or more parties without the use of money. From the humble beginnings of a barter system by using beads, and cowrie shells to the modern intricacies of digital cryptocurrencies, the trajectory of currency in this nation reflects a dynamic interplay between economical changes, politics, historical events, and technological advancement. In this article, we embark on a captivating exploration of the changes that money has undergone from the year 1652 to the present day, tracing its evolution through economic, technological, and cultural lenses.

Historical background

Before European colonisation

Prior to European colonisation, people were using barter trading in the form of beads, cowrie shells, and metal coins to acquire what they needed from each other.

Barter trading

South Africans used the barter trading system by exchanging goods from one another depending on the value of the product they needed.

  

         

Figure 1: Illustration explaining the concept of bartering or the exchange of goods between two parties (Source: Objects with Stories Exhibition, DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History).

Cowrie shells

   

Figure 2: Cowrie shells were used as currency as early as the 14th century. It was an important part of the trade network of Africa (Source: Google.com).

After and during European colonisation

Dutch Period

   

Figure 2 a and b: (a) A Dutch ship entering Table Bay to stop for food and water. (b) The Dutch guilder was the currency of the Netherlands from 1434-2002 when it was replaced by the euro (Source: https://study.com/academy/lesson/guilder).

After or during colonisation money evolved into fiat money namely coins and paper money. Fiat money is a government-issued money which is not backed by a physical commodity, such as gold or silver, but rather by the government that issued it.

The Dutch guilder was one of the first coins that was introduced at the Cape of Good Hope, known today as Cape Town by a man by the name of Jan van Riebeek, who came from the Netherlands to start a refreshment station on behalf of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The Dutch guilder was first introduced in the Netherlands 1434. It was the official currency that was used in South Africa when the Dutch landed here in 1652 and was used by different traders and mariners that would pass through the South African shore.

Burgers period

                           

Figure 3 a and b: (a) South Africa’s first gold coin, the Burgers Pond. (b) The Krugerrand was introduced in South Africa in 1967. (Source: Coinweek.com; Economic History of Developing Regions).

The Burgers Pond was South Africa’s first gold coin. President TF Burgers, the fourth president of the  South African Republic, purchased gold nuggets in Pilgrim’s Rest and had coins, the same size as English sovereigns, struck in England, in 1874.  The obverse of the coin had the head of President Burgers, and the Transvaal coat of arms was on the reverse. About 800 Burger Ponds were issued during this period. A mint was established in Pretoria to legitimize their existence from 1892 to 1902. During the period when Paul Kruger was the President of the South African Republic, the mint production stopped, and also during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) but before 1892 when the mint started to operate, President Kruger accelerated the process of the production of a new design of coins into circulation. An order was placed with the Berlin mint and in the same year the first consignment was received. It consisted of sovereigns; half sovereigns and five-shilling pieces.

The Veldpond

Figure 4: The 1902 Veldpond (Source: Economic History of Developing Regions).

The Veld Pond (literally means field pound) were gold coins minted near the mining village Pilgrim’s Rest during the Second War of Independence (Anglo Boer War/South African War) by a mobile mint in 1902. Each coin has the words “Z.A.R. 1902” on the obverse, “One Pound” on the reverse and a jagged ridge. There were officially 986 gold coins minted, each with an original value of 22 shillings.

British Period

     

Figure 5 a and b: (a) British Pound Sterling, (b) Five Shilling note, Cape Colony, 1820s. (Source: https://www.dailyfx.com/analysis/british-pound).

The British occupied the Cape in 1795 and reannexed it in 1806. One reason for the annexation was because of the bankruptcy of the Dutch East India Company. This historical event afforded the British an opportunity to declare the Cape a British Colony. They introduced their own currency, namely the British pound sterling until 1826. Sterling coinage was given an opportunity to be the only company that had a legal tender to mint this coin and no other foreign currency was to circulate while the sterling was in circulation. This resulted in the elimination of the usage of the Dutch currency, the guilder. In 1921 the South African pound was introduced and as a result the British pound sterling was no longer needed.

The South African rand came into existence in 1961 when South Africa became independent from British rule and was no longer called the Union of South Africa, but the Republic of South Africa (RSA). The rand replaced the pound at a rate of 2 rand for 1 pound.

Other currencies that were used were: the Spanish real, that was used in the Netherlands and also introduced as a currency in South Africa, Dutch guilders, rixdollars (English term for silver coinage), ducatons (a crown-sized silver coin of the 16th-18th centuries) and copper doits (an old Dutch copper coin) which were introduced in the 1680s by the Dutch East India Company.

          

Figure 6 a, b, c.: (a) Ducaton coin, 1793; (b) Gulden (guild) 1795, (c) Spanish real.      

History and changes of coin money

First decimal coin series (1961–1964)

In 1961 the Republic of South Africa was established and from there on, the country formally adopted a decimal system that would see coins being converted to reflect their decimal equivalents, with the result that a pound became a two-rand coin, a shilling became a ten-cent piece, and a three-pence became a two-and-a-half cent coin.

Second decimal coin series (1965–1988)

In 1965, the two-cent coin was introduced to replace the two-and-a-half cent denomination.

The words “South Africa” or “Suid-Afrika” were printed on coins between 1965 and 1969, depending on the language. A coat of arms was added in 1970 to replace the picture of Jan van Riebeeck (Figure 7 a and b).

 

                              

Figure 7 a and b Jan van Riebeeck’s face replaced with the RSA Coat of Arms. (Source:       

Google.com).

A committee was established in the late 1980s to look at whether it would be relevant for South Africa to issue a new banknote and coin series. This occurred because of the rise in the prices of copper and nickel, which caused the face value of newly minted coins to be outperformed by their actual value and production costs.

Local manufacturers would produce the new coin series that would be smaller and lighter to conform to international standards. It was a new generation of coins that would be less expensive to produce and easier to handle and this series received government approval for its design.

Third decimal coin series (1989–today)

The 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, R1, R2, and R5 coins are the six-coin denominations used in South Africa. The 1c, 2c and 5c have been discontinued on the 1st of November 2006. The size of the coins vary, for e.g. the R5 coin is 26 mm in diameter and the 10c is 16m in diameter, making the latter the smallest coin. Alloy or metal is used to make circulation coins. The coins include a variety of ridges, rims, serrations, and metals as security elements. The varying sizes and rim finishes were chosen with the idea that blind people might use their fingers to identify the specific denomination when making a purchase and the design is also made to be recognised by vending machines.

To address the rising costs of raw materials and manufacturing as well as the growing risk of counterfeiting, electroplated coins were first launched in 1989.

The R5 nickel coin was replaced in 2004 with a bi-metal version.

Changes tabled

Figure 8 a: Front of SA coin series.                   Figure 8 b: Back of SA coin series.

(Photographs: Nthabiseng Nzuza).

2023 Series

       

Front picture by: Nthabiseng Nzuza                   Back picture by: Nthabiseng Nzuza

    

Front and back pictures: https://en.ucoin.net/coin/south_africa-50-cents-2023

(The authors were not able to find a 2023 50 cent in circulation; as a result they used pictures from the internet).

YEAR 2004

YEAR 2023

Denomination

Material

Language Variation

Virtual Features

Denomination

Material

Language Variation

Virtual Features

R5.00

Copper – nickel ring with aluminium bronze core

English

Black Wildebeest

Bi-metal version

R5.00

Copper – nickel ring with aluminium bronze core

English

Southern right whale

R2.00

Nickel – Plated Copper

English

Kudu

R2.00

Nickel- Plated Copper

English

Springbok

R1.00

Nickel – Plated Copper

English

Springbok

R1.00

Nickel- Plated Copper

English

King protea

50c

Bronze – plated Steel

English

Strelitzia Crane Flower or Bird-Of-Paradise Flower

50c

Bronze – plated Steel

English

Knysna turaco

20c

Bronze – plated Steel

English

King Protea

20c

Bronze – plated steel

English

Bitter aloe

10c

Copper – plated steel

English

Arum Lily

10c

Copper – plated steel

English

Cape honeybee

5c

Steel core plated with alloy of copper

English

         

History of paper money

Paper money

The first paper currency was introduced in Cape Town in 1782. The coins used in the Cape was issued in the stiver and rixdollar denominations. The first notes were made by hand. These notes had a fiscal handstamp from the government that listed the note’s value and issuing date at that time.

Even after gaining independence and becoming a republic in 1961, South Africa kept using the British coin system. The South African rand, which gets its name from the Witwatersrand where gold was found, was born during this time. The rand denomination, namely R1, R2, R10, and R20 notes, replaced the pound on 14 February 1961. The then Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Governor Gerhard Rissik, signed the notes, and they were in effect until 1967.

The notes had seven issues, with an additional issue on the 4th of May 2023 with changes to what is in circulation. The different issues of South African paper money are as follows:

1st issue (1961-1965), with Jan van Riebeek’s face; 2nd issue (1966-1977), with Jan van Riebeek’s face and a protea; 3rd issue (1978-1991), Jan van Riebeek’s face and a protea; 4th issue (1992-1993), with images of the big five animals; 5th issue (1994-2011), big five animals; 6th issue (2012- currently), image of Nelson Mandela; 7th issue (from 2018), celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Since 4 May 2023, there has been a change in the design, but Nelson Madela’s image and the Big Five are still part of the design.

The authors have realised that there have been some changes in the features of the notes that were created for blind people to enable them to identify which note they might be holding, and their only hope is that these changes were also communicated to the blind community. The following table illustrates the changes in the design.

YEAR 2012

YEAR 2023

Amount

Material

Language Variation

Visual Features

Amount

Material

Language Variation

Visual And Impaired Features

R10.00

Cotton pulp

English

SeSotho

Nguni

Nelson Mandela watermark rhino

One stripe on both sides of the note

R10.00

Cotton pulp

English

Afrikaans

Swati

Nelson Mandela Watermark

Family of rhinos

12 stripes on both sides of the note

Colour changes as you tilt it

R20.00

Cotton pulp

English

Southern Ndebele

Setswana

Nelson Mandela Watermark Elephant

Two stripes on both sides of the note

R20.00

Cotton pulp

English

Southern Ndebele

Setswana

Nelson Mandela Watermark

Family of elephants

18 stripes on both sides of the note

Colour changes as you tilt it

R50.00

Cotton pulp

English

TshiVenda

IsiXhosa

Nelson Mandela Watermark Lion

Three stripes on both sides of the note

R50.00

Cotton pulp

English

TshiVenda

IsiXhosa

Nelson Mandela Watermark

Family of lions

12 stripes on both left and right long sides of the note

Colour changes as you tilt it

R100.00

Cotton Pulp

English

SePedi

XiTsonga

Nelson Mandela Watermark Cape Buffalo

Four stripes on both sides of the note

R100.00

Cotton pulp

English

SePedi

XiTsonga

Nelson Mandela Watermark

Family of Cape buffalos

18 stripes on both left and right long sides of the note.

Colour changes as you tilt it

R200.00

Cotton pulp

English

IsiZulu

SeSotho

Nelson Mandela Watermark Leopard

Five stripes on both sides of the note

R200.00

Cotton pulp

English

IsiZulu

SeSotho

Nelson Mandela Watermark

Family of leopards

24 stripes on both left and right sides of the note

Colour changes as you tilt it

 

Figure 9 (a)Front R10 and R20   Figure 9 (b) Back R10 and R20

(Photographs: Nthabiseng Nzuza).

 

Figure 10 (a) Front R50 and R100   Figure 10 (b) Back R50 and R100

(Photographs: Nthabiseng Nzuza).

  

 

Figure 11 (a) Front R200   Figure 10 (b) Back R200

(Photographs: Nthabiseng Nzuza).

Changes in the money design

What motivates or motivated changes in the design of South African money is the commemoration of historical events or prominent people, rewriting of the injustices of the past, keeping up with the latest technology and updating when a new government comes into office.

References

Arndt, E.H.D. Banking and Currency Development in South Africa (1652 – 1927), pp.1 – 154.

https://www.britannica.com/money/rand-South-African-currency (Accessed 01 2023).

https://www.resbank.co.za/history-of-banknotes-and-coin (Accessed 01 August 2023).

South African Mint.

South Africa’s first gold coin: the Burgers Pond

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