CURRENCY CHANGES in South Africa from 1652 to the Present.

By: Carol Gainsford (other credits below)

After Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape in 1652 there were various forms of currency due to the trade with Europe and the East. In order to avoid confusion, the authorities created and issued the Cape Rixdollar. The first notes were handwritten as there was no printing press. The notes featured a government fiscal hand stamp which showed the value and issue date. A sheet of Rixdollars as well as nine coins from the VOC’s (the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch) preferred currency can be seen at the South African Mint Museum.

In 1795 the British first occupied the Cape and they brought with them their 41mm x 5mm penny named the Cartwheel Penny. On the reverse it had an image of Britannia with a trident in her hand and the Cape people called it the “Devil’s Penny”.

George 111 Penny

By 1803 the Cape Colony was back in the hands of the Netherlands and renamed the Batavian Republic. Thus changed the currency once again to the Dutch Guilders and Doits which were minted in the Netherlands. These were made of Copper and are called the Cape Guilder.
1806 Saw the return to British power and due to the shortage of currency all coins were acceptable. Britain introduced new coins in 1816 and these were also then to be found in the Cape. The gold Pound and Half Pound; the silver Crown, Half Crown, Shilling and Sixpence; and the copper Penny, Half Penny and Quarter Penny. Later followed by the two Shilling, four Penny and three Penny coins. In 1848 the British currency became the legal tender of South Africa and remained so for many years.
However, in 1813 the Reverend John Campbell of the London Missionary Society introduced a series of coins which he had minted in England for ‘Griquatown’, a local community near Kimberley. The Griqua coins consisted of Silver 10pence and 5pence pieces, and Bronze Half Penny and Quarter Penny (Farthing) pieces. Unfortunately, they only remained in circulation for about 2 years.


The South African Mint celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Griquatown coins with a series of collectable coins in 2015. The series included a special R5 coin, as well as a 1oz Gold and a 1oz Silver collector’s coin.
In 1874, President Thomas Francois Burgers had the first coins produced exclusively for the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek’s (ZAR) Government in his attempt to phase out the country’s worthless paper money. The obverse of the gold pound reflected the bust of the bearded president, encircled by his name and the date ‘1874’, while the reverse bore the ZAR’s coat of arms. These were called the Burgers Pounds or Burgers Pond.

Seventy years later, a difference was noticed in the two batches of Burgers pounds that were produced. The first batch shows President Burger with a fine beard, while in the second batch he has a thick beard, hence the distinction between ‘fyn baard’ and ‘growwe baard’ Burgers pounds.
By 1890 the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek had decided to have its own coins struck, and various patterns and proofs of the different proposals are in existence. In 1892 the National Mint in Pretoria was opened under orders from Pres. Paul Kruger. A new coin was struck with the value of 1 Pond to the same specs as the British Sovereign. It was called the Kruger Pond and they were produced from 1892 until 1900. After the Boer War the Mint in Pretoria was closed until a branch of the Royal Mint was opened.



ZAR 5Pound Note


The pound (symbol £, or £ SA for distinction) was the currency of the Union of South Africa from the creation of the country as a British Dominion in 1910. The South African Reserve Bank opened in June 1921 and on the 19th April 1922 the first banknotes were issued. However, in 1961 South Africa became a Republic and the British Pound, Shilling & Pence system was replaced with the decimal currency now known as Rand & cents. The image of Jan van Riebeeck was shown on this currency and stamps. However, it has since been discovered that this is in fact the face of Bartholomeus Vermuyden and not Jan Van Riebeeck at all. A painting of Bartholomeus Vermuyden hangs in the Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. It has been dated 1650 and the artist was Dirck Craey.

ZAR 10 Shilling Note

A revised decimal coinage series was introduced in 1965 with denominations of ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and Silver was replaced by Nickel. The coinage later bore the state president’s portrait or the South African coat of arms, with the country name given in Afrikaans, English or both. The ½ cent coin was discontinued in the 1970s.

SA One Pound Note


1961 Coins

In 1967 a gold coin called the Krugerrand was produced and bears the portrait of Pres. Paul Kruger just like those from the 1890’s. The Kruger Millions mystery continues as the South African Mint reported in early 2021 that Kruger ponds were discovered in a Swiss vault and have now been acquired by the national mint. They were crafted to the exact specifications as the British Sovereign. Both the Pond and the Sovereign share a 22-carat gold composition, as well as a diameter of 22 millimetres and a weight of 7.98 grams.
In 1989 new coinage was introduced with the addition of a R2 and R5 coin, and the replacement of all the previous denominations. The coins initially bore the coat of arms and the name of the country in English and Afrikaans.
In 1992 the “Big Five” series of notes were introduced in place of the Jan van Riebeeck notes.
In 2005 the notes each displayed 3 of the country’s new 11 official languages.
In 2008 a R5 coin was minted in honour of former President Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.
In 2012 the 6thth Issue “Nelson Mandela” notes were released and the reverse showed various animals:
R200 – Coloured Orange. The reverse shows a Leopard.
R100 – Coloured Blue. The reverse shows the Cape Buffalo.
R50 – Coloured Red. The reverse shows a Lion.
R20 – Coloured Brown. The reverse shows an Elephant.
R10 – Coloured Green. The reverse shows a Rhinoceros.
R5 coin - The Black Wildebeest
R2 coin - The Kudu
R1 coin – The Springbok
50c coin – The Strelitzia
20c coin – The Protea
10c coin – The Arum Lily
5c coin – The Blue Crane
In 2018 the 7th issue “Mandela Centenary” notes were released. These all showed Nelson Mandela’s portrait on the front and a young Mandela in various places and times in his history on the reverse.

This year in 2021, a new R5 Commemorative circulation coin was released by the South African Reserve Bank. Some of the previously issued coins that appear on the new R5 include:
1. 1923. The three pence (tickey) represents the currency issued during the period of the Union of South Africa.
2. 1961. R1 gold coin features the Springbok, South Africa’s national animal.
3. 1965. 20c coin depicts the King Protea, South Africa’s national flower
4. 1990. 1c coin features two Sparrows and represents the third decimal coin series.
5. 2008. The R5 coin, in honour of former President Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.
6. 2005-2012. A 10c coin from the fourth decimal series depicts the Cape Honey Bee and represents the future of the currency and the South African Reserve Bank.
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