For investors or collectors interested in buying South African coins, there are several popular series to consider. If you want to buy a rare coin, you’ll be looking at coins from either the ZAR period or the Union era. Otherwise, you can choose from one of the modern series that are minted annually by the South African Mint. These include the Mandela, Protea, Natura and Krugerrand series.
Coins from the ZAR period
The most popular rare South African coins are from the ZAR period from 1892 to 1902. ZAR coins are so named because they were produced by the government of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. The Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was an independent Boer-ruled country in Southern Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was conquered by the British in 1902 at the end of the second Boer War.
ZAR coins are the first real currency of South Africa. After the discovery of gold, President Paul Kruger ordered a mint built to produce coinage for the new republic. Impatient to get the new coins whilst the mint was under construction, he ordered the first coins struck by the Imperial Mint in Berlin in 1892 to have them available for the upcoming presidential election.
The 1892 circulated set is the most popular in the ZAR series because they were printed with two errors on them. The image of the wagon on the coin was the first error. Instead of a traditional Voortrekker wagon (Voortrekker means “pioneers” and refers to the Dutch emigrants who left the Cape Colony and moved into the interior of South Africa) with a single shaft and large rear wheels, a continental with two shafts and smaller wheels was depicted.
The second problem with the coins was that the designer, Otto Schultz, stamped his initials on the coin’s bust. Unfortunately, OS is the Afrikaans word for ox. The coins caused significant embarrassment for the Kruger government at a sensitive time close to the election. The government hastily tried to recall all the coins, but many were hoarded by people as mementos.
Coins from the Union of South Africa period
Another significant series for collectors of rare South African coins is the Union of South Africa period. The Union of South Africa came into being in 1910 with the unification of four previously separate British colonies, the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal Colony and the Orange River Colony. The Union came to an end in 1961 when South Africa left the Commonwealth and became a republic.
Union coins, also known as the Sterling South Africa series, are coins minted between 1923 and 1961. They are identical in size and value to those used in Britain. The Royal Mint in Pretoria struck the Union’s first gold coin in 1923 at the behest of the mining and banking community who felt that South Africa should have its own refinery and mint. In 1941 the South African government took over the mint and renamed it the South African Mint, although it continued to produce coins based on the British coinage until 1961, when they were replaced with the Rand.
Gold coins and medallions
The South African Mint Company produces several series of silver and gold coins every year for investors and collectors alike. The most popular is the Krugerrand, the world’s first gold bullion coin. The first Krugerrand coins were minted in 1967 to help market South African gold.
Due to the popularity of the Krugerrand, the South African Mint Company introduced a second gold collector’s coin in 1986. Protea coins commemorate South African historical figures, industries and social issues. The coins are so named as they depict the Protea, South Africa’s national flower. The Natura series is another popular gold coin. It was launched in 1994 and features a different motif each year inspired by South African wildlife.
Mandela coins are another popular collector’s item. These are coins that portray former President Nelson Mandela. Millions of five rand coins bearing his image have been minted since he first became president in 1994. These coins are not worth much beyond their value as mementos of Mandela. However, the proof struck and uncirculated coins in this series are very valuable. You can also find several varieties of gold and silver commemorative Mandela medallions.