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South Africa’s New issues of August 2nd 2004

A new bi-metallic 5 Rand coin and a circulating commemorative 2 Rand coin
marking Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa.....

    August 2nd 2004 saw the introduction of a much revised 5 Rand coin type in South Africa and a new circulating commemorative design for the 2 Rand denomination. The changes for the 5 Rand were announced following more than a year of counterfeit 5 Rand coins having circulated alongside real 5 Rand coins and after the trials of a number of counterfeiters during that period. This new coin means that yet another country is using a ringed bi-metallic coin type for circulation. The new 2 Rand coin is the first circulating commemorative of that denomination, it marks the occasion of South Africa’s “10 years of Freedom” celebrations. The 27th April 2004 saw the tenth anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections.

    A regular contact of mine in South Africa told me in June 2003 that his city had recently been inundated with counterfeit R5 coins. He had received some pieces in his change. He gave me details of how the counterfeit coins could be distinguished from the real thing.

    The real coins are made from Nickel-plated-Copper and the amount of Nickel plating is sufficient for a magnet to be able to pick up a coin. On the fake pieces the plating is of lower quality (apparently thinner and faster wearing) and as a result it is not always possible to pick up such pieces with a magnet. Unlike the real coins, the counterfeits have poor details. On some pieces, a few of the finer details, for example the die-sinker's initials “ALS”, have apparently been “touched up”. That is to say that these details appear to have been separately added/strengthened by the counterfeiters, having been insufficiently copied through from an impression of a real coin. Counterfeit 1 Pound coins have shown up now and again in the UK for at least the last 5 years, with details of criminal trails occasionally making the news. The 1 Pound counterfeits also lack the finer details that can be seen on the genuine coins - but they never include “touched-up” features. It would seem that the general method for the production of the counterfeit 1 Pound coins is that dies/moulds are made from circulation coins and the counterfeit coins are made with those dies/moulds. Likely that will have been the main process utilised by the South African counterfeiters.

    Some very good official details of what to look for and relevant images of counterfeit R5 coins can be seen on the website of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) at . Once at that site go into the “Banknotes & coin” section, then look under the heading “Counterfeit R5 coin” on the next page and again a heading “Counterfeit R5 coin” on the page after that. There is plenty to read there and in the pdf file titled “Urgent warning advice” that is linked to from there.

    The trial of one R5 counterfeiter was reported in the South African press in February 2003, there it was mentioned that the charges related to the period August 2002 to February 2003. A later trial was reported in May 2004 by the South African press. This trial brought about the announcement by the SARB that a new R5 coin would be introduced at the start of August 2004. Subsequently, the new coin, a bi-metallic, was launched in Pretoria, on 27th July 2004 by SARB governor Tito Mboweni.

The new 5 Rand coin.
The new 5 Rand coin. (Image from Andrew Freeborn)

Three main security features of the new R5 are....

a) “Micro-writing”
“SARB” is written, on the reverse of the coin, in “micro-writing”. It is written fifty-seven times and written radially around much of the ring part of the coin. The tiny writing is approximately half a millimetre high and adjacent lines of “micro-writing” are spaced approximately four degrees apart. This very fine detail is typical of what counterfeiters fail to achieve with their “products”. The use of “Micro-writing” is something I have seen on papermoney as a security measure but never before on coinage.

b) Ringed Bi-metallic construction
Over the last 22 years this style of coin has spread and spread, the difficulty of counterfeiting this kind of coin lends itself well to use in higher denominations. The visual effect of two contrasting colours is used with the R5 coins, as with many other bi-metallic coins, to make the higher denominations distinct to the eye. In the case of the R5, the centre is of a golden coloured alloy and the ring of an silver coloured alloy.

c) Milled edge with raised lettering in groove
The new coin is of the same diameter (26 millimetres) as the older style R5 but with an increased mass of 9.5 grams due to increased thickness. Utilising the greater edge space available, there is a groove around the edge of the coin with equal width of edge reeding to each side. Incuse lettering “SARB  R5” appears ten times around the coin’s edge, in the otherwise plain groove. The only other circulation coin types with lettering in a groove that come to mind are the Hong Kong 5 Dollars of 1980 to 1998 (KM-46, 56 and 65). On those coins the lettering in the groove is raised and the inscription is in both English and Chinese.

    The new R5 coin otherwise keeps the same general design elements as the “old” R5 coins. The obverse comprises the country’s coat of arms with the country name in a different language at each side - the combination for 2004 on the R5 is “Afrika Dzonga” (language - Xitsonga) to the left and “Ningizimu Afrika” (language - siSwati) to the right. The reverse comprises the denomination and, centrally, a Wildebeest. On both sides of the coin there be found “ALS” the initials of the mint’s chief die-sinker Arthur Sutherland.

    SARB’s site at  has in its “Banknotes & coin” section further information on this new bi-metallic type, under the heading “Bi-Metal R5 coin”.

The circulating commemorative 2 Rand coin.
The new 2 Rand coin. (Image from Andrew Freeborn)

    The new R5 may have been the star of the show, but the launch ceremony on 27th July also included the unveiling of a new circulating commemorative R2 coin for South Africa. This new R2 was detailed as featuring the “Ten years of Freedom” logo instead of the usual Kudu design. Images of this new R2 were hard to find on the internet - where as many world-wide news sites carried details and images for South Africa’s new R5 coin. The first image I saw of the new R2 coin was actually the one shown above, it is of an example that my contact in South Africa got in his change on 24th August 2004. This type had first been issued on the 2nd of August i.e. the same day as the new R5, as some of the earlier press reports had suggested.

    The main feature of the special design, on the reverse of this coin, is the “Ten years of Freedom” logo. The logo comprises a stylised design of a long winding line of people, with the two people at the front holding up the flag of the Republic of South Africa. The words “10 YEARS OF FREEDOM” and “south africa 1994-2004” appear around this central design. The rest of the reverse comprise just the denomination “2 RAND”, and die-sinker’s initials “M J S” for M J Scheepers. Some further information on the “Ten years of Freedom” logo can be found at .

    The obverse of this coin also differs from that of the normal R2 coins with date 2004. The special R2 coins have just “SOUTH” to the left of the coat of arms and “AFRICA” to the right. Standard design R2 coins of 2004 have “Afurika Tshipembe” (language - Tshivenda) to the left of the coat of arms and “iSewula Afrika” (language - isiNdebele) to the right. South Africa has 11 official languages and from those there are 10 ways to spell the country’s name. Since 2002, those 10 spellings have been used in rotation, for the country name on the circulation coins i.e. the 5, 10, 20 and 50 Cent, 1 , 2 and 5 Rand. The country name appears in each of two different languages on the Rand denominated coins and in one language on each of the other coins. The “Ten Years of Freedom” coin is the fourth circulating commemorative coin since the start of 2002. The first three were 50 Cent 2002 Football, 1 Rand 2002 Johannesburg World Summit, 50 Cent 2003 Cricket. Those three followed the country names cycle for normal circulation coins. The new R2 circulating commemorative coin does not follow this cycle. The use of just English language for the country name on the new R2 follows the case of the South African precious metal collector coins of the last several years.

    SARB’s site at  has in its “Banknotes & coin” section further information on this new 2 Rand type, it is to be found under the heading “R2 special commemorative coin”.

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The background image is the obverse of a recent 10 Cent type.

This page on South Africa’s New issues of August 2nd 2004 was added here in August 2005 and had been previously published in the May 2005 edition of "Coin News" (Token Publishing Ltd.)