Mention Nelson Mandela in any conversation and more often than not the name will instantly elicit nods of approval, words of admiration and praise. Not only is South Africa’s first democratic president globally respected and revered for his pivotal role in laying a firm foundation for a unified country and nation, he is widely considered one of the most outstanding statesmen of our time for consistently leading by example to foster goodwill, unity and respect for diversity. A staunch proponent of the rainbow nation, Madiba’s legacy will forever be celebrated and treasured.
By once again setting the pace in producing a series of special commemorative coins to mark a century since the birth of this remarkable man on 18 July 1918, the South African Mint, a subsidiary of the South African Reserve Bank, is contributing in no small measure to celebrating this milestone and preserving Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
The South African Mint has for many years meticulously been curating and presenting to the world, the country’s rich tapestry of culture and history, of which it is the custodian.
The different coin series reflect interpretations of the past and present and masterfully depict local legends, inventions, nature and the environment.
In addition, the South African Mint is home to the iconic Krugerrand. This world-famous coin, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, is widely regarded as the coin that started modern gold coin investing.
Centenary coin range
The full 2018 Mandela Centenary coin range comprises four coins: a 1 oz (24ct) gold R500 coin, a 1 oz sterling-silver R50 coin, a bronze alloy R50 coin and a collectable commemorative R5 circulation coin.
The coins also come in three set variations: a four-coin set, made up of all four coins in the range (gold, silver, bronze and the R5 commemorative coin); a three-coin set, which is comprised of the bronze, silver and R5 commemorative coin; and lastly, a launch set, made up of the 1 oz gold coin and medallion of the Mandela Centenary logo.
The sets are packaged in a striking, glossy gift box accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Only 500 of the three-coin sets, 200 of the four-coin sets and 100 of the launch sets will be made available.
“The public will be able to get the R5 circulation coin when they purchase from shops and receive change. The other three coins are collectable coins, available in far fewer quantities. We offer the range in different combinations so that the public can get them either in sets of three or four coins,” explains the South African Mint MD, Tumi Tsehlo.
Each meticulously crafted coin allows South Africans to look back at the remarkable stages of Nelson Mandela’s life, his struggle for justice and human rights and a free and democratic South Africa. The R50 bronze alloy, for example, depicts him as a young lawyer and the R50 sterling-silver coin, as he looked later in life as the country’s first democratic president.
Adding a bronze coin was an exciting innovation, Tsehlo notes. “The bronze alloy coin is very special indeed and tells its own tale. Pricing the coin at R127 was not only a conscious tribute to Nelson Mandela’s legacy, it will ensure that our coins are a lot more accessible to the ordinary man in the street. R100 is a price point that is quite accessible to people and then we’ve added R27, which will be donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Everybody knows the significance of 27, because that is the number of years that Mr Mandela spent in prison.”
He adds that collectability is a function of craftsmanship, quality and theme, among other personal preferences. “The Mandela series no doubt ticks all the boxes and will be an amazing addition to any collection, not only because of its design, but also because of the enduring value of the theme.”
The Mandela range boasts a number of unique features. “For example, adding a collectable coin in a bronze alloy, which is a far lower value metal but still has the immaculate finishing of the more premium metals, is something we introduced in 2017 and hope to continue with. Our aim is to make coin collecting a lot more accessible to the public by introducing non-precious metals in our portfolio.
“In addition, the R5 circulation coin has some interesting security features,” Tsehlo points out and explains: “When introduced in South Africa in 2004, the R5 coin was probably the most secure coin in the world, thanks to various security measures. Besides the fact that it is a mechanically assembled bimetal, it had micro-lettering and deep, clearly visible grooves on the side. This is quite an intricate method of making coins.
“This year we’ve added something new called latent imaging, so you’ll be able to hold the coin, twist it one way, then another, and see the numbers change from 2018 to 1918 on the same face by just looking at it from a different angle. This feature adds to the security and of course aesthetic appeal of the coin.”
Celebrating South Africa
The new coins are the second series in the Celebrating South Africa theme, through which the South African Mint marks milestones and symbols of South Africa’s freedom, democracy and culture. In 2017, the centenary of struggle icon OR Tambo’s birthday was depicted, followed in 2018 by Nelson Mandela’s centenary.
“The selection process that we go through to decide on coin themes is quite involved,” says Tsehlo. “We have a theme panel that assists us with our choice of themes. Our resident team will typically look at upcoming anniversaries and do their own research.”
According to Tsehlo, the main focus of the series is to get the South African society engaged in the conversation around democracy, freedom and cultural themes in the country. “It is all about significant events in South Africa’s history and the people who were affected by these events. Bearing in mind the momentous events that happened some 25 years or so ago, people can start anticipating what will come up in 2019,” Tsehlo points out.
In executing its strategy, the South African Mint proudly collaborates with local artists to bring to life its diverse portfolio of commemorative and collectable coins. The Celebrating South Africa series was one such opportunity that allowed for collaboration with a local designer, says Tsehlo.
Contemporary illustrator and multidisciplinary graphic artist, Sindiso Nyoni, was commissioned to design the portraits of Nelson Mandela featured on the new 2018 Mandela Centenary coins, as well as the portraits of OR Tambo, featured on last year’s issue commemorating his centenary.
Nyoni’s association with the Mint dates back to 2015, when he was commissioned to design three silver medallions to celebrate 100 years of the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
“It has been an honour for me to be invited to celebrate our heroes. Immersing myself in the life and times of Mandela provided me with clarity of thought and sparked the inspiration that stayed with me throughout this collaboration,” says Nyoni.
Nyoni’s artistry brings out Mandela’s youth and his statesman-like disposition, with effortless skill applied with so much sincerity, it gives the designs a lifelike demeanour.
“As part of the collaborative creative process, our own design team, which includes Lilian Guerra, our senior design artist, the die-development team and myself, then translates drawings we receive as part of our coin programmes into a base relief model. The team likes to present a fresh take, to keep things relevant and give it currency so it appeals to new collectors and old,” adds Richard Stone, head of product development at the South African Mint.
Product development, designs
Led by Stone, the Mint’s product development team is responsible for seeing each coin through the rigorous theme conception, design and, ultimately, the Cabinet approval process. As collectable coins are legal tender, new designs must be authorised by the South African Cabinet.
In the world of collectable coins, looks sell, therefore great care is taken to ensure that the coins have wide appeal and portray the rich diversity of themes, from South African inventions to biosphere reserves.
Last year, for example, the South African Mint launched a sterling silver commemorative coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of the world’s first successful human heart transplant as well as full-colour silver, laser-printed coins featuring the birds and flowers of biosphere reserves, both of which proved to be highly popular among new coin collectors.
These and other popular coins, which have been produced by Stone’s team, are beautiful collectors’ pieces that inspire pride in South Africa.
“Our products are conversation pieces. When you hold one of our coins, you cannot help but share the story. Our cross-disciplinary collaborations with different industries and artists have also elevated our designs into a fine art form – opening an entirely new revenue stream, gifting. Coins are increasingly being considered for gifting, given they are permanent in nature,” Stone points out.
Over the years, minting technology has evolved from using a hammer and anvil to the most current technology where hydraulic presses are used to strike the coins. While the average South African is only concerned if the vending machine will accept the coin or not, coin collectors and numismatists are deeply interested in the minting process, Stone notes.
He believes that coin collectors are in the game for pride and accomplishment more than return on investment. “So designs must not only meet their expectations as far as craftsmanship and quality are concerned, but also stand up to durability and be relevant to the times.
“Whether your interests are thematic or piqued more by the metallurgy or universal appeal of certain coin series, our offering caters to any collector’s taste. We also make coins in bronze, silver and circulation coins in proof quality so you really don’t have to be wealthy to start a coin collection.
“We view our coins as global ambassadors of South Africa and its heritage. In creating our coins, we tell stories about our country, our people and our legacy – these stories are always uniquely South African, yet they resonate around the world,” Stone concludes.
- All the commemorative and collectable Mandela coins are available for purchase at the South African Mint in Centurion as well as at various pop-up shops in malls across the country (visit samint.co.za for more information).
- Besides the Mandela coin series, several Nelson Mandela centenary banknotes will also be released to commemorate this anniversary. The notes cover all denominations – R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. The front will look the same as the existing notes, while the Big Five animals that usually adorn the back have been replaced with another portrait of Mandela as
a young man in traditional dress.
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