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South African Reserve Bank

History of South African banknotes 1782 to 1920 

In 1782, the Dutch Governor Van Plettenberg was obliged to introduce, for the first time in the history of the Cape, paper money, owing to his inability to procure from the Netherlands a sufficient quantity of coinage for the requirements of the settlement. This earliest paper money was issued in rixdollar and stiver denominations, the currency of the Cape at that time.

As there was as yet no printing press in the Cape, all the notes until about 1803 had to be hand written. They featured a Government fiscal hand stamp indicating their value and the authority date of the issue. After 1803, all notes were printed, but for some time to come they continued to show the fiscal hand stamp.

The first bank to be established in the Cape was the Lombaard Bank. It was a State bank and opened its doors at Cape Town in 1793, with the view to bringing additional money into circulation, and thus assisting those who suffered from lack of currency. This bank was entrusted with the issuing of the Government notes.  It closed in 1883, being forced out of business by the private banks. The first private bank in South Africa was the Cape of Good Hope Bank which opened in 1837.
As the hinterland developed and trade expanded, more private banks came into existence. Altogether approximately 30 of these sprang up between 1837 and 1882. Most of them issued their own paper money, some only in one, others in more than one denomination. Three large trading houses as well as one mining firm issued their own paper money between 1850 and 1860. In 1877 an imperial bank, the Standard Bank of British South Africa Ltd., opened its doors in Cape Town.
Two other imperial banks entered the Cape subsequently. All these new banks issued their own paper money. With large capital behind them they made it their business to open up branches throughout the Colony, and to take over as many of the remaining private banks as was possible. By 1892, they had absorbed all but one of these, namely the Stellenbosch District Bank. Established in 1882, the Bank still exists to this day.
At the time of Union in 1910, three of the imperial banks, joined by a comparative newcomer from the Transvaal, were the only survivors to issue paper money in their own name in the Cape Province.
In general, all Government issues of paper money were locally produced. This however, was not the case with the notes issued by the private and imperial banks, as well as other large banks.
Most of these banknotes were printed in England. In the middle of the 1860’s however, a number of banks resorted to the use of locally printed paper money, which in most instances was produced by a Cape Town printers firm called Soul Solomon & Co. Thereafter banknote forms were once again imported from England.

This remained the case until 1962, when a banknote factory was established in the Republic of South Africa. Ever since, this factory has taken care of the requirements of the South African Reserve Bank.

The Republic of South Africa

In 1961, South Africa changed its currency from pound sterling to Rand and cents, and when in the same year the country became a republic, the new currency was retained.

The South African Reserve Bank thereafter commenced withdrawing the old Pound Sterling currency banknotes, replacing them with banknotes of the new currency.

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