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Banknotes and Coin

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If you have further questions about banknotes and coin, please do not hesitate to contact us

The SARB has the sole authority to produce, issue and destroy South African currency, and is entrusted to ensure the availability and integrity of the South African rand.

The SARB was established on 30 June 1921 to issue, distribute and destroy banknotes and coin. The first banknotes were issued by the SARB on 19 April 1922.

The rand has been legal tender in South Africa since 1961, when it replaced the pound. It takes its name from the Witwatersrand – the ridge on which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa’s gold deposits were found.

 

The rand is legal tender in the Common Monetary Area, which includes, eSwatini, Lesotho and Namibia.

In 1996 the mandate of the SARB was expanded to include price stability maintenance,  one of its main functions remains ensuring a sufficient supply of trusted banknotes and coin.

The Currency Management Department works with the South African Mint Company (RF) Proprietary Limited (SA Mint), which mints coins, and the South African Bank Note Company (RF) Proprietary Limited (SABN), which prints banknotes. Both are subsidiaries of the SARB.

The SARB Act 90 of 1989 provides for the legal tender status of the banknotes and coin issued by the SARB. It also contains provisions relating to the mutilation, reproduction and counterfeiting of South African banknotes and coin.

 

Learn, experience and play with the SARB currency app.

Our app encourages users to explore, learn and discover everything about South African banknotes, including commemorative banknotes. From the inspiration behind both Mandela series and commemorative banknote, to their technical, design and security features, the app will take you on a fun, educational journey across South Africa’s banknote landscape.

The reverse of the commemorative banknotes can be scanned to experience the life story of Nelson Mandela, from his humble beginnings in the Eastern Cape to the moment he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. The app allows users to access the stories on all banknotes even if they only have one commemorative banknote to scan. Another feature on the app is the “play the banknotes” challenge, where users can try to beat the clock by testing their knowledge of South Africa’s banknotes then share their results on social media.

 

The SARB acts proactively by developing new banknotes to ensure that the country’s money remains among the most trusted currencies in the world. This is done to ensure continued relevance of the design and to incorporate technological advances, ensuring trust is maintained in the currency.

A number of design objectives are considered when designing and developing new banknotes and coin that:

  • are difficult to counterfeit but economical to manufacture;
  • are undeniably South African;
  • can be easily validated and authenticated;
  • are optimised to serve the needs of stakeholders, and
  • optimise usability across the full currency life cycle.

 

R200 plates ready for printing
 

The Kruger Rand moulding

The Currency Management Department works with its subsidiaries namely, the South African Mint Company (RF) Proprietary Limited (SA Mint), which mints coins, and the South African Bank Note Company (RF) Proprietary Limited (SABN), which prints banknotes. Both are subsidiaries of the SARB.

The SARB forecasts and calculates annually the volume of banknotes and coin needed to meet public demand. The production and technical teams decide on the technical, quality and security features of the banknotes and coin. The SABN and SA Mint then produce the new banknotes and coin based on the annual order placed.

 

R100 banknotes sheets in production
 

The coin cleaning process

The SARB ensures the availability and adequacy of banknotes and coin throughout the country in line with section 10(1)(a)(i)–(v) of the SARB Act. It is responsible for the bulk issuance and distribution of banknotes and coin and for meeting public demand for cash.

The Currency Management Department is responsible for managing and overseeing the cash supply chain, from planning, distribution and issuance, to destruction of cash.

Printed banknotes are transported from the subsidiary to cash centres for issuance to commercial banks. The SARB’s cash centres are located in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and are not open for transactions with the public.

Commercial banks hold sufficient banknotes and make them available at their branches and automated teller machines (ATMs), where they can be withdrawn and used for transactions by the public.
 

There are five denominations of South African banknotes in circulation: R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. 

All South African banknotes are printed on cotton substrate and can be differentiated from one another by considering the dominant colour, animal theme and size.

 

R10
Front: Portrait of Nelson Mandela
  SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK

 

Back: Rhinoceros
  Afrikaans: SUID-AFRIKAANSE RESERWEBANK
  isiSwati: LIBHANGESILULU LENINGIZIMU AFRIKA
R20
Front: Portrait of Nelson Mandela
  SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK

 

Back: Elephant
  Setswana: BANKAKGOLO YA AFORIKABORWA
  isiNdebele: IBULUNGELO-MALI ELIKHULU LESEWULA AFRIKA
R50
Front: Portrait of Nelson Mandela
  SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK

 

Back: Lion
  isiXhosa: IBHANKI ENGUVIMBA YOMZANTSI AFRIKA
  Tshivenda: BANNGA YA VHUKATI YA AFRIKA TSHIPEMBE
R100
Front: Portrait of Nelson Mandela
  SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK

 

Back: Cape buffalo
  Sepedi: PANKA YA RESEFE YA AFRIKA BORWA
  Xitsonga: BANGINKULU YA AFRIKA-DZONGA
R200
Front: Portrait of Nelson Mandela
  SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK

 

Back: Leopard
  isiZulu: IBHANGE LOMBUSO LASENINGIZIMU AFRIKA
  Sesotho: BANKA YA RISEFE YA AFRIKA BORWA

 

All banknotes and coins issued since 1961, by the SARB, remain legal tender in South Africa. To see these past banknotes, please see The history of banknotes and coin in South Africa.
 

There are six denominations of South African coin in circulation: 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5. The minting of the 1c, 2c and 5c having been discontinued.

All South African coins are minted on combinations of base metals and alloys and can be differentiated from one another by their size, dominant colour, theme on the reverse, and the ridges, rims and serrations on their edges.

 

In addition to the above coins, the SARB issues commemorative coins from time to time. For further information on these coins and their value, please see Commemorative Coin below.

All banknotes and coins issued since 1961, by the SARB, remain legal tender in South Africa. To see these past coins, please see The history of banknotes and coin in South Africa.
 

From time to time, the SARB issues coins to commemorate key events or milestones in South Africa. These commemorative coins are placed into circulation for everyday usage, despite having a design that highlights the commemoration.

These coins display designs and themes which are different from our normal circulation coins, but despite their limited circulation volumes and intended use as a commemorative circulation coin, they maintain their face value over time. 

Hence, despite the beauty of these coins or emotional connection they might hold to the commemorative topic, they should not be kept with the expectation that they will increase in value.

It is therefore prudent to be wary of anyone offering to pay significant amounts for these coins.

It is the responsibility of the SARB to ensure and maintain the integrity of banknotes and coin in circulation. The SARB has to ensure that banknotes and coin remain a secure method of payment, unit of account and store of wealth. Banknotes and coin derive their value from the trust that the citizens have in that country’s currency.

It is important to be aware of the security features incorporated in banknotes in order to identify counterfeit notes. When inspecting banknotes an approach of Look, Feel, and Tilt should be adopted.

 
Look

By holding a banknote up to the light, the following features can be observed.

Security thread

The security thread is the shiny strip on the front of the banknote, which becomes a continuous solid line when held to the light. The words “SARB”, “Rand”, the denomination and the South African coat of arms should be visible.

 

Watermark

The watermark is an embedded image of Nelson Mandela with the denomination.

 

 

 

 

Feel

By lightly running your fingertips over the banknote, the following features can be observed.

Raised print

On the front of the banknote, the portrait of Nelson Mandela and the words SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK will feel slightly raised or rough.

Visual aid feature

The raised lines on the bottom left and right of the front of the banknote are aids for the visually impaired. The R10 has one line, the R20 two lines, the R50 three lines, the R100 four lines and the R200 five lines.

Tilt

By tilting a banknote, the following features can be observed.

Security thread

The metallic thread will reflect light and exhibit a slight colour shift.

Colour-changing ink

The numerals on the bottom right of the banknote are printed with a colour-changing ink. The R10 and R20 banknotes exhibit a slight colour shift, whereas the R50, R100 and R200 banknotes appear to have a moving line. If you suspect that you have a counterfeit note, see Counterfeit Notes below.

In terms of section 14 of the SARB Act, only the SARB has the right to issue banknotes and coin in South Africa. Any reproduction of banknote images – even for artistic or advertising uses – is strictly forbidden.

Counterfeit currency are imitation notes or coin produced without the legal sanction of the SARB. Counterfeiting currency and the possession thereof are crimes.

By law, counterfeit notes found in circulation cannot be exchanged for cash, as they have no value. To confirm the validity of a banknote, the approach of Look, Feel and Tilt can be used.

The SARB, the South African Police Service and the commercial banks work together to combat the counterfeiting of banknotes and coin. Members of the public who come into possession of counterfeit banknotes and coin must immediately report it to their nearest police station.
 

A banknote is deemed mutilated when its condition requires special examination to validate. Such banknotes could be burnt, discoloured, decomposed, or damaged with portions missing.

In terms of section 14(4) of the SARB Act, the SARB is not obliged to make any payment in respect of mutilated banknotes, but will consider the merits of each case. As such, mutilated banknotes may be exchanged at the SARB Head Office in Pretoria or designated commercial bank branches, where the value to be paid will be evaluated against specific criteria.

 

Mutilated banknotes can also be exchanged at a commercial bank where an individual’s account is held. Designated commercial bank branches will then assess the value in line with the above guiding principles. For a list of designated branches, please see Commercial bank PDF.
 

A banknote is deemed dye-stained when it displays staining patterns from a currency degradation system.

These devices degrade banknotes, making them unusable and discouraging criminals from stealing them. As these banknotes are considered the proceeds of crime, they have no value and cannot be exchanged.

Dye-stained banknotes should under no circumstances be accepted. Members of the public who unwittingly come into possession of these banknotes cannot claim from the SARB, and are advised to hand in these banknotes at their nearest police station.

Examples of dye-stained banknotes:

Currency protection devices (CPDs) protect banknotes from theft by degrading their integrity, making them unusable.

The SARB regulates the use of CPDs in accordance with the SARB Act. Only CPDs or systems that are tested and formally approved by the SARB may be used to protect cash.

All enquires or applications for testing and requests for approval of CPDs, security ink or any other banknote degradation systems must be directed to: CPD@resbank.co.za.
 

The SARB has the sole authority to produce and issue banknotes and coin. It also has sole discretion to give or refuse permission to reproduce images of its currency.

Entities or persons who would like to reproduce images of the currency can only do so under specific approved circumstances. The images must not be reproduced with the intention of misleading or defrauding the public, and must maintain the dignity of any national symbol.

More details on the guidelines for reproducing banknotes can be found here.

Images in this gallery are available for non-commercial use only. They can be used and reproduced provided the following conditions are met:

  • the photographs are reproduced accurately and without alterations;
  • the SARB is identified as the source; and
  • its use does not contravene the SARB Act or the policy on the reproduction of images of the South African currency.
     

The SARB provides support, education and awareness on banknotes and coin to the public.

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the SARB runs ongoing public engagement programmes at taxi ranks, malls, schools and community gatherings. The team also conducts public awareness in Common Monetary Area countries, where the rand is legal tender.

Members of the public or organisations who wish to invite the SARB delegates to their area for awareness and training at no cost, can contact us at: +27 12 313 4713 or currency@resbank.co.za.

When receiving banknotes from the bank or shops, should I check them?

Most definitely. Members of the public are advised to check the banknote's security features before accepting them.

 

Do banknotes carry germs?

Like any other surface that large numbers of people come into contact with, banknotes can carry bacteria or viruses. However, the risk posed by handling a banknote is no greater than touching any other common surface, such as handrails, doorknobs or credit cards.

 

Can I exchange foreign currency at the SARB?

No. The SARB will only accept and exchange South African currency.

 

Can I sell my R5 circulation coin to SARB for more. If yes, for how much?

No, all circulation R5 coins retain their respective face value of R5 only. The SARB does not buy back currency from members of the public.

 

Is there a possibility of the value of the R5 coin increasing?

No, circulation coins will always retain their respective face value irrespective of their date of issue.

 

What is a counterfeit note?

A counterfeit note is an imitation of a banknote produced without the legal sanction of the government. Producing or using counterfeit notes is illegal and a form of fraud.

 

What should members of the public do in the event of detecting counterfeit banknotes or coin?

Such banknotes or coins should be reported to their nearest police station.

 

Can I exchange counterfeit notes for genuine banknotes?

No, counterfeit notes have no value and cannot be exchanged for genuine banknotes.

 

What should I do when I have information of counterfeit scams or notes?

Any information about counterfeit notes operations should be reported to the nearest police station.

 

What is a mutilated banknote?

A banknote is deemed mutilated when its condition requires special examination to consider the value, if any, to be paid. Such banknotes could be burnt, discoloured, decomposed, damaged with portions missing and/or contaminated.

 

Where can I exchange my mutilated (damaged) banknotes?

Mutilated/damaged banknotes can be exchanged at a commercial bank branch where a member of the public holds an account. Alternatively they can be exchanged at the SARB Head Office during weekdays.

 

Do I require permission from the SARB to reproduce or use images of the South African currency?

Yes. All reproduction images of South African currency should be approved by the SARB before use.

 

Will my reproduction of images permission last forever?

No. Approval of reproduction is granted for a particular period only.

 

Do I need to have the word “SPECIMEN” printed on my reproduction?

Yes. All approved reproductions should reflect the word “SPECIMEN” on them.

 

Which banknotes are considered “old” series banknotes?

When the Reserve Bank issues a new series of banknotes, the previous issues remain legal tender but are referred to as “old” series banknotes.

 

Where can I exchange my old series banknotes?

At the designated commercial bank branch where an individual’s account is held or at the SARB Head Office in Pretoria.

 

Will there ever be a time that old series banknotes will be worth more than their face value?

No. Old series banknotes retain their respective face value and cannot be sold for a higher value.

 

What is a dye-stained banknote?

Dye-stained banknotes are banknotes that are stained by permanent inks used in currency protection devices to secure banknotes in automated teller machines (ATMs), safes and during transportation of cash.

 

How do I identify dye-stained banknotes?

When a banknote is stained by the activation of the currency protection devices, the staining ink penetrates the banknote and leaves traces which are normally more pronounced on the edges of the banknote and in some instances the banknote is completely saturated by the staining ink.

 

Can I transact with dye-stained banknotes?

No. These banknotes are not fit for circulation and they will not be replaced for value.

 

What should I do if I have withdrawn a dye-stained banknote from an ATM?

If the dye-stained banknote came from an ATM, you must immediately report it to the relevant bank.

 

What should I do if someone offers me a clearly ink-stained, partly-stained or a bleached/discoloured banknote?

You should always refuse to accept dye-stained notes and notes that are not whole. Only accept clean banknotes and banknotes that are not damaged.

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