SA’s New Coin Is More Valuable than Its Number

Griqua Town R5 Coin Front Face January 2016

Imagine the South Africa of 1815. Shaka had just become king of the Zulus and Cornelis Moll, the man who would grow up to found Kwa-Zulu Natal’s first newspaper, was a new-born. It seems like a time when the wilderness was yet untouched, finance unheard of, and life involved living off the land. But, some 200 years ago, there was such a thing as decimal currency in South Africa in the form of its first coin.

The first South African currency took its name from Griqua Town, which is now an historic town in our country. Established in 1801, the town located north of Kimberly became home to the London Missionary Society. The Griqua Town coinage of the time was not only South Africa’s first currency, but also the world’s first Missionary currency.

In memory of this significant currency, the South African Reserve Bank is making the new R5 coin a testament to the Griqua Town coinage. This will be the fourth bi-metal R5 coin to commemorate important South African dates since this format was first introduced in 2004. The preceding coins have celebrated Madiba’s 90th birthday, the SARB’s 90th anniversary, and two decades of democracy in 2014.

What Will the Griqua Town Coin Look Like?

As mentioned, the commemorative coin features the current bi-metal format. The front face features somewhat of a recreation of the original Griqua Town coin, with both sides of the original coin depicted on the same face. The phrase, ‘Coinage of Griqua Town’ will appear around the outer border of the coin, with the dates 1815 and 2015 featured on the opposite border of the same face. The alternate side features the South African coat of arms, flanked by the acronym ‘SARB’ on either side.

What This Coin Means to South Africa

Griquatown, as it has come to be known in English, is considered one of South Africa’s most important foundational towns. Religious followers note the town for its missionary works, which included the production of the first Sesotho translation of the Bible. But, with regards to the development of our nation, the town is regarded as one of the biggest flagstones for commerce two centuries ago. A stopover on the South African trade route, Griquatown was responsible for a great deal of exchange.

The commemorative R5 thus represents the history of our nation, and stands as a symbol of our progress over the last 200 years. It is this notion that makes the Griqua Town coin more valuable than a mere 5 rand, not in monetary terms but in sentiment.


Image credit: