Exchange Currency

South African rand

The South African rand is the currency of South Africa. It takes its name from the Witwatersrand (White-water's-ridge in English), the ridge upon which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa's gold deposits were found. The rand has the symbol "R" and is subdivided into 100 cents, symbol "c".

Before 1961, the Dutch language was one of the official languages of South Africa.

The rand is the currency of the Common Monetary Area between South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. Although Namibia withdrew from the Common Monetary Area, the rand is still legal tender there.

Summary info

Summary information about South African rand
ISO 4217 Code:
Currency sign:
South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe
5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 rand, 2 rand, 5 rand
10 rand, 20 rand, 50 rand, 100 rand, 200 rand
Central bank:
South African Reserve Bank


The rand was introduced on 14 February 1961. A Decimal Coinage Commission had been set up in 1956 to consider a move away from the denominations of pounds, shillings and pence, submitting its recommendation on 8 August 1958. It replaced the South African pound as legal tender, at the rate of 2 rand = 1 pound or 10 shillings to the rand. The government introduced a mascot, Decimal Dan, "the rand-cent man" to familiarise the populace with the new currency. This took place in the same year that the Republic of South Africa was established.

A rand was worth US $1.40 from the time of its inception in 1961 until 1982, when mounting political pressure combined with sanctions placed against the country due to apartheid started to erode its value. The currency broke above parity with the dollar for the first time in March 1982, and continued to trade between R 1–R 1,30 to the dollar until June 1984, when depreciation of the currency gained momentum. By February 1985, it was trading at over R 2 per dollar, and, in July that year, all foreign exchange trading was suspended for 3 days to try to stop the devaluation.

By the time that State President PW Botha made his Rubicon speech on 15 August 1985, it had weakened to R 2,40 per dollar. The currency recovered somewhat between 1986–88, trading near the R 2 level most of the time and even breaking beneath it sporadically. The recovery was short-lived however, and by the end of 1989 the rand was trading at levels of more than R 2,50 per dollar.

As it became clear in the early 1990s that the country was destined for black majority rule and one reform after the other was announced, uncertainty about the future of the country hastened the depreciation until the level of R 3 to the dollar was breached in November 1992. A host of local and international events influenced the currency after that, most notably the 1994 democratic election which saw it weaken to over R 3,60 to the dollar, the election of Tito Mboweni as the new governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and the inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki in 1999 which saw it quickly slide to over R 6 to the dollar. The controversial land reform program that was kicked off in Zimbabwe, followed by the September 11, 2001 attacks, propelled it to its weakest historical level of R 13,84 to the dollar in December 2001.

This sudden depreciation in 2001 led to a formal investigation, which in turn led to a dramatic recovery. By the end of 2002, the currency was trading at under R 9 to the dollar again, and by the end of 2004 was trading at under R 5,70 to the dollar. The currency softened somewhat in 2005, and was trading at around R 6,35 to the dollar at the end of the year. At the start of 2006 however, the currency resumed its rally, and, as of 19 January 2006, was trading at under R 6 to the dollar again. However, during the second and third quarters of 2006 (i.e. April through September), the rand weakened significantly.

In sterling terms, it fell from around 9.5p to just over 7p, losing some 25% of its international trade-weighted value in just six months. Late in 2007, the rand rallied modestly to just over 8p, only to experience a precipitous slide during the first quarter of 2008.

This downward slide could be attributed to a range of factors: South Africa's worsening current account deficit, which widened to a 36‑year high of 7.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007; inflation at a five-year high of just under 9%; escalating global risk aversion as investors' concerns over the spreading impact of the sub-prime crisis grew; and a general flight to "safe havens", away from the perceived risks of emerging markets. The rand depreciation was exacerbated by the Eskom electricity crisis, which arose from the utility being unable to meet the country's rapidly growing energy demands.

In particular, major mines were shut down, with Eskom warning that major new industrial projects could not be powered until additional power generation capacity could be brought on stream, something unlikely to be achieved for at least another 5 years. This would have a significant impact on production and exports by South Africa's mining industry, and would thus worsen an already worrisome current account deficit. It is particularly unfortunate that this should have happened at a time of record high prices for hard and soft commodities. The situation has since stabilised.


For the most part the inhabitants of South African carried out their extensive trading activities by barter. It is interesting though that on the coast of Pondoland both Roman and Egyptian coins dating back 2200 years have been found, as well as Venetian coins of the 1200’s from the first Portuguese explorers.

In 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck founded the settlement at the Cape, the Spanish dollar 8 Real was the basic coin in use in the Netherlands. The VOC received permission from Spain to use similar pieces of eight but with different designs for trade with the East.

In 1681 the guilder and its multiples were introduced in the Cape. About this time the real was replaced by the rix-dollar. In 1726 copper doits began to be struck for the VOC as well as silver ducatoons and guilders.

The English East India Company had also set into circulation Indian silver rupees as well as gold pagodas and mohurs. Besides these coins Japanese koban, English guinea, Portuguese joannes, Russian roubles and several other nationalities’ coins are mentioned in the tariffs.

By 1795 there was a perpetual shortage of small change. The cartwheel pennies of 1797 were introduced in 1800 and were declared current at two stuivers.

In 1803 the Batavian Republic which had taken the place of the Dutch East India Company took over the task of reforming the Cape currency. They proposed the guilder be made the standard coin of the Cape and legal tender be confined to the ducatoon, daalder, guilder and do it. The usefulness of British copper had however by now spread itself through the Colony.

In 1806, to ease the scarcity of small coins, the ship guilder coins were put into circulation. A further supply of shillings and pennies were circulated and the Spanish doubloon of sixteen dollars is mentioned for the first time. Troops continued to be paid in Spanish dollars.

In Griqualand in 1815 four denominations of coins were put into circulation. A silver ten and five pence and bronze half penny and farthing were circulated. However the experiment was not a success and these were withdrawn. Patterns were later struck in 1890.

In 1823 the Cape Colony proposed producing its own coinage. This came to nothing as British Government planned to put the currency of all its colonies on a sterling basis. It did this in the Cape with effect from 1826. When the supply of British coinage was insufficient for paying garrison troops, other silver coinage such as Spanish dollars, Sicilian dollars, United State dollars, French francs and Indian rupees were also used. Sydney mint sovereigns were also declared legal tender.

In Natal there was no official currency although British gold and silver coins were the primary coins in circulation. Copper was practically unknown and due to the shortage of small change stores issued tokens and "good-fors". Indian rupees were imported from Mauritius, but were not popular.

Before and after the declaration of independence in 1854 of the Orange Free State, British coinage was extensively used. Government payments were however often assessed in rix-dollars. Due to the shortage of small change and extensive use of the unpopular "good-fors" and tokens, suggestions were made that the government should have its own metal coinage. This never went any further. However various patterns of different denominations were made. In 1900 the coinage of the South African Republic was adopted as legal tender.

In the Transvaal monetary transactions were initially in rix-dollars, however the sterling system was used concurrently and by 1868 exclusively. British currency, tokens and "good-fors" were used extensively. In 1874 president T.F.Burgers had gold pounds struck which were equivalent to the British sovereign. By 1890 the Z.A. Republic had decided to have their own coins struck. Various patterns and proofs of the different proposals are in existence. In 1892 all denominations equivalent to the British sterling series with Paul Kruger on the reverse was issued.

Coins were introduced in 1961 in denominations of ½, 1, 2½, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents. In 1965, 2-cent coins replaced the 2½-cent coins. The ½-cent coin was last struck for circulation in 1973. The 2-rand was introduced in 1989, followed by 5-rand coins in 1994. The 1- and 2-cent coins were discontinued in April 2002, primarily due to inflation having devalued them. All prices are now rounded upwards to the nearest 5 cents.

In an effort to curb counterfeiting, a new R 5 coin was released in August 2004. Security features introduced on the coin include a bi-metal design (similar to the €1 and €2 coins, the Thai 10 Baht coin, the British £2 coin and the Canadian $2 coin), a specially-serrated security groove along the rim and micro-lettering.


The first series of rand banknotes was introduced in 1961 in denominations of 1, 2, 10 and 20 rand, with similar designs and colours to the preceding pound notes to ease the transition. They bore the image of Jan van Riebeeck, the first V.O.C. administrator of Cape Town. Like the last pound notes, they came in two variants, one with English written first and the other with Afrikaans written first. This practice was continued in the 1966 series which included the first 5 rand notes but did not include the 20 rand denomination.

The 1978 series began with denominations of 2, 5 and 10 rand, with 20 and 50 rand introduced in 1984. This series saw a major design change. In addition, the series has only one variant for each denomination of note. Afrikaans was the first language on the 2, 10 and 50 rand, while English was the first language on 5 and 20 rand. The notes bore the image of Jan van Riebeeck.

In the 1990s, the notes were redesigned with images of the Big Five wildlife species. With the 2 and 5 rand coins replacing notes, notes were introduced in 1994 for 100 and 200 rand.

The 2005 series has the same principal design, but with additional security features such as colour shifting ink on the 50 rand and higher and the EURion constellation. The obverses of all denominations are printed in English, while two other languages are printed on the reverses, making all eleven official languages of South Africa available.

In 2010, the South African Reserve Bank and commercial banks withdrew all 1990 series R 200 banknotes due to relatively high quality counterfeit notes in circulation.

In 2011, the South African Reserve Bank issued 100-rand banknotes which were defective because they lacked fluorescent printing visible under UV light. In June, printing of this denomination was shifted from the South African Bank Note Company to Crane Currency’s Swedish division (Tumba Bruk.), which reportedly produced 80 million 100-rand notes. The South African Reserve Bank shredded 3.6 million 100-rand banknotes printed by Crane Currency because they have the same serial numbers as a batch printed by the South African Bank Note Company. In addition, the notes printed in Sweden were not the right colour, and they were one millimeter short.

On 11 February 2012, President Jacob Zuma announced that the country would be issuing a complete set of banknotes bearing Nelson Mandela's image. They are currently in production but it is not yet known when these banknotes will be distributed.

ZAR banknotes pictures gallery

10 South African rand
Banknote of 10 South African rand has dimensions 128×70 mm and main colors are camouflage green, khaki, pale spring bud, tea green, pearl, beige, old lace and ivory. The banknote of 10 South African rand was issued in 2009.
10 South African rand (Obverse)
Obverse side of the 10 South African rand is showing white rhinoceros (ceratotherium simum) and the stylised diamond.
10 South African rand (Reverse)
Reverse side of the 10 South African rand is showing an image of agriculture: ram's head, cattle, old style wind turbine and stylised sunflowers.

20 South African rand
Banknote of 20 South African rand has dimensions 137×70 mm and main colors are fallow, tan, peach-orange, pale brown, french beige, pastel brown, desert sand, wheat, moccasin, champagne and papaya whip. The banknote of 20 South African rand was issued in 2010.
20 South African rand (Obverse)
Obverse side of the 20 South African rand is showing the elephants.
20 South African rand (Reverse)
Reverse side of the 20 South African rand is showing the open pit mining.

50 South African rand
Banknote of 50 South African rand has dimensions 140×70 mm and main colors are puce, rose vale, tea rose, antique brass, pale chestnut, gainsboro, pearl and platinum. The banknote of 50 South African rand was issued in 2010.
50 South African rand (Obverse)
Obverse side of the 50 South African rand is showing the lions.
50 South African rand (Reverse)
Reverse side of the 50 South African rand is showing the Refinery.

100 South African rand
Banknote of 100 South African rand has dimensions 146×70 mm and main colors are medium jungle green, charcoal, dim gray, pale taupe, slate gray, dark chestnut, timberwolf, pastel gray, white smoke and isabelline. The banknote of 100 South African rand was issued in 2010.
100 South African rand (Obverse)
Obverse side of the 100 South African rand is showing the cape buffalos.
100 South African rand (Reverse)
Reverse side of the 100 South African rand is showing a herd of zebras in the background of mountains.

200 South African rand
Banknote of 200 South African rand has dimensions 152×70 mm and main colors are puce, apricot, pale chestnut, wheat, banana mania, desert sand, cambridge blue, cornsilk and misty rose. The banknote of 200 South African rand was issued in 2005.
200 South African rand (Obverse)
Obverse side of the 200 South African rand is showing the leopard and the leopard's head on a branch in the background.
200 South African rand (Reverse)
Reverse side of the 200 South African rand is showing the windmill.

Useful links

About South African Reserve Bank:
South African Reserve Bank
List of currencies:
Security and design features of ZAR banknotes:
ZAR banknotes
ZAR currency on Wikipedia:
South African rand
Official Website of South African Reserve Bank:
Commemorative coins:
Commemorative Coins