New South African bank notes

At the beginning of November 2012 South Africa got new banknotes, featuring former president Nelson Mandela on the front and images of one of the country's big five animals (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) on the reverse side.

From the day they were introduced, only the new banknotes were available at the ATMs and banks. However, the old paper money continues to be legal tender for an indefinite period. This is especially important since the rand is used in some neighbouring countries.

The new notes are the same size as the old ones and come in the same denominations: R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. Each denomination is of a different colour, and all have the same engraving of Mandela's face on the front. According to the South African Reserve Bank, the new banknotes incorporate advanced security features. They also include enhancements for the visually impaired: the R10 banknote has one raised line; R20 two; R50 three; R100 four; and the R200 banknote has five raised lines.

The total cost of the redesign of the notes and of upgrading the South African Note Company (SABN) was about R2.5 million. SABN is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank and is responsible for printing the currency of the country.

The Mandela banknotes are a tribute to Nelson Mandela, South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle icon and first democratically elected president. Nelson Mandela is the first living person to appear on the South African currency.

The currency change will not extend to the country's coin series, although it is actually on R5 coins issued in 2000 and 2008 that the likeness of former president Nelson Mandela first appeared. These two coins, as well as the presidential inauguration coin issued in 1994, were minted to be used as normal method of payment, although in a somewhat limited quantity of five million each. However, all three quickly went out of circulation as the public started collecting them and trading them at values that exceed their face value. South African online marketplace www.bidorbuy.co.za has a whole section devoted exclusively to the popular Mandela coins.

Of course, since the Mandela banknotes are replacing the old banknotes, there is no risk of these being hoarded as collectible item.

A brief history of South African banknotes

Paper money was first introduced in the Cape settlement in 1782 and was handwritten. At the end of the 19th century, there were about thirty private banks in South Africa that printed their own paper money, as did several large trading houses and one mining company.

Until 1962, most of South Africa’s paper money was printed abroad. Rand as the country’s currency was introduced in 1961 to replace old Pound Sterling currency banknotes.

The first rand banknotes included denominations of R1, R2 and R5, all of which have been substituted with coins more than a decade ago. However, the paper R1, R2 and R5 banknotes remain legal tender in the country and banks are still obliged to accept them.