South African Rand: History, Interesting Facts And What You Need To Know

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The South African rand has the topic of many recent discussions for all the wrong reasons.

First of all, the probe on Finance Minister ‘Parvin Gordhan’, then further predictions of the rand downward slide against the dollar; in addition to the increasing political tension.

But here are a few things a lot of people don’t know about the South African rand:

History And Facts About The South African Rand

  • The South African rand came into existence in 1961.
  • The South African rand (R) is available in banknotes of R 200, R 100, R 50, R 20 and R 10.
  • The ISO code of the South African rand is “ZAR”, which is the acronym from Dutch words “Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand”.
  • The South African rand is used by the Common Monetary Area, consisting of four countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia).

See Also: South African History: A Quick Review

  • The South African rand had a higher value against the US dollar from 1961 – 1982.
  • In 1961, the first series of the South African rand was in denominations of 1, 2, 10, and 20 rand.
  • The South African rand was first printed in two variants, one with English writing and the other with Afrikaans writing.
  • In the 1990s, the South African rand got a new look with images of the Big Five wildlife species.
  • In 2005 the rand had some additional security features (colour-shifting ink on the 50 rand and higher pattern of symbols) introduced.

Signatures On The South African Rand

The South African rand is signed by the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and has since been signed by six Governors to date. Below is the list of Governors, the years they were signatories and the denominations they signed:

  • 1st July 1962 – 30th June 1967: The R 1, R 5, R 10 and R 20 signed by:

Governor: Dr. G Rissik.

  • 1st July 1967 – 31st December 1980: The R 2, R 5, R 10 and R 20 signed by:

Governor: Dr. T W De Jongh.

  • 1st January 1981 – 7th August 1989: The R 2, R 5, R 10, R 20 and R 50 signed by:

Governor: Dr. G P C De Kock.

  • 8th August 1989 – 7th August 1999: The R 10, R 20, R 100 and R 200 signed by:

Governor: Dr. C L Stals.



  • 8th August 1999 – 8th November 2009: The R 10, R 20, R 50, R 100 and R 200 signed by:

Governor: Mr. T T Mboweni.

  • 9th November 2009 till date: The R 10, R 20, R 50, R 100 and R 200 signed by:

Governor: Ms. G Marcus.

Features and Security On The New Banknotes

South African Rand

  • There are little dots which appear on both sides of the South African rand banknotes.
  • At the top left corner of all banknotes, you will find the South African Coat of Arms. The Coat of Arms is also present in the security thread, as a three-dimensional image.

See Also: SARB Fines 5 SA Banks For Not Combating Money Laundering

  • The major colors of each banknote are: R 10 (Green), R 20 (Brown), R 50 (Red), R 100 (Blue), R 200 (Yellow-orange). The color of the R 200 was recently changed, as it previously had a similar color to the R 20.
  • All new banknotes carry the image of former President Nelson Mandela.
  • The language on the front section of all banknotes is in English.
  • The back of all new banknotes have the Big Five printed on them, the following are the banknotes and the animal present on them: R 10 (Rhinoceros), R 20 (Elephant), R 50 (Lion), R 100 (Buffalo) and R 200 (Leopard).
  • All banknotes are 70 mm in height, but differ in length by a difference of 6 mm, here is the breakdown: R 10 (128 mm), R 20 (134 mm), R 50 (140 mm), R 100 (146 mm) and R 200 (152 mm).
  • The paper of the new banknotes is UV dull and does not glow under UV light.

Any banknote that does not have a watermark is not genuine. The watermark present on the South African rand banknote is a shadow image of former President Nelson Mandela, with a hidden denomination of the banknote which is clearer than his image. There are also unique serial numbers printed on the back of all banknotes, they consist of numbers and letters. The serial number which is horizontal on the top right, increases in height from left to right. While the number printed on the left-hand side is vertical.

The serial number which is horizontal on the top right, increases in height from left to right. While the number printed on the left-hand side is vertical.

A security thread of 4 mm is woven into the banknote paper. If you look closely, you would see a three-dimensional image of the Coat of Arms, the denomination number and the words ‘RAND’ & ‘SARB’ printed on it.

The South African rand maintains the maximum level of security and quality to match international standards.

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