Preserving the history of a nation

March 2021 marked exactly a year since South African joined the world in imposing tight restrictions to manage the COVID-19 pandemic by restricting personal contact and movement.

We are truly thankful for your patience and understanding as we navigated through these challenging 12 months, and as we continue to manage the risk posed by the pandemic.

We have all by now, grown accustomed to the new, contact-less way of working and collaborating that is driven by digital platforms. We hope this new way of work has afforded you a little more time in your day to indulge in this publication. In this edition of our quarterly newsletter, we begin with an informative piece on the usefulness of a money museum for a currency issuing entity such as a central bank and give you an update on production. We also share some news about our parent company, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

The case for a money museum

A coin or money museum is the perfect way to educate the public and narrate the story of a country or people’s currency. The South African Mint museum has been in existence for over 25 years and currently attracts 300 visitors per week (pre-pandemic). Most visitors are children from local schools on field trips, or the occasional company excursion for small teams. More regularly however, we receive casual or ‘incidental’ visits from customers of our coin shop, who pass through the museum area, to reach the store.
The case for preserving the work of your institution through the establishment of a museum is an indisputable one.

A money museum is undeniably a sound solution for collecting, preserving and displaying a country’s currency to inform the public and educate future generations. Through the display of the evolution of your currency in a money museum, visitors are given a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of currency from the earliest times, to present day, as is the case with the South African Mint’s museum.

For another perspective on this topic, we contacted South Africa’s most prominent money museum. The most well-established money museum in South Africa is owned by one of the country’s retail banking giants, ABSA. Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa’s money museum, Dr. Paul Bayliss, says that looking at money can tell you a lot about a country. Read on for our Q + A with Dr Bayliss.

SA Mint: What, in your view, is the importance of a coin museum? Why do you think they are necessary?
Dr. Bayliss: Museums [in general] are vitally important in all societies in preserving the history, heritage and cultural journey of a particular society. Money museums are no different. Looking at money can tell you a lot about a country. Currency is an immediate, tangible aspect of a country’s identity; one that reflects its values, history, economy and society. Currency is also something that all citizens can related to – it is something they use on a daily basis. There are a number of reasons why people might visit a money museum; for education, entertainment or they might also be drawn to a money museum for nostalgic reasons; the chance to come face-to-face with a bygone era.
SA Mint: Can you tell us about Absa money museum?
Dr. Bayliss: The Absa Money Museum is the only money and banking museum in South Africa. It is located in the Johannesburg CBD and is open to visitors from Monday to Friday and access is free, but you do need to book. Unfortunately, at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Museum is closed to all visitors. A trip to the Absa Money Museum is a journey through time. It is here that you will discover the story behind the origination of money. This includes cowrie Shells, Venetian glass beads and the development of money, all the way back to the days of bartering trade, about 4500 years ago. Many currencies that have been used across Africa over the centuries are on display therein. From Katanga crosses, manilla rings, cowrie shells and venetian glass beads to the global currencies that arrived with prospectors in search of diamonds and gold in South Africa.
SA Mint: What do you think is the future of money museums in the current times of COVID-19?
Dr Bayliss: Museums will always have an important place in society. Museums help to preserve and promote our cultural heritage. They give us a chance to look into the past as well as the future, to see where we have been and where we might go. Without Museums, many important pieces of history would be lost or shielded from public view and experience. It is through these exhibitions and collections that people are enable to explore for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. 

Museums are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society, while preserving these artefacts for the benefit of future generations. The impact of Covid-19 has forced many museums to temporary close their doors to the public. During this time, these institutions have used advances in technology to make their exhibitions and collections more accessible online, reaching a far greater audience. Going forward, I believe museums will continue to adopt a hybrid approach of physical exhibitions and online virtual experiences.
In this light, it is worthwhile to consider the establishment of a museum to preserve and showcase the evolution of your country’s currency. We have welcomed many readers to our shores, and taken them through our museum, but if you have not had the opportunity to visited us before, we look forward to a post-COVID life, when we can once again welcome you through our doors for a guided tour of our museum.

60 Years of The Rand
The South Africa Rand celebrated its 60th year in circulation on the 14th February. This timeline illustrates the evolution of the rand from 1961 to date, excluding the issuance of commemorative currency.
In June 2021, the South African Reserve Bank celebrates 100 years in existence, and this milestone will be commemorated with the issuance of a commemorative R5 circulation coin.

Resuming operations

The end of 2020 and the holiday season brought about South Africa’s second, more severe wave of the Coronavirus. The country recorded close to 8,000 new Coronavirus infections and more than 140 COVID-19 deaths in just 24 hours (between 13 and 14 December 2020) alone. This highlighted that the daily average of new cases nationally increased by 74% in just 7 days. The daily average of Covid-19 deaths also increased by nearly 50% more. As a result, January did not usher in a return to ‘normal’ business operations, as the government retained level 3 lockdown restrictions throughout the country, lasting until 15 February.

Once again, this had a negative impact on our operations, as we had to operate under very limited capacity, with the highest focus being on the protection of our employees.

We are glad that the worst of this second wave is over and the country has now moved to level 1 of the lockdown. We can now resume with our planned production recovery measures and ensure the delivery of services to you, our valued customer.