To Coin A Good Invention
Celebrate World Sight Day with the crown and tickey series featuring the retinal cryoprobe

Centurion, South Africa: On World Sight Day (WSD), the South African Mint, a wholly owned subsidiary of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), once again shines the light on the retinal cryoprobe featured on its 2020 crown and tickey series.

The South African Mint has a long tradition of embodying the national genius of inventors and inventions on its ‘South African Inventions’ crown and tickey coin series. Launched in 2016, the series honours inventions and firsts by South Africans that met with immense success globally. The dolos, heart transplant surgery, the computed tomography (CT) scan and epoxy adhesive have been featured in preceding years.

This WSD, the South African Mint honours the retinal cryoprobe with the 2020 crown and tickey coin set. WSD is marked globally to focus attention on blindness and vision impairment. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, some 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment, of which at least 1 billion cases are preventable.

The retinal cryoprobe was commercialised by ophthalmologist and biomedical engineer Dr Selig Percy Amoils in 1965, while he worked at the Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. The cryoprobe is a large, pen-like instrument commonly used in cryosurgery, a technique frequently used to treat cataracts. During cryosurgery, the cryoprobe is inserted into a cut in the eye to deliver extremely cold liquid gas, with precision, which freezes onto a cataract. The cataract (or other unwanted tissue) can then be removed, with no risk of destroying healthy adjacent tissue.

If left untreated, cataracts may eventually cause blindness. The condition ‘posterior capsular opacification’ (cataract) is the world’s leading cause of blindness, accounting for approximately 42% of all cases. In South Africa, it has been identified as a national health priority, as it remains the leading cause of blindness in the country, according to the South African Optometric Association.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures performed worldwide, and is considered among the most successful treatments in all of medicine. Late President Nelson Mandela had the cataract in his left eye removed by Dr Amoils just days after his swearing in as democratic South Africa’s first black President.

South African Mint Managing Director, Honey Mamabolo, says: “The ongoing crown and tickey series pays homage to local ingenuity and celebrates the pioneering efforts of South Africans. Innovation and disruption are two sides of the same coin. The retinal cryoprobe has played a key role in improving the quality of life of many around the world.”

“At the South African Mint, we are equally disruptive,” she adds, “developing products like the crown and tickey which not only attract the avid coin collector, but also pique their interest in South African history.”

On the reverse, the R2 crown coin features the anatomy of an eye, the years ‘1965’ and ‘2020’, the words ‘Retinal Cryoprobe’, and the denomination ‘R2’. On the obverse, the national coat of arms, the words ‘South Africa’ in all the official languages, and the year of issue, ‘2020’, are featured.

The reverse of the much smaller 2½ c tickey coin depicts a gloved hand holding the retinal cryoprobe, the letters ‘SPA’ for ‘Selig Percy Amoils’, and the denomination ‘2½ c’. Its obverse shows a king protea, the words ‘South Africa’, and the year ‘2020’.

The ingenious design on these coins allows for a surprise: when the smaller tickey is placed on the bigger crown, it gives the impression of a retinal cryoprobe procedure.

“The influence of the invention is evident in the number of cataract surgeries performed globally, which the American Optometric Association estimates at 26 million every year,” adds Mamabolo. “In ophthalmology, the normal visual acuity is 20/20 vision. In a way, therefore, this year lends itself perfectly well to commemorating our history, celebrating our successes, and recognising our inventions and inventors.”

Only 1 000 of the sterling-silver R2 crown coins and 1 000 of the sterling-silver 2½ c tickey coins have been minted. A combination set, consisting of the two coins and a sterling-silver miniature sculpture of the eye, packaged in a beautiful piano-finish varnish walnut-wood box, is also available.