The South African Mint’s (SA Mint’s) master craft and secure manufacturing has made it one of the top preferred manufacturers of coins and coin blanks in the world, and a valuable partner across Africa.
The famous producer of circulation and commemorative coins has, on its CV, an impressive list of past and current international clients and remains open to business with other African countries.
As one of only six mints on the continent with strong, world-renowned technology, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) subsidiary is well positioned to offer competitive services on the continent, says SA Mint MD Tumi Tsehlo.
“It is the only mint positioned well enough to partner with our immediate neighbours and the rest of Africa,” he tells Engineering News during an interview at the firm’s Centurion headquarters.
Coins continue to serve an important purpose in various economies around the world, and to remain economically viable, the mint cannot rely on SARB as its only customer.
While it is not a market that one goes into with a growth mindset, but rather, one of opportunity and service, the aggregate growth of coin demand globally is around 5% to 7% a year.
In addition to making South Africa’s coinage, SA Mint’s regular commissioning by other countries includes producing coin blanks and circulation coins for export markets mainly in Africa, South America and Asia.
SA Mint boasts a dominant presence across the Southern Africa Development Community, and further afield in Africa, with partnerships currently established with the reserve banks of several countries and work completed for more than 20 African countries.
“We have done business with upwards of 50 countries,” Tsehlo tells Engineering News, citing clients from Nepal, Bulgaria, Netherlands, China, Italy, Zambia, Uruguay, Columbia, Paraguay, Argentina and Malaysia, besides others.
While business undertaken with markets in Asia and Latin America is more opportunistic, SA Mint partners more with its African peers, developing a partnership as opposed to a transacting relationship.
He further notes that the mint is home to some of the most modern technology available in the art of coin-making, and is considered to be one of the most advanced mints in the world.
“By having this in-house facility, we are able to reduce the need to subcontract and this ensures security and minimises costs,” he adds.
Against a backdrop of over 126 years of manufacturing experience, the mint, with almost 500 employees, has a production capacity of some two-billion coins, ranging from circulation coins to the highest quality possible for collector coins.
Over the years, the mint has developed expertise in producing electroplated base metal coins, which are the most cost-effective means for central banks and issuing authorities to place coins into circulation.
It has also developed technically advanced bicolour electroplated coins – a highly secure alloy coin with the security-enhanced latent image and microlettering.
The mint continues to invest in new technologies, such as laser engraving, security-edge rimming and colour printing on coins and, with its own research and development team working to keep ahead of the curve, it has improved its technology to make it viable and secure.
“Our first export contract was in 1996, [as we started] taking advantage of our sophisticated factory, technology and facilities and extracting the full value out of it,” Tsehlo points out.
SA Mint is also one of the foremost preservers of South Africa’s heritage, with its commemorative coins attracting a large international interest, with high quality coinage, such as the Gold Krugerrand, the Protea Series and the Big Cats Series, besides others, proving to be very popular.
SA Mint’s current circulation coin series was introduced in 1989, following the 1988 ownership transfer to SARB from National Treasury.
“We then started preparing to move to the Centurion site, because we were changing the technology of the manufacturing of coins, which used be made of solid alloy,” he says.
The minting of 1c and 2c coins ceased mid-2002, while the minting of the 5c coin stopped in 2012.
In 2004, a bimetallic R5 coin with added security features, including a grooved edge and microlettering on the reverse, was introduced to combat the emergence of counterfeiting.
The new R5 coin was deemed to be the most secure coin in the world at the time, and no R5 coin has been counterfeited since its introduction.
Meanwhile, cost pressures led the mint to start making coins out of steel, instead of copper and nickel.
Some 95% of a typical coin composition is steel with the remainder being plated in copper, which had brought the cost of the coin down by up to 90%.
South Africa was a leader in that space, he says, believing it to be the first country in the world to make coins out of copper-plated steel.
The R2 and R1 coins currently in circulation are nickel-plated copper, while the 50c and 20c are bronze-plated steel coins.
The manufacturing of the 10c coin, previously minted in bronze-plated steel, has also been changed to copper-plated steel.
The mint is now considering making adjustments to the coins in terms of updating them since 1989.
“It is a thinking process we started; we could potentially have a new series of coins in the next five years,” he adds.
However, there is no indication that South Africa will have a R10 coin.