The South African Mint Company has launched a limited edition coin set, the first in a series of coins dubbed “Life of a Legend” that will be issued over the next 12 years in honour of the life and work of Nelson Mandela.
“Nelson Mandela’s contribution to South Africa’s democracy and to the world at large is well known,” SA Mint Company chairman and Deputy Reserve Bank governor Francois Groepe said at the launch at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in March.
“He is our nation’s foremost symbol of reconciliation. Now, the South African Mint proudly honours ‘The Life of a Legend: Nelson Mandela’ with the legal tender Protea coin series.”
Three coins in the series will be released each April for the next 12 years: a stirling silver R1 coin), a one-tenth-of-an-ounce pure gold R5 coin, and a one-ounce pure gold R25 coin.
The coins will depict various aspects of Mandela’s life, starting with his early childhood in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Images inspired by Mandela’s boyhood in Qunu – including his beloved stick-fighting – feature on the reverse of the pure gold R25 coin, with the quote: “It was in that village near Umtata that I spent the happiest years of my boyhood and whence I trace my earliest memories.”
After the death of his father in 1930, Mandela’s mother took him to the “Great Place” in Mqhekezweni to be raised by Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting king of the Thembu people.
The arrival of Mandela and his mother is portrayed on the reverse of the pure silver R1 coin, with the quote: “In that moment of beholding Jongintaba and his court I felt like a sapling pulled root and branch from the earth and flung into the centre of a stream whose strong current I could not resist.”
Depicted on the pure gold R5 coin is the silhouette of a child with a quote taken from the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund on 8 May 1995: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Being part of the SA Mint’s Protea coin set, the commemorative Mandela series depicts South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea, on the obverse of each coin. For the inaugural set, the flowers frame an older Madiba in one of his trademark silk shirts.
Tumi Tsehlo, managing director of the SA Mint Company, said at the launch: “The South African Mint Company is one of the foremost preservers of South Africa’s heritage. Through our coins, South Africa’s stories are told time and time again. By creating this unique series of coins to honour one of Africa’s great fathers, we are paying our respects and venerating a great legacy.”