This post has been sitting around unfinished, waiting to become relevant. Now we have it: South Africa will be updating its Rand notes towards the end of 2012, commemorating Nelson Mandela in the process.
Before this change I'd like to share some of what I've gleaned about our currency, including what I learnt at a presentation of the now defunct South African Banknote Society. Japanese summaries are included.
Coins: Rands and cents コインのランドとセント
Starting from bottom right...Springbok.
The R2 carries the Kudu.
The R5 carries the Wildebeest.
The back of all coins carry the national coat of arms. You can see the old and the current versions in the picture.
Notes: Rands 紙幣のランド （だいたい１０ランド＝１００円）
The paper notes are where it really gets interesting. South African money is very user-friendly, because each note is a different colour and a different size. You'll also notice that there are many details in the design of the Rand that bind the notes together as a set rather beautifully.
All notes feature one of Africa's famous Big Five on the front. Each note also has a symbol on the front. This symbol is related to the theme that is represented on the back of the note. On the front, this symbol morphs in design and colour to become the symbol of the next note in the series. For example, in the first case below, the sunflower becomes a diamond. Notice when you get to R200 that the symbol returns to the sunflower. (Click images to view larger versions.)
The green R10 carries the Rhino. Its symbol is a sunflower. Its theme is agriculture.
The brown R20 carries the African Elephant. Its symbol is a diamond. Its theme is mining.
The red R50 carries the Lion. Its symbol is an atom. Its theme is science and industry.
The blue R100 carries the Cape Buffalo. Its symbol is a wildflower. Its theme is South Africa's fauna and flora.
The orange R200 carries the Leopard. Its symbol is a cog or a wheel. Its theme is infrastructure and technology.
There are many interesting security features, but my favourite one is the eye test. South Africans, grab a note from your wallet, and look at the texture to the right of the animal's head. If you're amazing, you'll notice that this isn't a texture at all, but that it is in fact very, very small text, spelling out... Well, you tell me!
I also really like how our eleven official languages were included on the notes. The front of all the notes are English, while the back of each note carries two of our other languages. Two times five is ten, plus English makes eleven. Neat indeed.
We started using this money in 2000. The Reserve Bank feels it's time for a security update. Well, why not. As for the addition of Mandela... I remember the presenter of the Banknote Society remarking that the choice of the Big Five was perfect, because it's so neutral. Let's unpack that thought. If you compare the Rand to most other currencies, you'll find that the absence of any human figures on our money is quite glaring. Although I think this was a wise decision, I don't think you can really call it "neutral". It's more like deliberately, seemingly neutral. But to conclude, I think that adding Mandela is a great idea. I don't see South Africa choosing five people to put on our notes in my lifetime, but I can see almost all of us agreeing that if we're going to add one, it should the father of our nation.
UPDATE (i): I had to have a German student inform me that people are calling it the "Randela". That's how far-removed I am from everything that's fun about South Africa. I can't find official depictions anywhere on the Reserve Bank's website, but here are some. Of course I've already seen idiots talking about the removal of Afrikaans from the notes. Clearly they weren't paying attention to how it was before. I haven't seen the backs of all of them, but judging by the back of the R10, the language situation I described above still stands.