Home / Africa / Global acclaim for South Africa’s heart transplant commemorative coin
Global acclaim for South Africa's heart transplant commemorative coin

Global acclaim for South Africa’s heart transplant commemorative coin

The South African Mint’s R2 commemorative coin depicting the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant received an accolade at this year’s Coin of the Year (COTY), held earlier this month in Berlin, Germany.

The sterling silver Crown coin was the second in a series of coins released under the Mint’s ‘South African Inventions’ programme, introduced in 2016 to showcase local innovations that have captured the world’s imagination.

The release of the heart-transplant coil coincided with the 50th anniversary of the historic medical breakthrough. The first in the series commemorated the invention of the dolos; a marine-engineering innovation developed locally to improve coastal management.

The South African coin was recognised under the ‘Best Contemporary Event’ category, which recognises coins depicting commemorate events, institutions, physical entities or individuals.

Instituted by Wisconsin based Krause Publications, the COTY Award honors the accomplishments of mints from around the world in numismatic design, artistic vision, craftsmanship and marketing efforts. A panel of international judges choose the coins from those issued two years prior to the year of the award. 

Awards are given in ten categories, and three coins are selected in each category. Besides the ‘Best Contemporary Event’, popular categories include ‘Best Gold’, ‘Best Circulation Coin’, ‘Most Artistic Coin’ and the coveted overall ‘Coin of The Year’.

In 2009, the South African Mint won the ‘Best Gold Coin’, for the 1 oz Natura featuring the “White Rhino Safari Through Africa” as well as the coveted Coin of the Year, in 2012, for the 1/2 oz Natura featuring the “Nature’s Family – The Meerkat”.

“The ‘Inventions’ series captures the ingenuity and the remarkable contributions of South Africans across various fields and is yet another example of the Mint’s commitment to preserving and celebrating South Africa’s history,” SA Mint MD Tumi Tsehlo said, adding that “in the world of collectable coins, beauty is the very essence of its existence and not just skin deep”.


The award elevates the reputation of the SA Mint’s craftsmanship and calibre of manufacturing, Tsehlo adds.

The obverse of the coin features South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea occupying the central position along with the words ‘South Africa’ and the year ‘2017’. The reverse depicts a detailed human torso modelled on the anatomically-precise drawing by artist Carl Jeppe, with all its veins, skeleton, organs and a prominent circle indicating the position of the heart.

The rationale behind the circle is that it fits a smaller Tickey coin whose design depicts the human heart, simulating a ‘heart transplant’. The Crown and Tickey coins are the brainchild of SA Mint’s product development head Richard Stone.

Only 1 000 pieces of the 2017 South African Inventions sterling-silver individual R2 crown coins and the single two-and-a-half cents sterling-silver Tickey coins were minted, lending the series a degree of rarity.

Only 700 coin sets were produced, comprising of the R2 crown-sized coin, and a two-and-a-half cents Tickey coin, accompanied by a sterling-silver model of human heart packaged in a walnut wood box with piano finish varnish.