Information on South African Bank Notes

South African currency.
South African currency. (Image: CaptureLight/iStock/Getty Images)

The South African bank note, or the South African rand (ZAR), is the currency of the Republic of South America. The ZAR trades about 7.75 to every one U.S. dollar (USD). Printed by the South African Bank Note Company (Pty) Ltd. (SABN), ZAR is issued in five major increments: the R10, R20, R50, R100, and R200.


SABN has been printing the rand since 1958, when the bank note company was an offshoot of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). By 1963, SABN had become an independent printing company and now supplies all of South Africa’s currency. In 2001, the rand dropped to 13.85 per USD, but is back to 7.75.

In 2005, the ZAR was upgraded, providing new security features and aesthetics.

Makoya Moola

The upgrade, headed by SABN, called for new security features as part of a new promotional for the ZAR, known as Makoya Moola, or “Check your ‘moola’—make sure it’s the real McCoy.” Governor Tito Mboweni started the promotion to get the people of South Africa to pay attention to the currency and protect against counterfeiting.

Even with the establishment of Makoya Moola, “the older notes will remain legal tender for the foreseeable future.” To date, no South African tender has been abandoned.


The new security features on the ZAR are threefold, known as look, feel and tilt.

By holding the banknotes up to a light source, the “look” security features will include: an additional watermark, the see-through or perfect registration security feature—“This is composed of elements printed on the front and back of the note.”—and an additional conical serial number.

The “feel” security feature gives the currency a unique feel and sound, made through the raw materials and intaglio printing. “The rough effect of the intaglio printing can be felt on the front of all banknotes, and on the backs of the R100 and R200 notes.”

And finally, the tilt security feature combines multiple features when the bill is tilted almost horizontally. In the R50 and R100, the ink changes from green to gold, while on the R200 the ink changes from magenta to green. Also, a holographic Coat of Arms is included in the security thread of the R50, R100 and R200.


The first step of production is printing, where the raw materials are printed into sheets of bills and made ready for the application of security features. The second step is lithography, or the simultaneous application of “fine lines and complex multi-colored patterns, together with other security features.” The intaglio process is used next to give the currency a unique texture and three-dimensional effect. The color-changing ink is applied next using silk screens, followed by the numbering of the notes using computerized rotary letterpress machines. Finally, the notes are cut, sealed and shipped.

Defective notes are disposed of by a shredder and then “dispensed for environmental disposal.”


To ensure quality, the raw materials are tested before the printing process, printing machines are calibrated regularly and security personnel monitor all process steps—raw material testing, storing, printing, inspection, shipping and disposal. After the notes have been printed, they are inspected manually and electronically.

All test and inspection findings are recorded.

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