Nelson Mandela Banknotes

Nelson Mandela Banknotes – South Africa Cashes In On Nelson Mandela Commemorative Banknotes

I like money.
Okay, well, who doesn’t?
But have you ever looked at money as a branding tool of any kind? Think about it for a moment. No two countries in the world have exactly the same looking money. Sure, coins and banknotes are very likely made from the same basic materials but each has a particular design element that sets them apart from every other currency in the world.

What I like most about money is that it is actually mini pieces of artwork that can capture a moment in time to celebrate some historic or significant achievement. In South Africa, they did just that when they released a whole new set of banknotes earlier this month.

The New Money

You’d be hard pressed to name a South African who has had a larger global impact than Nelson Mandela. So, it only makes sense that in order to mark the centenary of his birth that the country he was born in marked it with a celebration in money.


The new series of banknotes are special in that each one will depict a different stage in Mandela’s life. They will also include references – although subtly – to the patterned shirts Mandela was known to wear as well as wildlife.

The Designers

UK banknote manufacturing company De La Rue designed the series. They also happened to be responsible for the design of the ballots used in the first democratic election in South Africa back in 1994.

The current banknotes have Mandela on them, but this set is a rebranding, if you will.

Instead of Mandela on the front and one of the “Big Five” animals – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo – on the reverse, the recently released updated banknotes have a slightly tweaked Mandela front but the reverse features milestones throughout his life. They include his imprisonment at Robben Island, his South African Presidency and him in traditional tribal dress.


The Finer Points

The South African Reserve Bank has never released commemorative banknotes before and these will remain in circulation with the existing notes. There is actually a good reason for that.

De La Rue Creative Director Julian Payne explains:

“They have to circulate with existing currency, so the first brief is, how do you not confuse the public by having two different kinds of notes in circulation?” This is why the two different sets use the same colours, the same basic design framework and some “modest but quite significant changes to the front.”

What they aren’t saying is that you don’t normally redesign your money unless you are adding newer, more sophisticated anti-counterfeiting markings to them. But you didn’t hear that from me.


What I like most about the whole scenario is that a country with an already great looking currency chose to tweak it a bit and turn the commemorative banknotes into mini stories on a small canvas.

The next time you get a chance, pull out a banknote from your pocket and take a look at it. I mean, a really good look at it. Within that intricate design you will see many different layers of elements that all work together to create a portrait of someone or something. Under a magnifying glass you will discover extremely tiny print, design points and more that not only protect the banknote from illegal copying, they work to enhance the portrait.

You’ll soon understand what I mean when I say money is miniature pieces of artwork.


About The Author

Hi, I’m Toni Marino. Award-winning Freelance Graphic Designer, writer and digital marketer. Forward thinking clients from various industries worldwide have enlisted my help to support the growth of their brands. Whether your part of a multi-national company, an independent business venture, or something in between, I would love to hear from you and together we can earn the trust of your future business prospects.

Image Credits: Creative Review