World Coins

South African Mint marks medical milestone with coins

South Africa honors a medical milestone, the first heart transplant, on new silver coins. The reverse of each coin is shown.

Coin images courtesy of the South African Mint.

Two silver coin from the South African Mint commemorate the 50th anniversary of the world’s first heart transplant in 1967. The pair of Proof .925 fine silver coins help visualize the complex nature of the operation, with a 2.5-cent tickey coin, depicting a good heart, fitting on top of a 2-rand coin depicting a heart that needs replacement. 

South African Mint designer Richard Stone cooperated with artist Carl Jeppe to design the coin, which was engraved by Paul Botes of the South African Mint.

The reverse of the 2.5-cent tickey depicts a healthy heart with the healthy aorta coming out of the top, blood vessels and textured heart wall. The frosting of the relief of the healthy heart is light and white to indicate the heart’s good health. The Proof finish on the mirrored background focuses attention on the healthy heart. Also on this side are the face value, metal fineness, and the initials CNB of the chief surgeon from 1967, Dr. Christian Neethling Barnard.

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The reverse of the larger 2-rand coin depicts the skeleton, epidermis, veins and organs of the torso of a human body in detail, including those connecting the heart and the liver, and even the puffy pillowlike tubing of the large and small intestines.

Also visible are the texture of the outer wall of its diseased heart including fat deposits, dying muscle and an area of blocked blood flow, noted in the central area where the frosted and polished surface appears darker. A prominent circle indicates the position of the heart and serves as placeholder for the small tickey coin in the imagined cavity of the human chest.

The anniversary date of the procedure (Dec. 3, 1967) appears on the reverse, with inscriptions denoting the face value and FIRST HEART TRANSPLANT. 
The obverse of the 2.5-cent tickey has the standard depiction of the king protea, South Africa’s national flower, as designed by Kruger Gray.

The obverse of the 2-rand coin, designed by Arthur Sutherland, bears the standard coat of arms of the Republic of South Africa with the name of South Africa in the eleven official languages of the country, (both Ndebele and Zulu languages have the same spelling). 

The 2.5-cent tickey contains 1.3 grams of pure silver and the 2-rand coin contains a full ounce of pure silver (the coins’ total weights are heavier because the fineness of each is .925 fine). 

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The coins may be purchased separately or as a pair housed in a hand-crafted wooden box made of walnut with a glossy, piano finish varnish. In total, 1,000 coins of each denomination are available for individual sales. A maximum of 700 sets are available. 

The coins are available through two American distributors American Precious Metals Exchange,, and

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