Published on News24: 03 January 2018
The last coin introduced into South African currency was the R5 coin back in 1994, and before that, the R2 coin in 1989. Surely the time has come for the South African Reserve Bank to strike a new R10 coin for circulation.
If we were to use the price of bread as the benchmark for minting new denomination coins, then the minting of a new R10 coin is long overdue. In 1989, the R2 coin was minted when a loaf of bread cost just R1, and in 1994, the R5 coin was minted when bread cost roughly R2.50. This would suggest that new denomination coins are minted when the bread price reaches half the prospective coin value.
Using this benchmark, the R10 coin should have been minted back in 2010 when the bread price reached R5 per loaf, and we should, in fact, be due for the minting of a R20 coin considering that the average bread price in 2017 already exceeds R10!
But, let’s face it, coins are a real nuisance. They’re bulky, heavy and the latest slim-style wallets and purses don’t have the girth to carry more than just a few coins. In fact, they’re so inconvenient that many of us take any opportunity we can to get rid of them … and in South Africa especially, there’s no shortage of opportunity.
Our economy is brimming with waitrons, petrol attendants, car guards, trolley-assistants, newspaper sellers and many others who rely on coins for their tips; and most South Africans are more than happy to oblige by offloading their unwanted change. Not only that, there are numerous charities and non-governmental organisations which rely on donation boxes filled with people’s loose change.
But inflation is an evil thing: where R5 was considered a good tip for a petrol attendant or car guard 10 years ago, it’s a pretty mediocre tip nowadays. The same goes for donations to charities.
Many find it difficult to part with a R10 note when tipping people for services rendered, but a R10 coin may well be seen in a different light. A R10’s perceived ‘note value’ would quickly fade to the point where even a R10 coin is viewed as loose change.
And, if the Reserve Bank were to be particularly shrewd, it would make the new R10 coin even bulkier than its predecessor – thus adding to its inconvenience in a wallet or purse. People would thus be more inclined to get rid of it at their soonest convenience.
This could lead to the subliminal raising of our national tipping threshold which would positively impact our economy, especially across the informal sector where coins are still heavily traded. It would constitute an unofficial ‘raising of the minimum wage’, which might boost morale and ignite a much-needed wave of entrepreneurialism.
A sad consequence of a new R10 coin would be the retirement of our splendid green R10 note, which depicts Africa’s endangered white rhino. However, the new R10 coin should bear the same iconic image as the R10 note, thus continuing the rhino’s legacy as a part of our currency.
So, my message to the Reserve Bank is as follows … make 2018 the year of the new R10 coin. The potential positives outweigh the negatives a hundred-fold and there’s one thing for certain: all those millions of South Africans who rely on coins for their income will be surprisingly grateful for it.
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