PCGS Specials

HomeWorld CoinsSouth African Silver Coin Commemorates World's 1st Heart Transplant

South African Silver Coin Commemorates World’s 1st Heart Transplant

Silver Heart Transplant Coin -South African Mint

Medical Miracle Performed in Cape Town – Modern Medicine Leaps Forward

By South African Mint ……
The South African Mint has issued a silver coin that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the medical miracle that astonished the world in 1967: the world’s first heart transplant. The extraordinary surgery is celebrated on a unique pair of coins: a 2-Rand silver coin and a 2 1⁄2 cent Tickey. Together these coins allow the viewer to imagine the transplant. The small silver Tickey coin, depicting the good heart, appears on top on the larger coin depicting the poor heart.

The very complex and correct anatomical detail was designed by the South African Mint’s designer Richard Stone as well as renowned artist Carl Jeppe (a well-respected artist and lecturer of figure drawing at the Technikon School of Fine Arts in Pretoria; He was also Richard Stone’s drawing lecturer in the mid-90s). The engraver (aka die sinker) was Paul Botes of the South African Mint, who worked closely with the designers to ensure that the precise details were exactly transferred to the master tooling.

South Africa 2 1/2 Tickey South African Invention: The Heart Transplant
South Africa 2 1/2 Tickey South African Invention: The Heart Transplant

The reverse of the larger 2 Rand coin depicts in great detail the skeleton, epidermis, veins and organs of the torso area of the human body. Even the complex of veins and arteries weaving their way into and out of the heart can be seen, as well as the web of blood vessels connected into the liver. Also visible are the detailed texture of the outer wall of the heart and even the puffy pillow-like tubing of the large and small intestines. This diseased heart shows fat deposits, dying muscle and an area of blocked blood flow, as noted in the central area where the frosted and polished surface seems darker. A prominent circle indicates the position of the heart, as well as serving as the placeholder for the small Tickey and the imagined cavity of the human chest.

Also located on this side in the upper right quadrant of the coin is the anniversary date 1967.12.03 (December 3, 1967) when this highly specialized surgery was performed, the face value of 2-Rand and the words “First Heart Transplant”, superimposed over the lower half of the torso.

The reverse of the small 2-1⁄2 cent Tickey depicts, again in minute detail, a healthy heart, with the
thick healthy aorta coming out of the top of the heart, the many blood vessels, and the texture of the heart wall. The frosting of the relief of the healthy heart is lighter, whiter to indicate the much better quality of this heart. The proof finish on the mirrored background focuses attention on the perfection of the healthy heart. Also located on this side are the face value of 2 1⁄2 cents, the alloy of .925 silver combined with .75 copper, and the initials “CNB” representing the chief surgeon of this miracle – Dr. Christian Neethling Barnard.

The obverse of the 2-Rand coin bears the standard coat of arms of the Republic of South Africa and is centered on the coin, flanked on either side by the year of issue, 2017. Surrounding the coat of arms is the name of South Africa in the 11 official languages of the country, (both Ndebele and Zulu languages have the same spelling). The obverse design was developed by Arthur Sutherland in the year 2000. Mr. Sutherland was the former Master Engraver of the Mint and retired in 2002.

South African Mint R2 coin celebrating the first successful Heart Transplant.
South African Mint R2 coin celebrating the first successful Heart Transplant.

The obverse of the 2 1⁄2 cent Tickey is the standard depiction of the King Protea, South Africa’s national flower in the central field, with the country of issue, “South Africa”, struck inside the rim of the coin and positioned at the top. The year of issue “2017” appears inside the bottom rim of the lower edge of the coin. The obverse design was developed and engraved by Kruger Gray whose initials “KG” are noted to the right of the base of the stem of the Protea flower. The heritage obverse first appeared in circulation in 1922. Mr. Gray was a former engraver of the Royal Mint who passed away in 1943.

The “World’s First Heart Transplant” twinned coin is struck in sterling silver, .925 fine, available only in proof with a strictly limited mintage of just 1,700 coins of each type. The 2 Rand coin contains a full ounce, or 31.1 grams of fine silver while the 2 1⁄2 cent Tickey has 1.3 grams of fine silver. Each coin may be purchased separately or as a pair housed in an elegant hand-crafted wooden box made of walnut with a glossy piano finish varnish. Only 700 of these elegant wooden cases with the pair of coins will be made available.

The World’s First Heart Transplant silver coins are available through these fine coin dealers:

  • APMEX: Call toll-free 1 800 375 9006 or visit their website at www.apmex.com
  • GovMint: Call toll-free 1 800 642 9160 or visit their website at www.govmint.com

The Heart Transplant coins may also be purchased directly from the South African Mint (shipping charges will apply) by completing the order form found online at www.samint.co.za/order-form/ and emailing it to <[email protected]> or faxing it to +27 86 521 9772.

* * *

About Dr. Christian Barnard

Many centuries of medical research and experimentation were required first to even begin considering the successful transplant of organs. A great deal of knowledge had to be accumulated from numerous fields such as: microbiology, immunology, physiology, and surgery, to name just a few. There are so many areas and milestones of science and medicine involved in the lead-up to the successful heart transplant that it is not possible to recognize the many individuals here nor all the fields of specialized research involved in an organ transplant. The complexity of the heart and the thorough understanding of all its functions had to be clear.

From the turn of the 20th century onwards the curiosity of the medical scientists from around the world began focusing on such fields as keeping an organ alive outside of its parent, the relationships between donors and host, and the action or reactions of the antigens found with respect to the blood of each. Even understanding the “cooling” of a heart (which was only discovered in the early 1960s) and therefore stopping the blood flowing through the organ were all instrumental to the transplant. It is hard to comprehend just how complex the transplant procedure was. Even to this day, a heart transplant is an extraordinary procedure, yet one that is done seemingly “routinely”.

Dr. Christian H. Barnard had been named the head of experimental surgery of the medical school associated with the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, in 1958. He was well-qualified with training at cardiothoracic surgery training at the University of Minnesota, earning his MSc and Ph.D. He continued his education and practiced his techniques with the generous support of the governments of the province of the Western Cape, and the city of Cape Town as well as additional private funding. Barnard was a highly skilled, hard-working, and driven surgeon, who was confident in his technical abilities to do just about anything. He is credited with the introduction of open-heart surgery at the University of Cape Town and he pioneered the techniques for the replacement of badly diseased heart valves, which became the standard techniques used by surgeons around the world.

The Groote Schuur Hospital was well respected for the excellent quality of care given to all in need, regardless of pocketbook or color. The research labs of the medical school were of the highest quality possible and there was the excellent financial support of all involved at both the hospital and medical school to be at the leading edge of their respective fields. All of this came together to create a conducive environment for the first human heart transplant in the world to be undertaken in Cape Town.

The first human heart transplant was performed by the cardiothoracic team of 30 gifted surgeons led by Dr. C. Barnard, who had already been working together on organ transplants for some 10 years. The surgery began around 1 am and was completed when the 25-year-old female donor heart was electrically shocked into action some six hours later in the 53-year-old male recipient’s body. The recipient was Louis Washkansky who lived for 18 days, at which time he succumbed to pneumonia because of his weakened immune system.

Dr. Barnard performed a second human-to-human heart transplant on January 2, 1968. The recipient was Dr. Philip Blaaberg, who lived for 20 months. The triumph and success of these surgeries turned Dr. Barnard into a lecturer traveling and teaching around the globe. He received numerous honorary degrees and awards, but not the Noble Prize, an award that he had been nominated for. Soon after the second successful human heart transplant the well-respected surgeon Barnard made it known that his hands were becoming crippled by arthritis. He died while on holiday in Greece due to a severe asthma attack in September of 2001, just shy of his 80th birthday.

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stacks Bowers Auction

L and C COIN Shop Now

Blanchard and Company Gold and Precious Metals