The South African Mint is not allowing the hype over the 50th anniversary of the Krugerrand to distract them from their other commemorative coin issues.As fortune would have it 2017 marks another 50th anniversary event that took place in South Africa in 1967, namely the 1st successful human heart transplant. In 2017 the South African Mint is dedicating the second issue in the South African Inventions series to this event.
The world's first successful human heart transplant was performed over the course of a nine hour operation on the 3rd of December 1967. A team of thirty surgeons and nurses were lead by Dr Christiaan Neethling Barnard at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The heart donor was the 25 year old Miss Denise Ann Darval who was the victim of a drunk driver, while the recipient was the 53 year old Mr Louis Washkansky.Although Mr Washkansky died only 18 days later as a result of a severe pneumonia infection, the heart transplant itself was a success. The South African Mint is releasing two silver proof coins to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first successful heart transplant, as a part of their annual Crown and Tickey sets. The first coin is the crown sized silver two Rand(R2) coin. The reverse depicts an almost x-ray like image of a human torso with the realistic skeletal structure, circulatory system and internal organs visible. The area over the heart is highlighted with a slightly recessed circle(more on that a bit later on). Next to the heart is the date “1967 12.03” indicating the date that the transplant was completed. To the bottom of the coin, are the words “FIRST HEART TRANSPLANT”. The denomination of “R2” appears just above and “1oz Ag 925 Cu 75” just below, along the rim. The obverse depicts the South African National coat of arms and the date of “2017” at it's centre. The words “South Africa” is arranged in a pentagonal shape around the coat of arms, written in ten of South Africa's official languages. This obverse design is shared by both coins. The second coin is the much smaller 2 ½ cent or 'tickey' coin. This coin has a relatively simple reverse design that features clean fields with only a finely detailed disembodied human heart. To the right are the inscriptions “Ag925 Cu75”, “CNB” for Dr Chris N Barnard and the denomination of “2 ½ c”. The facinating detail about these coins is that the recessed circle on the crown coin perfectly nestles the smaller tickey coin. Allowing, effectively, for a miniature coin heart transplant to be performed.
The coins are both struck from sterling(.925 Fineness) silver to a proof finish. The crown coin measures 38.7mm(1.52 inch) while the tickey coin measures 16.3mm(0.6417 inch). With a limited mintage of 1000 coins the silver R2 Crown coin is being released by the Mint at ZAR995.00(US$75), with the 2 1/2c coin costing ZAR350.00(US$26) each upon release.The coins are shipped in the standard blue South African Mint clamshell design presentation box along with a numbered certificate of authenticity. Furthermore there is also a special prestige set available that contains both the above described coins, housed in a luxurious wooden display case the set also includes a miniature silver heart with an antique finish. The tiny silver heart can be opened to view the inner chambers of the heart. This special set is being sold by the mint for ZAR3800.00(US$285) each. This is a very innovative design that will take pride of place in any modern coin collection.