The use of South African coins in the region dates from the time when the first European settlers landed on its shores in 1652. A Dutch explorer called Jan van Riebeeck, established a trading station on behalf of the Dutch East India Company at what would be later known as Cape Town. The most common coinage in use at that time was the Dutch guilder, although additional currencies like the Spanish real, Indian rupee, Japanese koban, English guinea, Portuguese joannes, and Russian rouble were also used for trade.
The crumbling of the Dutch power in 1795 brought Great Britain in control over the region with Cape Town as a British colony in 1806. Now the coins of South Africa included the currency of the British, although a shortfall in change meant that various foreign currencies were allowed to circulate. In 1826, this changed and sterling coinage became the sole legal tender. Rare coins of South Africa along with valuable South African coins mostly belong to the early series. South Africa's first native currency was created about 50 years later.
After the founding of the South African Republic (ZAR) and the Orange Free State, the government decided to produce its own coins for the first time. Old South African coins were now less in use. In 1874, President Thomas Francois Burgers sent 300 ounces of gold to London and had 837 gold coins struck bearing his image. A mint was established at Pretoria to legitimize their existence from 1892 to 1902. The Republic's coinage depicted the portrait of President Paul Kruger and was based on the British sterling system.
In 1910, the British won the Anglo-Boer Was and the Union of South Africa was created. Although independence was won from Britain in 1931, old South African coins continued to be used. It was only in 1961 when the country became republic, that a new currency was introduced. Rand replaced South African pound as legal tender in 1961 and was named after Witwatersrand, a range of hills famous for being the source of 40% of the world's gold.