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Silver marks first heart transplant

On Dec. 3, 1967, Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant. The operation took place at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The recipient was 54-year-old Louis Washkansky. The donor was a 25-year-old female.

Obverses and reverses of the silver 2 rand and tickey marking the 50th anniversary of the first human-to-human heart transplant. (Images courtesy & © The South African Mint)

To mark the 50th anniversary of this historic achievement the South African Mint has issued a pair of .925 fine silver coins: a 38.72 mm, 31.1 g (1 oz) 2 rand and a 16.30 mm, 1.3 g tickey (2½ cents). The highly anatomical reverse designs are the combined work of designer Richard Stone and artist Carl Jeppe. The master dies were engraved by Paul Botes.

Together the coins’ reverses depict the transplant. The small tickey illustrates the good heart. This coin can be placed over the place holder marked on the larger coin that shows the defective heart in its body. The 2 rand gives the date of the operation while the tickey displays the “CNB” initials of Barnard.

The obverse of the 2 rand is the work of Arthur Sutherland former Master Engraver of the South African Mint. That on the tickey is one for numismatic historians. It is the work of Kruger Gray whose initials occur at the base of the stem of the King Protea flower.

It took a team of 30 surgeons six hours to complete that first human heart transplant. Regrettably Washkansky lived for but 18 days. He succumbed to the pneumonia that had weakened his immune system.

The world’s second human-to-human heart transplant was performed by Barnard’s team a month later on Jan. 2, 1968. The recipient Philip Blaaberg lived for 20 months.

Soon after this second transplant Barnard let it be known that his hands were becoming crippled by arthritis. He died while in Greece in September of 2001 just shy of his 80th birthday.

If your favorite coin dealer is unable to supply either coin, they can be purchased directly from the South African Mint. Either complete the online order form at: http://www.samint.co.za/order-form/ or email numismatics@samint.co.za.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.


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