4 July 2023

In today's fast-changing world, financial literacy has become an essential skill for people to understand the complexities of the economy and make informed decisions regarding money and the management thereof. Understanding the importance of money in society, the Absa Money Museum aims to drive a historical experience about how the world of money unfolded in South Africa.

From salt and seashells to metal and animals, money has taken some fascinating forms over the course of history. The Absa Money Museum is a unique museum and is the home of the most complete collection of South African numismatics – documenting the history and journey of money and banking in South Africa. Situated in Johannesburg, the Absa Money Museum was established in 1989 and stands as a testament to South Africa's financial heritage. It houses an extensive collection of coins, banknotes and artifacts that span centuries, narrating the story of money's evolution in the country. In addition to possessing one of the most complete numismatic and coin collections, the Absa Money Museum narrates the story of Absa and its forerunners through the ages. The Absa Money Museum takes visitors on a captivating exploration, showcasing the evolution of currency, banking systems, and the influence of money on society.

Visiting a city such as Johannesburg for the first time can be overwhelming, yet exciting, as it has so much one needs to explore due to its rich culture and history. The Absa Money Museum is a one-in-a-million tourist attraction that will take you on a journey back in time before stock markets even existed, providing an overview of monetary currencies and how these have strengthened with time. You’ll discover the story behind all the ancient relics, including cowrie shells and Venetian glass beads, and the development of money. The Absa Money Museum provides the visitor with an opportunity to explore the history of money dating back 4 500 years to when bartering and trade still existed. The Absa Money Museum is home to coins from all over the world, including Kruger rands, one of the most popular investment coins globally.

The Absa Money Museum is also an educational monument, as school tours have had an uptake recently, considering the fact that this slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic. An outing to the Absa Money Museum provides students with an in-depth look at how economic, political and social change has impacted South Africa’s currency as a country, an experience best labelled as "edutainment", as it is an educational and entertaining experience, considering the fact that it’s the only museum of its kind in South Africa.

Dr Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist: Art and Museum Curator at Absa explains, “The Absa Museum aims to foster an appreciation for the importance of money and its role in society. By showcasing historical currency, we create a tangible connection between the past and the present, allowing visitors, especially young people, to grasp the significance of responsible financial management.”

But it goes beyond preserving artifacts, actively engaging visitors in a journey of learning and self-discovery. This, says Bayliss, is critical, “We believe that financial education is crucial for building a prosperous future. Our exhibits are designed to simplify financial concepts in an engaging manner, encouraging both younger and older individuals to explore.”

The Absa Museum's displays offer a range of experiences that cater to various age groups and levels of understanding. Dr Bayliss affirms, “We want visitors to feel empowered and inspired when making financial decisions. By combining historical context with practical knowledge, we hope to equip them with the necessary skills to make informed choices.”

Inside are examples of some of the most famous coins in the world: South African Kruger rands, made of pure gold. The coins bear the image of the long-bearded face of Paul Kruger, President of the South African Republic in the late 1800s. An interesting fact and advantage about the Kruger rand is that it allows any individual to own a piece of gold and from an investment perspective, it allows you to invest in actual gold.

South African culture and history should be celebrated often and a museum such as this one shouldn’t be looked at with a blind eye, but an eye that poses knowledge, diversity, history, heritage and education for generations to come. A perfect place that not only tells a story but leaves you with a new perspective on the value of money and how it’s shaped our world. This goes to show that as ancient or old something may seem, the preservation of memory will always remind us of where we come from, which helps us to look forward to the future as well.