Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society

Coin Collecting in Africa
By Brandon Frei, WINS#868

My work has allowed me the opportunity to travel to Africa to train with the Defense Forces of Zambia and Namibia. I would like to remark on just how welcoming and kind the African cultures are. Down there, I was treated as family and even given an honorary Zambian name of Mulenga, meaning Craftsman or Creator. Naturally, I took advantage of being down in Africa to increase my world coin collection. Most of my adventures happened in Zambia so I will focus on my experiences in that region.

At a few day conference, I had the pleasure of meeting a Lieutenant Colonel from Angola. Angola was originally invaded by the Portuguese and so one of their native languages is Portuguese. The gentleman was very nice, but there was one big issue: he didn't speak any English and they didn't have any interpreters on site. Luckily, I speak Spanish and those two languages are similar enough that I could translate someone's comments into Spanish, speaking slowly, and he would respond in slow Portuguese. It would take me a second to process what he was saying in Spanish and then translate it to English for whoever he wanted to speak to. It worked out well enough and it prevented a potential incident where he would've been excluded due to language barrier. At one point in our conversation over the few days, I took the opportunity to tell him I collected coins and asked if he had any from Angola I could get. That is how I picked up my first and only coin from Angola: KM109, 2015 5 Kwanzas.

Angola 5 Kwanzas

Bag of Zambian Coins

Upon completion of the actual training exercise, we had the opportunity to explore the city. I went to a local grocery store and gave them almost $50 and asked for bags/rolls of change in Kwacha. They handed me plastic/Ziploc bags of each of their denominations and I put them into my bag. I then went to what is called the Cultural Village where I had the opportunity to purchase items made by hand from local Zambians. I also took some of my change and traded it for older Zambian coins as well as some coins from other African countries.

This last purchase actually became a bigger issue than expected at the end of the trip. When I left the country, their customs stopped me on the way to the airplane because of a large number of coins in my bag. I always hand carry what I'm bringing back so nothing gets "lost" in transit. The lady in charge of the customs area told me that I was robbing their country of their coins. Half of what I had were out of circulation and the other half was probably 100-200 coins. I wasn't about to lose all those shiny and rusty coins so I began to plead my case. The first thing I did was explain to the lady that I had purchased them from the market and had paid for all of them. She asked me for a receipt for my coins, to which I laughed and asked her how many times she's been given a receipt buying things off local vendors (shops give receipts, but street vendors don't).

Zambian Coins

Zambian Cultural Village

She then told me to pick one of each and she was going to confiscate the rest. It sounded as if she was telling me she wasn't going to compensate me for what she was taking. Fortunately, my boss chimed in and explained that we had traveled with 10 other people (effectively increasing the number of coins I'm allowed to take from the country) and that we had been coming in and out of the country for work. Eventually, they relented, and after a few snarky comments from the customs folks, I was let to go on my merry way. I respect why they stopped me and I was grateful that they allowed me to take the coins I had with me when I did.

I had some amazing experiences in Africa and brought back a few shiny coins to share with others.

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