Third South African reptile, the Puff Adder, joins the Crocodile and Chameleon in gold tenth-ounce coin series

In all likelihood the most common and widely found snake in Africa, the Puff Adder (Bitis Arientans) is responsible for more snakebite deaths than any other African snake. A mixture of copious amounts of a very potent cytotoxic venom and a bad attitude have given the Puff Adder a reputation as a snake to avoid. Growing to around a metre in length, although specimens have been reported at almost double that, it’s found in all habitats except for true deserts, rain forests, and (tropical) alpine areas.

Quite a lazy and sluggish snake that relies heavily on camouflage, it can move and strike with surprising speed when necessary. Striking with great force, they can actually kill prey (mammals, birds, amphibians, and lizards) by impact and bite alone, although the venom will certainly finish it off. They’re good swimmers and climbers, even doing well in captivity, although they have a reputation for keeping the bad temper.  Giving birth to live young, litters of 80 or more are not uncommon and sometimes far higher.

The coin series from the South African Mint is now in its third year, with earlier coins depicting the awesome Nile Crocodile and the incredible Chameleon. The Puff Adder on this years coin is a fine depiction that fills the coin well without compromising too much on anatomical accuracy. It’s perhaps lacking a strong focal point and there are too many inscriptions (composition round the back please..), but it does a great job of showing the snake well on a coin this small. Struck to a proof finish in just a tenth of an ounce of four-nines gold, it’s a good compromise.

The obverse carries the date and the South African coat-of-arms. There are a couple of clean spaces that could have held the composition and keep the reverse a little less cluttered, but it’s a good traditional look. Only 500 of these coins will be available and they can be quite tricky to track down. Our US readers should be able to get one soon from APMEX who have it listed without price right now. They have the superb previous coin for $265, so we would expect the new one to hover around that mark. A nice addition for a mint with a history of fine nature coins.



The theme ‘South African Reptiles’ began in 2015 on the R1 (1/10 oz) pure gold coin featuring the Nile crocodile, followed by the Cape dwarf chameleon in 2016. The puff adder (Bitis arietans) is featured on the 2017 coin and represents the snakes within this series.

The puff adder is the most common and widespread snake on the African continent. Its colour pattern varies geographically, ranging from yellow through to red-brown, overlaid with a pattern of dark brown to black chevron or u-shaped bands. This colouration and pattern serves as camouflage for both hunting and defence purposes. The snake rarely hunts actively but is known for being extremely aggressive when disturbed; its name is resultant of the snake’s habit of inflating itself and loudly hissing as a warning when disturbed.

After striking its prey, with arguably the fastest strike of 0.25 of a second, it releases its prey as venom is injected and later track the prey through smell.

REVERSE: On the R1 coin the puff adder is shown sniffing the air with its tongue. The denomination of ‘R1’ and the metal value of ‘1/10 oz Au 999.9’, together with its name, is shown.

OBVERSE: The South African coat of arms and the year 2017 is presented on the obverse.


COMPOSITION 0.9999 gold
WEIGHT 3.11 grams
DIAMETER 16.5 mm
BOX / COA Yes / Yes