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South African Advertising Token Sets of the 1960s & 1970s

Pierre H. Nortje (February 2024)



Advertising tokens related to South Africa are nothing new. Even in Victorian times, brass “Pond” tokens featuring President Paul Kruger were issued to advertise merchandise like Pearl beer and Diavolo cigars.


However, this short paper aims to look at advertising tokens issued as collectable sets, designed to entice children to encourage their parents to shop at the companies that issued them. Sometimes a cardboard holder or plastic-sheet album was made available for displaying the tokens, with the aim of completing one’s collection as soon as possible. Strictly speaking, many of these issues would probably not be considered “tokens” as such, as advertising collectables came in many forms including cards issued in cigarette and tea boxes.


In this paper, we will use the term “token” rather widely, but items like collectable cards, bottle cap liners and tin badges are not included


Many of our younger generation will remember the so-called Tazos that were available in the potato chip packets from the late 1990s onwards. Almost a decade earlier, Shoprite Checkers issued a series depicting 18 South African cricketers of that time. Token experts would probably not regard the first mentioned as tokens while the latter are included in both MTB South African Tokens (2021) and Hern’s Handbook on Southern African Tokens (2009).


In this article, we will look at a few of the sets that were issued in the 1960s and 1970s. Most were produced by oil companies and distributed at their garages.


Shell: Man in Flight / Lugpioniers 

According to Numista, in 1969, Shell Oil launched the 'Man in Flight' promotion in several countries outside the United States. When customers filled their tanks at participating Shell garages, they received a packet containing a Man in Flight coin (token). These coins were part of a collectible set but it was not a game and there were no prizes offered. Shell issued mounting boards for the coins which were designed to inspire their customers to return repeatedly to try to complete the set.


The coin sets commemorated man's achievements with flight throughout history. Some countries received sets with 20 coins, while other countries received sets with only 16 coins. The 16-coin sets simply had four of the coins intentionally omitted. The coins were struck in both bronze and aluminium and were produced in both round versions and 12-sided versions. This created quite a few varieties. Millions of each variety were produced and they are all fairly easy to find today.


The South African version is easily recognizable with the bilingual title Man in Flight / Lugpioniers.  The Dutch issue, titled Ruimte-avontuur (Space Adventure) due to its language similarity with Afrikaans, should not be confused with our local set.


Evert Bez from Kwa-Zulu Natal, remembers them well from his schooldays. He writes on his website ( “I have a soft spot for these as I can remember trying to convince my old man to actually "not" go to his "Caltex" and rather use Shell... we mostly failed but with time I did get a few ... and of course being given out at fill ups with no idea what you will get, duplicates was in the order of the day and often not the thing you wanted!”


Mobil: Coat of Arms Collection / Versameling van Staatswapens


According to Chapter 1 Books, the issuance date is uncertain but almost certainly pre-1973 as the arms for Greece are those of the Kingdom of Greece (abolished in 1973), and those of Spain represents the Republic (transposed to monarchy on the death of Franco in 1975). 


The cardboard holder reads “There are twenty magnificent medallions to collect, each in its own sealed envelope. One free medallion will be given to you every time Dad drives into a participating Mobil station …”


Of interest is the following “We would have liked to include the present-day Coat of Arms of the Republic of South Africa; however its usage other than for official purposes is not possible. In its place, we have used a historic design of a Coat of Arms proposed for the ‘Principality of South Africa’, circa 1827. This was the first time a common symbol for ‘South Africa’ was ever proposed. It was never, in fact, used as a Coat of Arms”.


It seems that this issue was not very successful and is probably scarce today. However, the few we have seen offered on the internet did not command high prices.

Source: Bobshop

BP (British Petroleum): Treasure Trove / Skatkis


The five replica coins (Rixdollar 1696, ½ Ducaton 1656, 8 Reales / Piece of Eight 1620, Japanese Koban and Veld Pond 1902) are catalogued by both Brian Hern and Dr. Morgan Carroll.

Source: Numista

Less known is that the set also included other “treasure” items, e.g. a “gold” bar, money bag, cannon, etc., whose stories are described in an accompanying 15-page booklet of which two pages are shown below. We believe the full set to be scarce, if not rare.


BP (British Petroleum): Modern South African Sporting Greats


Issued in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The tokens are octagonal shaped and struck in aluminium. They were issued with a collector’s cardboard holder with associated biography for each sporting great. The sixteen sports stars depicted are Alan Parsons, Barry Richards, Bob Hewitt, Bruce Dalling, Cynthia de Villiers, Dawie de Villiers, Eddie Barlow, Cynthia Vincent, Frik du Preez, Gonda Butters, Graeme Pollock, Lee McGregor, Ronnie Mann, Sally Little, Snowy Walker and Gary Player. Many of our readers will recognize some of these names, especially sporting greats like Frik du Preez (rugby) Graeme Pollock (cricket) and Gary Player (golf).

Sources: Numista and

Shell: The supershell international jet set / Die supershell internasionale stralerstel


The plastic tokens were issued by Shell garages in the 1970s. There were twenty in the collection and the author, who collected them, remembers clearly that for some reason, the UTA French Airlines issue was the scarcest. The others were S.A.A., Alitalia, Sabena, B.E.A., B.O.A.C., Lufthansa, Air Canada, El Al, Iberia, K.L.M., S.A.S., Olympic, T.A.P., T.W.A., J.A.L., Pan Am, Swissair, Qantas and Varig.

Source: Bobshop

Van Riebeeck Coffee: Coin Replicas


According to Dr. Morgan Carroll’s MTB South Africa Tokens (2021:484), the full set comprises twelve replica coins that circulated at the Cape of Good Hope before British coins became the official medium of exchange in 1826. The tokens were placed in paper packets and inserted in tins of Van Riebeeck Coffee in 1972. The reverse of each is marked "Van Riebeeck Replika". (Some internet sources erroneously state that the tokens were issued in conjunction with the 1952 Jan van Riebeeck tercentenary festival in Cape Town).

Sources: Pinterest and Bobshop

Brian Hern in his token catalogue (2009:460) mentions that the originals of the 12 replicas were from the Jimmy Lawrence collection. He lists them as follows:

The picture below left shows all the “coins” with the coin in the top right (called a “Bit”) apparently being the scarcest in the series according to both Hern and Carroll. This was probably due to its small size resulting in it being easily lost by children playing with it. On a lighter note – this was probably the first Bit-Coin!

Sources: Left, Professor Michael Laidlaw. Right,

The picture on the right shows the collection in a custom-made display holder – it is not clear if these could be ordered from the Van Riebeeck Coffee Company.


There were probably more of these types of advertising token sets issued in South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s that we are unaware of, and would like to encourage readers who may have information in this regard, to share it with us.


Many of these tokens are regularly offered for inexpensive prices on the internet and are thus very collectable and affordable for both young and old. However, we believe that in some cases, the display holders themselves may be a challenge to acquire, especially in good condition.  

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