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20 shillings / shilingi
Tanzania 20 shillings 1992
1992 coin
General information

Flag of Tanzania Tanzania


20.00 shillings



Measurements and composition
  • 16 g (1981)
  • 28 g (1986)
  • 13 g (1990-1992)
  • 34 mm (1981)
  • 38.5 mm (1986)
  • 32 mm (1990-1991)
  • 31 mm (1992)

2 mm (1990-1992)

  • cupronickel (1981-1986)
  • silver (1981-1986)
  • nickel-plated steel (1990-1992)


  • reeded (1981)
  • plain (1990-1992)
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The 20 shilling/shilingi coin is a circulation and commemorative piece of the United Republic of Tanzania that was issued in five types from 1981 to 1992. The first two coins were minted in 1981 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tanganyika's independence. These were followed in 1986 by another two pieces commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Bank of Tanzania. A general circulation piece was then introduced in 1990, and continued to be struck until its discontinuation in 1992.

The coins were distributed by the Bank of Tanzania and produced under contract at foreign mints: the commemoratives at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, and the general circulation piece at the Royal Canadian Mint.

All five types are legal tender in their country of origin, each holding a face value equivalent to 20.00 Tanzanian shillings. Of these, only one of the 1981 types and the general circulation piece ever circulated in large quantities. However, due to their low purchasing power, they are now rarely used. The other three types, as collectors' items, were never intended for circulation, and thus do not circulate very frequently, if at all.


Independence coins (1981)[]

Tanzania 20 shillings 1981

1981 commemorative coin (cupronickel)

In 1890, after signing the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty with Germany, the United Kingdom declared a protectorate over the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now the Zanzibar semi-autonomous region of Tanzania). The United Kingdom then officially acquired Tanganyika (now mainland Tanzania) from Germany with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles in 1918. With pressure from the United Nations and African nationalists, Tanganyika became independent from the United Kingdom on December 9, 1961, and was followed by Zanzibar on December 10, 1963. Both countries united on April 26, 1964, to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was renamed to the current United Republic of Tanzania on October 29 of the same year.

In 1981, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the independence of Tanganyika, the Bank of Tanzania commissioned the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, to strike a series of commemorative coins in denominations of 20; 200; and 2,000 shillings.

Two metal varieties of the 20 shilling piece were struck: one in cupronickel and another in sterling (.925) silver. Both types measure 16 grams in mass and 34 millimeters in diameter. They have medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a reeded edge, and like most coins, are round in shape.

Both types are identical in design. A bust of Julius Nyerere (1922–1999), the President of Tanzania from 1964 to 1985, is engraved in the center of the obverse. Designed by British sculptor Philip Nathan (1941–), the illustration shows an older Nyerere wearing a collared shirt and facing ¼ left. It is surrounded by a solid circular boundary. Having worked as a secondary school teacher before becoming involved in politics, Nyerere was known by the Swahili honorific Mwalimu, meaning "teacher", for much of his life. This is reflected on the piece, which includes the caption "MWALIMU JULIUS K. NYERERE" at the top iof the obverse. This text, which extends clockwise from the coin's upper left to center right peripheries, is accompanied by the legend "RAIS WA KWANZA WA TANZANIA". Swahili for "first President of Tanzania", this legend is engraved in the opposite direction as Nyerere's name, traveling from the piece's center left to center right rims. The two texts are separated at both sides of the obverse by four grouped squares (▪▪

Displayed in the middle of the reverse is the coat of arms of Tanzania – which consists of a warrior's shield containing a burning torch, the Tanzanian flag, a spear, a crossed axe and hoe, and six wavy lines. The shield stands on a representation of Mount Kilimanjaro, and is supported by a Tanzanian man and woman holding elephant tusks. A clove bush is displayed below the feet of the man and a cotton bush under the feet of the woman. Featured below, at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, is a scroll bearing the national motto "UHURU NA UMOJA", meaning "Freedom and Unity". Printed under the arms on the coin is a large numeral "20" representing the piece's face value. It is accompanied by the Swahili text "SHILINGI ISHIRINI" (English: "twenty shillings/shilingi"), which travels counterclockwise along the coin's lower left to right rims. The remainder of the piece's boundary is occupied by the legend "MIAKA ISHIRINI YA UHURU, which translates as "twenty years of independence", followed by the dates "1961-1981". Such text, written in a clockwise direction from the lower left to lower right rims, is separated from the "SHILINGI ISHIRINI" by two groups of four squares (▪▪

A total of 997,000 cupronickel and 20,000 silver coins were produced. The cupronickel pieces were originally struck in an uncirculated grade, although many examples now show signs of circulation. Silver coins were exclusively made with a proof finish and sold to collectors with a certificate of authenticity and a box for storage.

Bank of Tanzania coins (1986)[]

On December 23, 1965, the National Assembly of Tanzania passed the Bank of Tanzania Act, which called for the establishment of a Tanzanian central bank. It was then submitted to President Nyerere, who signed the legislation on January 6 of the following year. The Bank of Tanzania then came into operation a few months later, on June 14, 1966.

In 1986 the Bank of Tanzania celebrated its 20th anniversary. For the occasion, the bank commissioned the Royal Mint to strike a collectors' 20 shilling coin in two metals: cupronickel and sterling silver. With a mass of 28 grams and a diameter of 38.5 millimeters, both are approximately the size of a crown. They have medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a reeded edge, and are round in shape.

The 1986 commemoratives are the first Tanzanian coins to feature a portrait of Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1925–; i.o. 1985–1995), Nyerere's successor as President. The likeness, which shows the Tanzanian leader facing right and wearing a collared shirt, is engraved in the center of the obverse. It would eventually be used on various Tanzanian coins issued during Mwinyi's administration. Printed in a clockwise direction above, extending from the coin's lower left to lower right rims, is the Swahili name of the Bank of Tanzania, "BENKI KUU YA TANZANIA". It is accompanied by the dates "1966-1986", which are printed in the opposite direction along the bottom rim, and separated from the bank's name by two small circular points.

Displayed in the middle of the reverse is the logo of the Bank of Tanzania – which consists of a burning torch and a curved "BANK OF TANZANIA" encircled by a stylized wreath. Inscribed above, traveling clockwise from the coin's left to right peripheries, is the face value "SHILINGI ISHIRINI". Another indication of the value, a large numeral "20", also appears on the reverse, written horizontally at the bottom of the coin, below the logo.

The mintage of the cupronickel piece is currently unknown. Examples were originally minted in a Brilliant Uncirculated grade, and sold in packages for collectors. Approximately 5,000 silver coins were struck, all with a proof finish. These were initially distributed in boxes with a certificate of authenticity.

General circulation coins (1990–1992)[]

Tanzania 20 shillings 1990 vs

1990 (left) and 1992 (right) 20 shilling coins

The change in leadership in Tanzania in 1985, along with the devaluation of the shilling, prompted the Bank of Tanzania to introduce a new series of Tanzanian coins consisting of pieces denominated at 50 senti and 1, 5, and 10 shillings during the late 1980s. These were eventually followed in order by 20 (1990), 100 (1993), 50 (1996), 200 (1998), and 500 (2014) shilling pieces. Under contract with the Bank of Tanzania, the 20 shilling coin of the series was struck from 1990 to 1992 at the Royal Canadian Mint.

The piece is composed of nickel-plated steel and has a mass of approximately 13 grams and a thickness of 2 millimeters. Examples from 1990 and 1991 measure 32 millimeters in diameter, compared to the slightly smaller 31 millimeters for 1992 coins. All pieces have medallic alignment; raised, undecorated rims; and a plain edge, and are heptagonal (7-sided) in shape.

The right-facing portrait of President Mwinyi appearing on the 1986 commemorative 20 shilling coins is engraved in the center of the circulation pieces' obverse, flanked to the left and right by flowers located near the rim. Printed clockwise along the periphery above is the state title "TANZANIA", and written counterclockwise at the rim below is the Gregorian date of minting in Western Arabic numerals.

The design of the reverse is similar to that of the commemorative Tanzanian 100 shilling coin from 1986. Featured in the middle is an illustration of two African elephants (Loxodonta africana), a mother and her calf, walking toward the right. The face value "SHILINGI ISHIRINI" is engraved along the periphery above, extending clockwise from the lower left to lower left rims. A large "20" is also included below the depiction of the elephants, at the bottom of the piece, and is separated from the "SHILINGI ISHIRINI" by two circular points.

The total mintage of the general circulation 20 shilling coin is currently unknown. Only business strikes are reported to have been produced.


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