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Zaire zaire 1987
1987 coin
General information

Flag of Zaire Zaire
Flag of Congo-Kinshasa (1966-1971) Democratic Republic of the Congo


1.00 zaire



Measurements and composition
  • 32 g (1970 gold)
  • 5 g (1987)
  • 37 mm (1970)
  • 21 mm (1987)

1.89 mm (1987)

  • gold-plated brass (1970)
  • gold (1970)
  • brass (1987)
  • see text for essais


  • coin
  • medallic (some 1987 specimens)
  • reeded (1970)
  • plain (1987)
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The 1 zaire coin is a former coin of the first Democratic Republic of the Congo and its successor, the Republic of Zaire. The first piece of the denomination was struck in 1970, during the short existence of the original Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was issued in two metals in commemoration of the presidency of Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (1930–1997), which began five years earlier in 1965. In addition, at least five unissued essais with the same designs were also produced the same year. In 1987, nearly 16 years after the establishment of Zaire, the first circulation 1 zaire coin was issued. An unissued pattern of the 1987 type was also reportedly struck.

The commemorative and circulation pieces were distributed by the Bank of Zaire and produced at foreign mints. They initially carried a legal tender face value of 1.00 zaire before being demonetized after the introduction of the second zaire in 1993. As non-circulating legal tender, the commemoratives did not see much (if any) general circulation.


Mobutu commemorative coins (1970)[]

In opposition to Belgian rule of the Congo, in 1959 thousands of Congolese people rioted in the cities of Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) and Stanleyville (now Kisangani), calling for national sovereignty. As a result, in 1960 Belgium granted independence to its Congolese territory, which was then renamed to the Republic of the Congo, and then to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1964. Cold War politics greatly influenced the first five years of the country's independence, and ultimately resulted in the seizure of power by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, a Western backed anti-communist, in 1965. In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Mobutu's presidency in 1970, the Bank of Zaire issued a commemorative series of coins denominated at 10 sengi, 25 and 50 makuta, and 1 zaire.

The 1 zaire piece was issued in two metals: gold-plated brass and .900 fine gold. In addition, unissued essais were also minted in gold, pewter, and silver. Of the silver essais, two varieties of piedfort exist – one at 2.4 millimeters in thickness and another at 4.7 millimeters – as well as a smaller, normal sized coin. Gold pieces weigh approximately 32 grams, and pewter essais measure 14.36 grams. The larger silver piedforts have a mass of 39.79 grams. Regardless of composition, all pieces measure 37 millimeters in diameter, have coin alignment and a reeded edge, and are round in shape. The rims of both sides of the coins are raised and decorated with a beaded border.

A ¾ right-facing bust of President Mobutu appears in the center of the obverse. The illustration shows the African leader wearing his signature glasses and a suit and tie adorned with various military decorations. Accompanying Mobutu's likeness is the French legend "PRÉSIDENT JOSEPH-DÉSIRÉ MOBUTU" (English: "President Joseph-Désiré Mobutu"), which extends in a clockwise direction from the coin's lower left to lower right peripheries. The Gregorian date of minting, "1970", appears horizontally below the image of Mobutu, at the bottom of the piece. Featured in the middle of the reverse is what in 1971 would become the coat of arms of Zaire – which consists of the head of a leopard between two crossing spears, a branch, and an elephant tusk, and above a scroll bearing the national motto "JUSTICE PAIX TRAVAIL" (English: "Justice, Peace, Work"). The state title of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in French, "RÉPUBLIQUE DÉMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO", is written along the coin's rim, extending clockwise from the lower left to lower right peripheries of the reverse. Printed horizontally below the arms is the face value, which reads "1 ZAÏRE", or on pewter essais, "1 ZAÏRES". The field underneath the value is unoccupied on issued coins, but on essais a small "ESSAI" mark is inscribed horizontally near the rim in small print.

An unknown number of gold-plated brass coins were produced, but all were reportedly made with a proof finish. According to the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2,000 gold coins were issued, including 1,000 Brilliant Uncirculated examples and 1,000 proofs, respectively as part of exclusive mint and proof sets. Approximately 10 examples of the gold essai and each silver piedfort essai were reportedly struck. The mintages of the pewter and normal sized silver essais are unknown.

Circulation coin (1987)[]

In his campaign of authenticité, Mobutu renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Republic of Zaire in 1971, and adopted the Africanized name Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (or Mobutu Sese Seko for short) in 1972. The change of the country's name was eventually reflected on Zaire's currency, which ceased to use the word "Congo" in 1971. As a result of high inflation rates in Zaire, the low valued 5, 10, and 20 likuta coins that originally circulated in the country were eventually discontinued, and in 1987 a series of higher denominated 1 and 5 zaire pieces was introduced, bearing the designs of Belgian artist Roger Duterme (1919–1997). These were later joined by a similar 10 zaire coin, also designed by Duterme, in 1988. Hyperinflation over the next few years, however, resulted in the withdrawal of these coins as well.

In addition to the circulated 1 zaire coins, a handful of specimens were also produced. The 1 zaire coin of 1987 is composed of brass, weighs 5 grams, and measures 21 millimeters in diameter and 1.89 millimeters in thickness. It has a plain edge and is round in shape. All circulated examples have coin alignment, but specimens can have either coin or medallic alignment. The rims of both sides of the coin are raised and undecorated.

Displayed in the middle of the obverse is a facing likeness of President Mobutu wearing an abacost and his iconic thick-framed glasses and leopard-skin toque. The coin's face value is written in a clockwise direction along the upper rim of the piece, reading "UN ZAIRE" ("One zaire") without the diaeresis on the "I". It is accompanied by the Gregorian date of minting, "1987", which is printed in the opposite direction at the bottom of the piece. A large "1Z", abbreviated for 1 Zaire, appears inside of a solid circular border in the center of the reverse. The French title of the Bank of Zaire, "BANQUE DU ZAIRE", appears outside of the circular boundary, inscribed along the boundary of the piece. As in the value on the obverse, "ZAIRE" in the bank title is written without the diaeresis on the "I". The word "BANQUE" extends clockwise at the piece's upper rim, while the remainder of the legend travels in the opposite direction at the coin's lower periphery.

The total mintage of the coin is currently unknown. Most examples were produced as business strikes, with only a few being made as specimens.

Pattern coin[]

A pattern of the 1987 coin is known to exist, and was acquired and sold by the Belgian auction house Veilinghuis Eeckhout in 2010. It is composed of lead and measures 7.88 grams in mass and 26 millimeters in diameter. It is uniface and irregular in shape.

The coin's design is similar to that of the reverse of the circulated and specimen pieces, with the abbreviated value "1Z" engraved inside of a circular border, and the French name of the Bank of Zaire printed outside the circular boundary. The characters in the value "1Z" are only outlines and are shown in a different font than on the issued 1 zaire pieces, and the border that surrounds them is considerably thicker. In addition, the title of the bank is printed in a thicker, less stylized font, and is rendered as "BANQUE DU ZAÏRE" with the diaeresis on the "I".

Certain versions of the Standard Catalog of World Coins assign the specimen coins as patterns with catalog numbers KM# Pn1 and KM# Pn2.


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Zairean zaire
Banknotes 1 NK5 NK10 K/NK20 K50 K/NK1 Z/NZ5 Z/NZ10 Z/NZ20 NZ50 Z/NZ100 Z/NZ200 NZ500 Z/NZ1,000 Z/NZ2,000 Z5,000 Z/NZ10,000 Z/NZ20,000 Z/NZ50,000 Z/NZ100,000 Z/NZ200,000 Z500,000 Z/NZ1,000,000 Z/NZ5,000,000 Z
Coins 10 s1 K5 K10 K20 K25 K50 K1 Z2½ Z5 Z10 Z20 Z50 Z100 Z500 NZ1,000 NZ5,000 NZ10,000 NZ
Miscellaneous Bank of ZaireCongolese francRoger DutermeLikutaMobutu Sese Seko on currencySengi