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Sunday, 1 September 2013

114) Coinage of New Zealand: A Commemorative coin set from 1979 :

114) Coinage of New Zealand: A Commemorative coin set from 1979:

Historical development of New Zealand Coinage:

In early 1840s, some relevant sections of the British Imperial Coinage Act, 1816 (UK), were implemented in New Zealand which permitted British gold, silver and bronze coins to be freely circulated in New Zealand along with existing circulating coins.

In later 1840s and part of 1950s, an extreme shortage developed in the circulating coins, in particular copper coins, which prompted some traders to issue low value paper notes and later copper tokens in penny and half-penny denominations by 1857.

In 1858, when sufficient time had passed for the local New Zealanders to become familiar with the British coins, the English Laws Act was passed (in terms of the British Imperial Coinage Act, 1816), designating the British coins as legal tender.

In 1897, necessary provisions were included in the Imperial Coinage Act (UK) which made the British coinage the official legal tender of New Zealand. At this time there were two circulating currencies in the country – British coins and Australian minted gold sovereign and half sovereign coins.

By 1914, gradual withdrawal of the gold coins took place from circulation.

In 1920, Silver coins were reduced to.500 fine silver.

By 1933, with a view to tackle the coin shortage and attendant coin smuggling into New Zealand, a decision was taken for issuing currency under the supervision of a single bank. Accordingly, “The Coinage Act, 1933”, was enacted which governed the currency, coinage and legal tender in New Zealand. A distinctive New Zealand currency was accordingly introduced on a fractional system as that of the Pound sterling, having the same sizes, weights and denominations as the British coins. Also, under this Act, British coins ceased to be legal tender from February 1935.

In 1934, the first New Zealand issued coins issued under this Act were in the following denominations, all coins being issued in silver:

Half-crown – showing Armorial Ensigns of New Zealand on a shield having quarterings depicting the Southern Cross, a wheat sheaf, a lamb suspended by a ribbon and mining hammers cross divided by three ships, surmounted by the Royal Crown, surrounded by ornamentation inspired by Maori carvings.

Florin – showing a kiwi bird facing left.

Shilling – showing a figure of a Maori warrior posturing in a war-like attitude carrying a “taiaha”.

Sixpence – showing a “huia” (bird) perched on a branch.

Threepence – Two carved “patu” (Maori weapons) crossed with lanyards or throngs attached with “3d” mentioned between their blades.

Penny – A “Tui” (bird) perched in a setting of yellow kowhai blossoms.

Half-Penny – A Maori “Hei-tiki” (Maori Charm) with Maori ornamental scrolls on each side.

In 1939, Bronze penny and half penny coins were mooted and circulated in 1940.

In 1947, cupro-nickel coins replaced .500 fineness silver coins owing to rising costs of mining silver and the rising cost of raw silver. However, both types of coins continued to circulate as legal tender.

In 1959, a Committee set up for the purpose, mooted a proposal for adoption of a decimal system of coinage.

Accordingly, in 1964, the Decimal Currency Act 1964 was enacted which prescribed designs, diameters and standard weights of the decimal coinage.

The first decimal issues under this Act were circulated on 10.07.1967 and included the following denominations. The designer of these coins was Reginald George James Berry of Wellington. His initials “JB” appear on the reverse of all bronze and cupro-nickel coins:

I am using the images from a Commemorative coin set issued in 1979 for a visual representation of these coins:

The obverse design on all these coins carries a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with the inscription “ELIZABETH II NEW ZEALAND (year of issue)”. This portrait was changed in 1986 with her new portrait.


Obverse faces of all the coins in the Proof Commemorative Coins set 
 Reverse faces of all the coins in the Proof Commemorative Coins set

50 cents: (equivalent to the old 5 shillings or one crown) – The reverse design on this coin shows the barque “Endeavour”, commanded by Captain Cook, sailing south, with Mount Taranaki in the distance under the numeral “50”.

(The HMS Endeavour: is also known as the HM Bark Endeavour was a British Royal Navy research ship which was commanded by James Cook on his voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771. Its primary mission was to sail the Pacific Ocean and to explore the seas for the surmised “Terra Australis Incognita” (meaning “unknown – undiscovered – Southern Lands”). In 1769, the ship sailed into the largely uncharted ocean to the South, stopping at the Pacific islands of “Huahine”, “Borabora” and Raiatea” which Cook claimed for Great Britain. Later in September 1769, Cook reached New Zealand, being the first European vessel to map the New Zealand coast and step ashore, since Abel Tasman’s “Heemskerck” about 127 years earlier (after whom the Tasmanian Sea is named).  In April 1770, the HMS Endeavour was again the first ship to reach the East coast of Australia, landing at Botany Bay on its expeditionary voyage of discovering new lands. The HMS Endeavour features on the New Zealand fifty cent coin in recognition of its historical significance in New Zealand’s history).

(Mount Taranaki: also called Mount “Egmont” (named by Captain Cook after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who approved Cook’s voyages of discovering new lands) is an active Stratovolcano in the Taranaki Region on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The 2500 metre high mountain has very symmetrical volcanic cones in the World. Its secondary cone called the “Panitahi” in Maori or “Fanthoms Peak”. Also, the Maori word “Tara” stands for mountain peak and “Naki” derives from the word “Nyaki” meaning “shining” – in other words, meaning the ice-clad shining slopes of the mountain. As Cook’s voyage was much later and the Maoris were the oldest inhabitants of the Region the name Taranaki has stuck for posterity, notwithstanding the fact that, the British have designated the area as a Forest Reserve in 1881 and gazetted it in 1900 as Egmont National Park, (being the second National Park in New Zealand).

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 31.75 mm; Weight: 13.61 gms; Metal composition: Cupro-nickel.

20 cents: (equivalent to the old 2 shillings or one florin) – The reverse design shows a kiwi bird facing right and fern bush with the numeral ‘20”.

(The Kiwi:  The Kiwi is a flightless bird found in New Zealand belonging to the genus “Apteryx” and Family “Apterygidae”. It is the smallest living ‘ratite” but lays the largest egg in relation to its body size as compared to any other bird species around the globe. 
Of the five recognised species (Great Spotted Kiwi, Little Spotted Kiwi, Okarito Kiwi, Southern Brown Kiwi and Northern Island Brown Kiwi), two are in the endangered list. Kiwis are shy and nocturnal birds. 
Deforestation has resulted in decline of their population in the past, but now, large areas of their forest habitat are protected in National Reserves and National Parks. 
There are several Kiwi sanctuaries in the North Island (Whangarei, Moehau on the Coromandel Peninsula, Tongariro near Taupo, Okarito and Haast Kiwi Sanctuaries), Mainland Conservation islands (Zealandia in Wellington, Maungatautari Restoration Project in Waikato, Bushy Park Forest Reserve in Kai Iwi - Whanganui, Otanewainuku Forest in the Bay of Plenty etc.) The Kiwi is the National symbol of New Zealand and is a term synonymous with being a New Zealander. It also appears on the Coat of Arms of New Zealand.

The Kiwi has appeared in Regimental Colours/badges for over two centuries. A popular shoe polish which we have all used “Kiwi Shoe Polish” was marketed since 1906.

The Maori word “Kiwi” derives from the bird’s call and the genus name “apteryx” derives from Ancient Greek meaning “without wing”.

The reverse of the one dollar coin shows an image of a kiwi. Another interesting use of the term kiwi is that in currency trading, the New Zealand dollar is referred to as the Kiwi).

(The “silver tree fern” or “silver fern” or “Cyathea dealbata” is a medium sizes tree fern species is found in New Zealand. It is also referred to as the “kaponga” or “ponga” in the Maori language. This fern is commonly associated with and is one of the most widely recognised and used symbols of New Zealand, next only to the Kiwi, although it is not recognised as an official symbol.

Silver fern leaves are part of the Coat of Arms of New Zealand. The silver fern also appears on the “silver fern flag”, and in the “Koru” symbol found in Maori art which is inspired by the shape of a young “ponga” frond. The National Netball team is called the “Silver Ferns”, the women’s Rugby team, the “Black Ferns”, the women’s basketball team the “Tall Ferns”, women’s cricket the “White Ferns” and Women’s Association Football the “Football Ferns” etc. Several other National sports teams have silver ferns as part of their symbols/logos/names viz., Rugby, Cricket, Hockey, Sailing etc.

 Occurring primarily on the main islands of New Zealand and on the Chatham Islands to the East, mostly in the sub-canopy areas of drier forests and in open scrub, this fern has been endemic to New Zealand from the Pliocene epoch (around 2 to 10 million years ago in the Tertiary period in the Cainozoic Age, when the appearance of the first man-like Apes took place, just before the appearance of the first true man “Homo Erectus” in the Pleistocene epoch in the same age).

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 28.58 mm; Weight: 11.31 gms; Metal composition: Cupro-nickel.

10 cents: (equivalent to the old 1 shilling or one bob) – The reverse design shows a Maori carved head or “koruru” under the numeral “10” with Maori rafter patterns.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 23.62 mm; Weight: 5.66 gms; Metal composition: Cupro-nickel.

5 cents: (equivalent to the old 6 pence or 6d) – The reverse design shows a tuatara curled up on a coastal rock on which is superimposed the numeral “5”.

(The Tuatara: This is a reptile that is predominantly found in New Zealand belonging to the Order “Rhynchocephalia”, resembling lizards.  Only two species of tuatara have survived from its Order which was very prevalent over 200 – 225 million years ago (in the Triassic Period in the Mesozoic Age when the first mammals and dinosaurs made their appearance). A recent ancestor of the tuatara is the “Squamates” or lizards and snakes, as such the Tuatara is also studied as an evolutionary link to the earliest “diapsids”, a group which includes birds, dinosaurs and crocodiles. The name “Tuatara” derives from the Maori language meaning “peaks on the back”. Since 1895, the tuatara is protected by law. Driven to near extinction in the mainland due to loss of habitat and predators, they are now protected in the Karori sanctuary since 2005. Now their total population is said to be around 75000 due to the conservation efforts. Tuatara are regarded by the Maoris as a “taonga” or special treasure).

 Image of a Tuatara

  The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 19.43 mm; Weight: 2.83 gms; Metal composition: Cupro-nickel.

2 cents: (equivalent to the old 3 pence or 3d) – The reverse design shows two kowhai flowers and leaves surrounding the numeral “2”.

(Kowhai: These are small woody legume trees in the genus “Sophora” which are found in New Zealand. Eight species have been identified, with “Sophora microphylla” and “Sophora tetraptera” being the most recognised as large trees. The variety “Sophora Prostrata” (referred to as the “Little Baby” is mostly grown as a Bonsai tree. The name “kowhai” derives from the Maori word for “yellow” which refers to the yellow flowers which grow on these trees. Traditionally, Maoris used the flexible branches of Kowhai as construction material in their houses and to trap birds. A yellow dye is also extracted from the flowers. The bark of the Kowhai tree is also used as a medicine to treat wounds or sore backs. Although the Kowhai flowers are not officially designated as such, they are widely considered as being New Zealand’s National Flower, because of its preponderance in the country. Attractive and useful as the Kowhai may seem, the seeds of the tree are poisonous to humans).

 Image of Kowhai flowers

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 21.08 mm; Weight: 4.14 gms; Metal composition: Bronze.

1 cent: (equivalent to the old 1 penny or 1 d) – The reverse design shows a stylised fern leaf around the numeral “1”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 17.53 mm; Weight: 2.07 gms; Metal composition: Bronze.

One dollar ($1): The reverse design shows the New Zealand Coat of Arms.

The Coat of Arms of New Zealand: The original Coat of Arms was granted on 26.08.1911 and modified Arms granted in 1956.

The first quarter of the shield depicts four stars which represent the Southern Cross. In the centre are three ships which symbolize the importance of New Zealand’s sea trade.

In the second quarter is a fleece representing New Zealand’s farming industry.

In the third quarter is a wheat sheaf which represents the Agricultural industry of New Zealand.
In the fourth quarter are two crossed hammers which represent the mining industry.
The supporters on either side are sinister, a Maori chieftain, holding a ‘taiha” (meaning a Maori war weapon) and wearing a “Kaitaka”(flax cloak) and dexter, holding the New Zealand ensign is “Zealandia”.
Surmounting the Arms is the St. Edward’s Crown used for coronation of Queen Elizabeth II showing New Zealand’s overall status as a British dominion. 

On the earlier one dollar coin before 1991, the supporters have been replaced by a fern on either side, due to space constraints on the coin.

This is the only silver coin in this commemorative coin set.

On 31.03.1989, minting of 1 and 2 cent coins were stopped and these denominations were withdrawn from circulation on 30.04.1990, due to inflationary pressures. Payments were now rounded off to the nearest 5 cents in a method of accounting known as the “Swedish rounding”.

In December 1990, the reverse design on the 20 cent coin was changed from the “kiwi bird” to a representation of the well-known Maori painting “pukaki” carving, representing a chief of the “Ngati Whakaue iwi”. The specifications of this coin still remained the same. However, 20 cent coins having both designs are legal tender along with the earlier two shilling/florin coin.

On 11.02.1991, new $1 and $2 coins were circulated which replaced the $1 and $2 currency Notes.

One dollar: The reverse design now showed the kiwi bird, which led to the coin being fondly referred to as “Kiwi dollar”.

 The above circulation coin shows the year of issue as 1990, but was released on 11.2.1991.

The specifications of the $1 coin are:

Diameter: 23.00 mm; Weight: 8.00 gms; Thickness:2.74 gms; Edge: Intermittent milling; Metal composition: Aluminium – Bronze.

Two dollars: The reverse design shows the “Kotuku” (Great Egret) flying right. The Kotuku is one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and holds a special place in Maori mythology.

(The Eastern Great Egret is found throughout Asia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand. It breeds in colonies with other herons, egrets, cormorants, spoonbills and ibises. In New Zealand it is known as the “kotuku”. It is a highly endangered sub-species and its breeding is concentrated mainly at the “Okarito Lagoon”. With a view to creating awareness about its protection, it has featured on the reverse of the New Zealand $2 coin).

 The above circulation coin shows the year of issue as 1990, but was released on 11.2.1991.

The specifications of the $2 coin are:

Diameter: 26.50 mm; Weight: 10.00 gms; Thickness: 2.70 mm; Edge: Grooved; Metal composition: Aluminium – Bronze.

On 31.07.2006, a new Series of smaller and lighter coins in the denominations of 10, 20, and 50 cent coins were circulated which were made of plated steel minted by the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM), based on the technology perfected by the RCM which they are now marketing to other coin producing countries. 

The 5 cent coin denomination was, however, withdrawn from circulation due to inflationary pressures and prohibitive costs of minting this denomination. The old Series coins were demonetised and ceased to be legal tender from 01.11.2006.

The 2006 10 cent coin exhibits the same design as the earlier 10 cent coin, but its specifications are: Diameter: 20.50 mm; Weight: 3.30 gms; Thickness: 1.58 mm; Edge: Plain; Metal composition: Copper-plated steel.

The 2006 20 cent coin also, exhibits the same design as the earlier 20 cent coin, but its specifications are: Diameter: 21.75 mm; Weight: 4.00 gms; Thickness: 1.56 mm; Edge: Spanish Flower; Metal composition: Nickel-plated steel.

The 2006 50 cent coin also exhibits the same design as the earlier 50 cent coin, but its specifications are: Diameter: 24.75 mm; Weight: 5.00 gms; Thickness: 1.70 mm; Edge: Plain; Metal composition: Nickel-plated steel.

The specifications and designs of the $1 and $2 coins have remained the same as before.

Minting of coins for New Zealand:

New Zealand coins have been minted at various mints at various points of time viz – Royal Mint, UK, Royal Australian Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, Norwegian Mint, South African Mint Company etc.

Commemorative coins: On special occasions or to honour prominent persons, commemorative coins are brought out by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and marketed by NZ Post Limited. Commemorative issues have included New Zealand’s Coat of Arms, “Takahe Bird”, Chatham Island black robin, Black stilt, “Kakapo parrot, yellow-eyed penguin, Fantail bird, National Parks, Commonwealth Games, decimalisation of currency, New Zealand Day, 200th Anniversary of landing of Captain Cook in New Zealand etc.

(The above coins are from the collection of Jayant Biswas. Coins scanned and article written and researched by Rajeev Prasad). 

1) New Zealand new Seventh series Banknotes to be issued from 2015 onwards: the "Brighter Money" Project.

Links to Posts on Australia, New Zealand and countries and Overseas Territories of the South Pacific on this blog:

1) Bank of Papua New Guinea: 36th Anniversary Celebrations (1973-2008): A Commemorative Uncirulated Coin Set consisting of a 2 Kina Banknote & a 2 Kina Coin

2) Papua New Guinea: An uncirculated coin set brought out in 1995 commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Independence 

 3) Currency & Coinage of the Soloman Islands: Dollars and Cents

4) New Zealand: New Banknote "Seventh Series" issued under Project "Brighter Money" from 2015 onwards

5) Coinage of the French Polynesian Island of Caledonia (or Nouvelle Caledonie) the CFP Franc  

6) French Institution for issuing uniform currency/coinage for French Overseas Territories in the Pacific and the French Southern Territories of Antarctica: The Institut d'emmission d'outre Mer (IEOM)

7) Currency & Coinage of Samoa: Tala and Sene 

8) Currency of the South Pacific Island Country of Fiji 

9) Coinage of New Zealand: A commemorative coin set issued in 1979 

10) Currency and Coinage of Australia: Dollars and Cents 

11) The Australian Emblem or the Coat of Arms 

12) The story of the Australian Penny 

13) The Legend of the Mutiny on the Bounty: A Commemorative Coin Set from the Pitcairn Islands depicting relics from the Bounty issued in 2009 

14) An Australian $5 coin issued in 1996, commemorating Australia's greatest cricketing legend - Sir Donald Bradman 

15) New Series/Generation of Australian Banknotes being introduced from 01.09.2016 onwards starting from $5 issues 


  1. Vishnu Kumar has commented:
    "This article depicting NZ coinage is very informative".