Coins of the New Zealand dollar
This article concerns the coins
ContextObjects in Spans, commonly abbreviated COinS, is a method to embed bibliographic metadata in the HTML code of web pages. This allows bibliographic software to publish machine-readable bibliographic items and client reference management software to retrieve bibliographic metadata. The...

 of the New Zealand dollar
New Zealand dollar
The New Zealand dollar is the currency of New Zealand. It also circulates in the Cook Islands , Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. It is divided into 100 cents....



Prior to 10 July 1967, the New Zealand pound, using the £sd
£sd was the popular name for the pre-decimal currencies used in the Kingdom of England, later the United Kingdom, and ultimately in much of the British Empire...

 system, was the currency of New Zealand. Coins of the pound tend to follow the size, weight, and composition of their British counterparts. The main coins in usage were the halfpenny (½d), penny (1d), threepence (3d), sixpence (6d), shilling (1s), florin (2s), and halfcrown (2s 6d).

First coins

Decimal currency is the term used to describe any currency that is based on one basic unit of currency and a sub-unit which is a power of 10, most commonly 100....

 of the New Zealand currency occurred on 10 July 1967, when the New Zealand pound was replaced by the New Zealand dollar at a rate of one pound to two dollars (10 shillings to a dollar). On the same day, new decimal coins were introduced to replace the existing pound coins. The first coins of the New Zealand dollar were 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, and 50c. The 1c, 2c, and 50c coins were new sizes, with the 1c and 2c minted in bronze, and 50c in cupronickel. The new 5c, 10c, and 20c were the same size, weight, and value as the former sixpence, shilling, and florin coins. Indeed, until 1970, the 10 cents coin bore the additional legend "One Shilling".

The obverse designs of all the coins featured Arnold Machin
Arnold Machin
Arnold Machin O.B.E, R.A. was a British artist, sculptor, coin and stamp designer.Machin was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1911. He started work at the age of 14 as an apprentice china painter at the Minton Pottery. During the Depression he learnt to sculpt at Stoke-on-Trent's Art School, which was...

's portrait of Elizabeth II, with the legend ELIZABETH II NEW ZEALAND [date]. The initial designs for the reverse sides of the coins introduced in 1967 were rejected by the Royal Mint. Several more designs were produced, followed by a vigorous public debate. James Berry's designs were eventually accepted for most of the coins, although he was asked to rework his design for the 5c coin and Francis Shurrock's design for the 10c coin.

In 1986, the portrait of Elizabeth II on New Zealand coins was changed to Raphael Maklouf
Raphael Maklouf
Raphael Maklouf is a sculptor, best known for designing the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II used on the coins of many Commonwealth nations....

's new portrait of the Queen.

Removal of 1 and 2 cent coins

Towards the end of the 1980s, the 1c and 2c were becoming of little value, and it was decided to withdraw these coins from circulation. The last coins of these denominations were minted for circulation in 1987, with collector coins being made for 1988. The coins were slowly withdrawn from circulation, before finally being demonetised (no longer legal tender) on 1 May 1990.

After the withdrawal of these coins, cash transactions were normally rounded to the nearest 5 cents, a process known as Swedish rounding
Swedish rounding
Swedish rounding is rounding the basic cost of a purchase which is to be paid for in cash to the nearest multiple of the smallest denomination of currency...

. Some larger retailers (notably one supermarket chain), in the interests of public relations, elected to round the total price down (so that $4.99 became $4.95 instead of $5.00). Alternatively, many retailers rounded all their prices to the nearest 5 cents to avoid the issue entirely—so a New Zealand shopper often encountered products for sale at prices like $4.95.

Introduction of 1 and 2 dollar coins

On the 11th February 1991, $1 and $2 coins were introduced to replace the $1 and $2 notes in circulation. These coins were minted in aluminium bronze, and were the first New Zealand coins to be minted to metric specifications.

At the same time, because the new $1 coin depicted a kiwi, the 20c coin reverse design was changed. The new 20c coins depicted a Māori carving of Pukaki, a chief of the Ngati Whakaue iwi
In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...

. Coins with kiwi design, however, outnumbered coins with the new design until they were replaced with the new 20c coins, all depicting the later design, in 2006.

In 1999, Ian Rank-Broadley
Ian Rank-Broadley
Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS is a British sculptor who has produced many acclaimed works, among which are several designs for British coinage....

's portrait of the Queen was introduced and the legend rearranged to read NEW ZEALAND ELIZABETH II [date].

'Change for the better'

On 11 November 2004, the Reserve Bank announced that it proposed to take the 5c coin out of circulation and to make the existing 50, 20 and 10 cent coins smaller and use plated steel to make them lighter. The reasons given were:
  • The 5¢ coin is now worth a third what a cent was worth back in 1967, when New Zealand decimalised
    Decimal currency is the term used to describe any currency that is based on one basic unit of currency and a sub-unit which is a power of 10, most commonly 100....

     its currency.
  • Surveys had found that 50, 20 and 10 cent coins were too large and could not be easily carried in large quantities. The original 50c coin, with a diameter of 3.2 centimetres, was one of the largest coins in circulation worldwide. Also the old 20 cent coin, New Zealand's second biggest coin at the time at 2.8 cm is bigger than any current circulating coin (the biggest coin in circulation is the 2 dollar coin at 2.6 cm).
  • The size of the 10¢ piece was too close to that of the dollar - so close, in fact, that it has been possible on occasion to put two 10c pieces in a parking meter together and receive one dollar worth of parking time, or jam the meter and make parking free anyway. The advent of pay & display metering in larger cities, whereby one is required to use another meter if the first one is jammed, largely stopped this practice.
  • The prices of copper and nickel used to mint the old coins were high and rising steeply. Most of coins were now worth more in their metal content than their face value.

After a three-month public submission period that ended on 4 February 2005, the Reserve Bank announced on 31 March it would go ahead with the proposed changes. The changeover period started on 31 July 2006, with the old coins usable up until 31 October 2006. The older 50, 20, 10 and 5 cent pieces are now no longer legal tender, but are still redeemable at the Reserve Bank.

In August 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint
Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint produces all of Canada's circulation coins, and manufactures circulation coins on behalf of other nations. The Mint also designs and manufactures: precious and base metal collector coins; gold, silver, palladium, and platinum bullion coins; medals, as well as medallions and...

, which has minted Canadian coins in plated steel in the past, was selected by the Reserve Bank to make the new coins. The new coins have a unique electromagnetic signature which enables modern vending machines to determine coin counterfeiting and foreign coins It was estimated the changeover would remove nearly five million dollars of foreign coinage from circulation.

The change to smaller coins would also have been advantageous to Australia, as the outgoing coins (5, 10, and 20c) were of the same size and weight as Australian coins of same denominations, therefore usable in Australian vending machines, and parking meters.

Current coinage

As of 1 November 2006, there are five denominations of coins in regular circulation: 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, and $2. All new Zealand coins are round, and use medallic orientation
Medallic orientation
Medallic orientation is a feature of coins. When viewing one side of a coin with medallic orientation, correct side up, the coin must be flipped about its vertical axis in order to see the other side the correct way up...


Commemorative and collectable coins are available from New Zealand Post as the agent for the Reserve Bank
Reserve Bank of New Zealand
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is the central bank of New Zealand and is constituted under the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989. The Governor of the Reserve Bank is responsible for New Zealand's currency and operating monetary policy. The Bank's current Governor is Dr. Alan Bollard...

Value Technical Parameters | Description Date of issue
Diameter Thickness Mass Composition Edge Obverse Reverse
10c 20.50 mm 1.58 mm 3.30 g Copper-plated steel Plain A Māori koruru, or carved head. 31 Jul 2006
New Zealand 20 cent coin
The New Zealand 20 cent coin is currently the second lowest denomination coin of the New Zealand dollar. The 20 cent coin was introduced when the New Zealand dollar was introduced on 10 July, 1967, replacing the New Zealand florin coin. Its original reverse of a kiwi bird was changed in 1990 when...

21.75 mm 1.56 mm 4.00 g Nickel-plated steel "Spanish Flower
Spanish flower
The Spanish flower is a type of coin edging. It consists of a smooth edge separated into equal sections by seven indents.-Origin:The 50 Spanish peseta coin issued between 1990 and 2000 were the first that featured the Spanish flower....

Queen Elizabeth II Māori carving of Pukaki, a chief of the Ngati Whakaue iwi
In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...

31 Jul 2006
50c 24.75 mm 1.70 mm 5.00 g Plain HM Bark Endeavour
HM Bark Endeavour
HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour, was a British Royal Navy research vessel commanded by Lieutenant James Cook on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771....

 and Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki, or Mount Egmont, is an active but quiescent stratovolcano in the Taranaki region on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. Although the mountain is more commonly referred to as Taranaki, it has two official names under the alternative names policy of the New Zealand...

New Zealand one dollar coin
The New Zealand one dollar coin is a coin of the New Zealand dollar. The current circulating coin was introduced on 11 February 1991 to replace the existing $1 note, although there had previously been occasional issues of commemorative "silver dollars", but they are rarely seen in circulation.The...

23.00 mm 2.74 mm 8 g Aluminium bronze
Aluminium bronze
Aluminium bronze is a type of bronze in which aluminium is the main alloying metal added to copper, in contrast to standard bronze or brass...

Intermittent milling Queen Elizabeth II Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

 and Silver Fern
11 Feb 1991
$2 26.50 mm 2.70 mm 10 g Grooved Kotuku (Great Egret)

Past Coinage

Changes to coinage in 1990 and 2006 has resulted in several demonetised coins. Coins have been demonitised for various reasons.

This is a list of demonitised coins:
Value Technical parameters Description Date of
Diameter Thickness Mass Composition Edge Obverse Reverse Issue Withdrawal
1c 17.53 mm 2.07 g Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

Plain Queen Elizabeth II Silver fern 10 Jul 1967 30 Apr 1990
2c 21.08 mm 4.14 g Kowhai
Kowhai are small, woody legume trees in the genus Sophora native to New Zealand. There are eight species, S. microphylla being the most common. Kowhai trees grow throughout the country and are a common feature in New Zealand gardens. Outside of New Zealand, Kowhai tend to be restricted to mild...

5c 19.43 mm 1.24 mm 2.83 g Cupronickel
Cupronickel or copper-nickel or "cupernickel" is an alloy of copper that contains nickel and strengthening elements, such as iron and manganese. Cupronickel is highly resistant to corrosion in seawater, because its electrode potential is adjusted to be neutral with regard to seawater...

Milled Tuatara
The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Their most recent common...

10 Jul 1967 31 Oct 2006
10c 23.62 mm 1.70 mm 5.66 g (as today)
Legend reads "One Shilling"
(as today) 1970
20c 28.58 mm 2.22 mm 11.31 g Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

10 Jul 1967
(as today) Dec 1990
50c 31.75 mm 2.33 mm 13.61 g Intermittently milled (as today) 10 Jul 1967

Mule coins

Three mule coins
Mule (coin)
In numismatics, a mule is a coin or medal minted with obverse and reverse designs not normally seen on the same piece. These can be intentional or produced by error. This type of error is highly sought after, and examples can fetch steep prices from collectors.The earliest mules are found among...

 have been accidentally minted, two of which have ended up in circulation.

The first instance occurred in 1967, when the two cent coin was accidentally minted with the obverse of the Bahamian five cent coin.

The second instance occurred in 2000, with ten known instances of the commemorative $5 coin found in uncirculated sets. This coin had the Pied Cormorant
Pied Cormorant
The Australia Pied Cormorant , Phalacrocorax varius, also known as the Pied Cormorant or Pied Shag, is a medium-sized member of the cormorant family. It is found around the coasts of Australasia. In New Zealand it is usually known either as the Pied Shag or by its Māori name of Karuhiruhi...

 on the Reverse side, as did the other $5 coins of the year, however the obverse was from the Solomon Islands.

The third instance of a mule coin occurred in 2006. A mix-up at the Royal Canadian Mint, which were manufacturing the new smaller coins, caused several new 20c coins to feature the reverse of the Canadian 5 cent coin. Most of these mule coins were found in Taranaki.

Commemorative coins

  • Silver Dollars: New Zealand has produced many silver dollars, usually annually, from 1967 onwards.
    • 1967: Decimalisation
      Decimal currency is the term used to describe any currency that is based on one basic unit of currency and a sub-unit which is a power of 10, most commonly 100....

       of the money
    • 1969: 200th anniversary of the landing of Captain Cook in New Zealand
    • 1970: Mt. Cook
    • 1970: Cook Islands
    • 1971-1973: Coat of Arms
    • 1974: 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch
      Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area after Auckland. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of...

    • 1974: New Zealand Day, 6 February
    • 1975-1976: Coat of Arms
    • 1977: 25th Anniversary of accession of Elizabeth II to Queen of New Zealand, on Waitangi Day (6 February)
    • 1978: 35th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
      Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
      The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the ceremony in which the newly ascended monarch, Elizabeth II, was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon, and Pakistan, as well as taking on the role of Head of the Commonwealth...

       on 2 June ht
    • 1980: Fantail bird
    • 1981: Royal Visit by Queen Elizabeth II
    • 1982: Takahē bird
      The Takahē or South Island Takahē, Porphyrio hochstetteri is a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand and belonging to the rail family. It was thought to be extinct after the last four known specimens were taken in 1898...

    • 1983: Royal Visit by Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales
    • 1983: 50th Anniversary of New ZEaland coinage
    • 1984: Chatham Island Black Robin
    • 1985: Black Stilt
    • 1986: Royal Visit by Queen Elizabeth II
    • 1986: Kakapo parrot
    • 1986: Yellow-eyed penguin
      Yellow-eyed Penguin
      The Yellow-eyed Penguin or Hoiho is a penguin native to New Zealand. Previously thought closely related to the Little Penguin , molecular research has shown it more closely related to penguins of the genus Eudyptes...

    • 1987: National Parks
    • 1988: Penguin
    • 1989: 1990 Commonwealth Games
      1990 Commonwealth Games
      The 1990 Commonwealth Games were held in Auckland, New Zealand from 24 January-3 February 1990. It was the 14th Commonwealth Games, and part of New Zealand's 1990 sesquicentennial celebrations. Participants competed in ten sports: athletics, aquatics, badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, judo,...

       in Auckland (4 variants, Runner, Gymnast, Swimmer, Weightlifter)
    • 1990: 150th Anniversary of the (Treaty of Waitangi
      Treaty of Waitangi
      The Treaty of Waitangi is a treaty first signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand....


  • A range of two dollar coins depicting a kingfisher
    Kingfishers are a group of small to medium sized brightly coloured birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species being found in the Old World and Australia...

     were made during 1993.

  • Five dollar coins: Minted sporadically from 1990 onwards. Five dollar coins have never been minted for circulation but specifically for commemorative purposes. They are legal tender.

  • Ten dollar coins: Minted sporadically from 1995 onwards. Ten dollar coins have never been minted for circulation. They are legal tender.

  • Twenty dollar coins: Minted in 1995 and 1997, only 2 sets of twenty dollar coins have been made.

  • One Hundred and Fifty dollar coins: Minted in 1990 and 1998, only 2 sets of one hundred and fifty dollar coins have been made.

Limits on coins constituting legal tender

According to the Reserve Bank Act 1989, there are limits on the amount that constitutes legal tender:
  • coins of a denomination of $10 or more, there is no limit
  • coins of a denomination of $1 or more but less than $10, the limit is $100
  • coins of the denomination of 5 cents or more, but less than $1, the limit is $5

Use of other countries' coins

Due to regional travel and the fact that many other former British colonies around the world use coinage systems with British-derived origins of sizing and weight, many Fijian
Fijian dollar
The dollar has been the currency of Fiji since 1969 and was also the currency between 1867 and 1873. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively FJ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

, Samoan
Samoan tala
The tālā is the currency of Samoa. It is divided into 100 sene. The terms tālā and sene are the equivalents or transliteration of the English words dollar and cent, in the Samoan language....

, Singaporean
Singapore dollar
The Singapore dollar or Dollar is the official currency of Singapore. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

, South African
South African pound
In 1825, an imperial order-in-council made sterling coinage legal tender in all the British colonies. At that time, the only British colony in Southern Africa was the Cape of Good Hope Colony. As time went on, the British pound sterling and its associated subsidiary coinage became the currency of...

, and especially Australian coins
Australian coins
Australian coins refers to the coins which are or were in use as Australian currency. During the early days of the colonies that formed Australia, foreign currency was used, but in 1910, a decade after federation, Australian coins were introduced. Australia used pounds, shillings and pence until...

 had been in daily circulation in New Zealand despite not being official legal tender. It is of note that the United Kingdom itself does not use these sizes of coins any more, and there has been the odd case of foreign coins appearing in a customer's change. The consistently similar but not significantly higher value of the Australian currency and the obverse side of Australian coins being almost the same as New Zealand coins also didn't discourage this practice, with millions of 5, 10, and 20 cent Australian coins having been used in New Zealand in an identical manner to their true counterparts. These coins could circulate for long periods without being recognised. The coinage size and material changeover (see below) of 31 July to 31 October 2006 means these foreign coins can no longer be accepted interchangeably, though the new 10 cent coin strongly resembles the British one penny coin
British One Penny coin
The British decimal one penny coin, produced by the Royal Mint, was issued on 15 February 1971, the day the British currency was decimalised. In practice, it had been available from banks in bags of £1 for some weeks previously...

 in size, weight and appearance and the unchanged one dollar coin remains very similar to the Fijian counterpart. There is also occasional confusion between the New Zealand one dollar coin and the Australian two dollar coin, and similarly between the New Zealand two dollar coin and Australian one dollar coin, on account of the coins' similar sizes and weights.

See also

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