A brief history of New Zealand currency

The use of coins in New Zealand dates back to the early 1800's when currencies from around the world were traded based on their metal content.

Early 1800s: Numerous currencies from the around the world were traded in New Zealand on the basis of their metal content.
1840: Captain William Hobson, RN, the first Governor of New Zealand, extended British laws to New Zealand and with this, the standard gold, silver and bronze British coins were allowed to circulate freely in New Zealand.
1858: British coins were made legal tender in New Zealand.
1870: The British coin became the official legal tender coin of New Zealand. At that time, it was already one of the two ‘common’ currencies, along with Australian minted gold sovereign and half sovereign coins.
1933:  A distinctive New Zealand coinage was introduced based on a fractional system. These new coins used the same weights, sizes and denominations as the British coins.
1 February 1935: British coins ceased to be legal tender. New Zealand then became the last and most remote of the self-governing dominions of the British Commonwealth to introduce its own coinage.
10 July 1967: Decimal coinage was introduced into circulation. These coins were all designed by Reginald George James Berry (known as James) of Wellington.
31 March 1989: The issue of 1 and 2 cent pieces ceased.
December 1990: A new 20 cent piece was introduced to replace the old 20 cent piece. The new 20 cent piece was designed by Robert Maurice Conly, M.B.E. of Wellington.
11 February 1991: New $1 and $2 coins were introduced to replace the $1 and $2 notes. These coins were also designed by Robert Maurice Conly, M.B.E. of Wellington.
31 July 2006:

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand introduced new smaller and lighter 10, 20 and 50 cent coins made of plated steel. The 5 cent coin was withdrawn and not replaced

The currency change-over

In 1967 New Zealand changed its coinage from the Imperial British standard to the decimal system in use today. The designs on the coins reflected the wonderful heritage and cultural icons of New Zealand from the last surviving member of an otherwise extinct family of reptiles, the Tuatara, to a representation of a Mäori koruru carved head, which adorns whare or meeting houses.

A number of changes have taken place in the years since decimalisation: the ‘heads’ design featuring the Queen’s portrait was updated in 1986 and again in 1999. The original kiwi 20 cent coin, was replaced with an image of the Pukaki carving in 1990.

When the $1 and $2 notes were taken out of circulation in 1991, they were replaced by the gold-coloured kiwi $1 coin and the $2 coin featuring the kotuku.

In 2006 the 'silver' coins all had a makeover. The ten, twenty and fifty cent coins all become smaller and lighter. The new ten cent coin was also changed to a copper coloured.  The five cent coin was removed from circulation altogether.

Previously made with solid cupro-nickel, the new plated steel coins are not only more cost effective, but also lighter.

Old 20 cent coin New 20 cent coin