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Updating the coinage: New Zealand

Presents are always great so we were delighted to receive from the other side of the world examples of the current circulating money of New Zealand.  Lighter in weight than the previous cupro-nickel coinage, some of the coins are plated, but the two highest values (1 dollar, 2 dollars) are brass aluminium.  Our set has the 4th effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank Broadley (IRB initials) replaced in the UK by yet another image of the monarch (by Jody Clark, engraver at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant).

Also included was NZ’s first circulating commemorative coin, the 50 cents Spirit of Anzac.  Published in 2015 for the centenary anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, this last coin shows two soldiers, an Australian and a New Zealander, heads bowed, embraced by the national silver fern of New Zealand.  The background is black (another first –  colour used on the coinage), with the mangopare symbol for the hammerhead shark, denoting strength, resilience and fortitude.  This coin has been so well received that it’s hard to find in circulation as people keep it for the memory.

When I first glanced at the 10 cents I saw a butterfly but it is a Maori carved head designed by James Berry OBE  (monogram JB b. London 1906-d.Wellington 1979).  Berry, well known as a stamp designer and graphic illustrator,  designed all the 1967 decimal coinage including the current 50c featuring Captain Cook’s Endeavour  No such confusion with the 20 cents, a human figure embracing two children and a female figure: the famous 18th century Maori warrior Pukaki carving.  Robert Maurice Conly designed both this and the kiwi $1 and the $2 featuring a rarer bird: the kotuku or white egret, prized for its plumage reserved for chiefs.

I’ve written about coin design in the past, specifically on the new design for the UK coinage*, with its post modern take on the shield design, chopped into segments.  But the NZ design gives simple, direct pleasure, delighting in the art, history and fauna of the country.  More importantly, it gives you an immediate sense of place, of what New Zealand is.  So thank you James and thank you Robert!

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