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How coins are designed and made

This page tells you about the design and manufacture of the five New Zealand coins currently in circulation—10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, $1 and $2.

Coin design

The design of New Zealand coins has not changed much since New Zealand introduced decimal currency in 1967. These first coins were intended to match some of the previous pre-decimal banknotes and coins, for example the 20 cent piece was the same size as a florin.

The two lowest denomination notes, the $1 and the $2, were replaced by coins in the late 1980s. The new coins were released in 1990, made of aluminium bronze and featured a kiwi (on the $1 coin) and a kōtuku (on the $2 coin). At the same time, a new 20 cent piece featuring a Māori 'pukaki' carving was released, as the kiwi motif had moved to the $1 coin.

Read more about the Pukaki Māori carving on the 20 cent coin

The 'heads' design featuring The Queen's portrait was updated in 1986 and again in 1999.

The three 'sides' of each coin

Each coin has two sides and an edge. The edge is sometimes called the third side.

The front of a coin or 'heads' is called the obverse. It features the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The back of a coin or 'tails' is called the reverse. It is different on each coin denomination.

The edge of the coin is the thin strip between the two sides of the coin. The texture, feel or pattern on the edge of a coin is called the edge treatment.

Read more about each coin's specifications and designs

What coins are made of

In 2006, new and smaller, plated steel coins replaced the older cupronickel 50, 20 and 10 cent pieces.

To make plated steel coins, a steel core is covered with layers of nickel and copper, giving the coin its characteristic colour and surface.

$1 and $2 dollar coins are made of an aluminium-bronze alloy.

Where coins are minted

New Zealand’s $1 and $2 coins are minted by the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom. The 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins are minted by the Royal Canadian Mint.

We have used other mints in the past including the Royal Australian Mint, Norwegian Mint and the South African Mint Company.

View coins mintings data for details about the number and value of coin mintages