Getting Started

Coin collecting

The vast majority of people who collect coins do so for the enjoyment of the hobby. However, some collectible coins can be expensive. People who are new to coin collecting should spend some time getting basic information about the value of coins before they start buying them.

Supply and demand control the value of all items; coins are no exception. To be valuable a coin must be rare. However, for a given type of coin, the condition of the coin is crucial in determining value. For example, a New Zealand 1935 threepence, in uncirculated condition (put aside at the time of issue) is worth 10 times a 1935 threepence that was circulated (in our small change) for 30 years or more.

Condition relates more to “wear and tear” than it does to appearance. A clean, shiny coin is worthless if it is badly worn. Coins should not be polished and should only be cleaned by experts (and then, only in unusual circumstances).

For a good general introduction to the hobby of coin collecting, especially for North American collectors, see Hobby Help's article, too. Numerous "beginners' guides" are available, such as from the Royal Mint or auctioneers Warwick and Warwick.


New Zealand decimal currency coins

There are few rare decimal currency coins. The most recent example is the 2004 5-cent coin. Although 15,000,000 coins were made, an unknown number of coins (but certainly less than 10,000) were issued for circulation. The first sale of the coin on Trade-Me, on 8 August 2006, generated huge interest and a sale price of $360. Subsequent publicity saw 50-100 coins put up for sale. Prices were above $100 in mid August 2006, despite the large number of competing auctions, but subsequently more were found in an overseas dealer's stock and prices came down. This coin is still scarce in comparison with other modern New Zealand circulating coins. It will remain a collector’s item.

Also, of recent interest are the 2005 10, 20, and 50 cent circulated coins. These coins are available in a “Small change” set that was issued by NZ Post (the sets sold out rapidly; they also contain the new smaller coins). Five thousand sets were issued, and they contain identical coins to those in circulation. Because of this, the value of the individual coins will always be linked to the value of the Small Change sets. The sets have sold for $100 or more. Individual coins have also been auctioned. Sales prices have ranged from about $5 (50 cent coin) to $100 (10 cent coin). These coins will remain collectable. Estimated numbers released (but not necessarily for circulation) are: 10 cent, 28,000; 20 cent, 178,000; 50 cent, 503,800. These numbers include 5,000 in each case for the “Small change” sets. Of course, most of the coins released were returned to banks, and will have now been destroyed.

Earlier rare decimal coins are:

  • No date (1967) 2 cent “Bahamas mule”: “Bahama Islands” instead of “New Zealand”;
  • 1967 5 cent, “No sea”: Lines representing the sea missing to the right of the tuatara;
  • 1967 5 cent, “No tail”: Small triangular area of tail under the tuatara’s chin missing;
  • 1971 10, 20, 50 cent, circulated: Differ slightly from those in sets. Only rare in uncirculated condition.
  • 1967 50 cent, “dot over 1”: A dot over the “1” in “1967”.

There are other minor “varieties”, e.g., many of the 1999 5 cent coins have an unfortunate “wart” on the Queen’s nose (strictly speaking these are error coins rather than a variety – there was no intention to alter the design).

Error coins are of interest to some collectors, e.g., blanks that were not stamped properly, or, for example, 10-cent blanks which were stamped with a 50-cent die. These can fetch in excess of $100.


Coin sets

As well as circulated coins, there are presentation year sets available. These generally contain additional coins that were never released for circulation. Such higher denomination coins can also be bought individually. For example, there is actually a series of New Zealand $10 coins. The year sets can be obtained in two different grades: brilliant uncirculated and proof. Proof coins are works of art, made from polished blanks which are individually stamped more than once to achieve a coin of the highest quality. Brilliant uncirculated coins are produced in a similar fashion to circulated grade coins. However, much more care is taken in their production and they have a higher quality finish than normal circulated coins. Depending on the mint which produces them, they may actually be stamped more than once.

Some coin collectors believe that most value is obtained from collecting only circulated coins and they avoid presentation packs. However, there are many collectors who appreciate the beauty of the higher quality coins, and some of the presentation packs, particularly those in recent years, are highly sought after and can be hard to obtain.


Care of coins

Handle with care. Hold by the rim. Do not polish coins. Only clean them if you are an expert. Use non-reacting “Mylar” plastic flips to store your coins, even if you use a coin album. Never store coins in damp conditions.


Where to get information

A good place to start is the RNSNZ group page on Facebook. You need to apply to join, but it is open to non-RNSNZ members and has a very active community of collectors with a vast depth and breadth of expertise. Go to:

There are several experts who will help out on the “Collectors Forum” message board on TradeMe. But not everyone on TradeMe is an expert. Your best source of information is a coin club or society. Buy a recent catalogue to get an idea of value. Note, however, that catalogues show retail prices (these are not what a dealer will pay you!).

Every collector should visit the Reserve Bank website for information on mintage numbers and some history on New Zealand currency. The NZ Post website is a good place to see what the latest coin issues are.

To find out about how coins are made, visit the website of the Royal Australian Mint (who have made many of New Zealand’s coins).


Useful links

See our Coin Links and Banknote Links pages for more.