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Money, money, money

I remember the day New Zealand converted to decimal currency – 10 July 1967. It seems like an eternity ago.

Today our money changed again; the 10, 20 and 50 cent coins were replaced by lighter, smaller and shinier versions. The magpies will be happy to see these new coins. The 5 cent coin is being phased out just like the 1 and 2 cent coins have been. This is the biggest change to our currency since the introduction of decimal currency replaced pounds, shillings and pence 39 years ago.

The Reserve Bank has a web site dedicated to this currency change. I found the booklet Explaining Currency interesting reading.

The new New Zealand silver coins 21 July 2006

Here are a few coin facts from Stuff:

  • By this morning 84 million new coins will have been delivered to banks around the country.
  • The new coins are made of plated steel which give off individual electromagnetic signals. Vending machines can read these unique electromagnetic “signatures” enabling them to tell the value of the coin and whether it is New Zealand or foreign currency.
  • All of the returned coins will be sold as scrap metal. The Reserve Bank expects the money they get for the old coins will cover the cost of minting the new coins.
  • No one knows exactly how many of the old coins are still in circulation but the Reserve Bank estimates only a third will be handed back. The coins handed in by retailers, banks and the public are expected to weigh 2000 tonnes – enough to fill 118 ship containers.
  • Coins do not stay around forever. The coin mortality rate is estimated to be 27 million a year and millions of dollars worth of coins have been lost. The coins are misplaced, damaged or taken out of the country by tourists.
  • 230 million new coins have been ordered from the Royal Canadian Mint which should keep us going for two years. That is 140 million 10 cent coins, 50 million 20 cent coins and 40 million 50 cent coins.

Changing money is not a straight forward process. There are so many things to consider. I overheard someone at work say on Friday saythat they hadn’t been able to use the vending machine, which sells snack food, because it had been recalibrated for the new coins for over a week now but the new coins were not to be circulated until today. It made me think about parking meters, public phones, public gaming machines – basically anything you have to stick a coin into.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we never had to carry any money? I wonder how long it will be before coins, and then notes, are a thing of the past.

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