In 1967 New Zealand changed its coinage from the Imperial British standard to the decimal system. 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.