A bit more than 1000 miles east of Australia and
we find ourselves at the two large islands and several out islands that
make up New Zealand.
I've never been there, but people tell me the mountainous terrain reminds them of Switzerland, except of course that there's not much in the way of winter there. It was kind of interesting that before people arrived about 1000 years ago there were no mammals there. The first humans found giant birds instead, which they proceeded to wipe out. Those people brought pigs and rats with them, and later migrations of humans brought dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, etc. until today the remaining native wildlife, including the national bird, the kiwi, are having a very hard time.
Those first humans who arrived something over 1000 years ago are rather mysterious. Very little of their works remains today, and hardly any of their culture. They are called "the Moa Hunters," as they were the people who did in that giant flightless bird that stood at the top of the New Zealand food chain before their arrival. One can suppose that when the last of their top food animals was killed their culture became poor and perhaps they got depressed.
The assumption is that the Moa Hunters were Polynesian. The term refers to a genetic group, an ethnic group, and a region. The "Polynesians" probably came from Asia, bringing with them a culture that grew some staple crops and livestock, did not use metal or the bow and arrow, and for the most part employed a political system that invested divine authority in their chiefs and
made the rest of the population slaves to the whims of the rulers. It was a culture that in many instances developed a fondness for war.
A second wave of Polynesian migrants landed on the New Zealand shores perhaps around 1200 AD. We know who these people are because they are still around. They are the Maori. This particular group of Polynesians were quite warlike. We know, from some episodes in historical times, that they liked to fight, and needed no propaganda or cassus belli to get in the mood. For them the simple fact that a non-Maori group was available was sufficient cause to raise a war party. And the war they brought was high stakes. If they won they killed all the men, many of the women and children, ate a few of them, and
enslaved whoever was left. That is probably what they did to the Moa Hunters, that is, they wiped them out.
A concomitant tendency in a divine kingship regime is for the economic mechanism to appear relatively primitive. Where everything up to and including the lives of the subjects is theoretically the disposable property of the ruler what need for banks, interest, accounts, coinage? Thus the Polynesian region is noted by Quiggin as being utterly devoid of the standard value items we numismatists like to call "primitive money." Polynesian trade was all on the spot barter. Polynesian wealth consisted of one's place in the family and political hierarchies. There is no primitive money from New Zealand.
Maori bellicosity was alive and well when the Europeans showed up. In 1642 the captain of a Dutch East Indies Company ship by the name of Abel Tasman sighted one of the New Zealand islands and sent a small crew to investigate. Maoris killed them all and sunk the boat.
Some Polynesian cultures tended to develop high population densities. This was true for example on the island of Hawaii. The Maori culture did not do that, and many areas of New Zealand were devoid of human inhabitants when Captain James Cook arrived in 1769. Cook spent several months mapping the coast, and landed in several spots to "take possession," as Europeans liked to do back then. Evidently he did not have any runins with the Maori.
Europeans began settling on the main islands in succeeding decades, hunting seals and whales, and trading with the Maori. There was no governmental authority among the Europeans at first, and the first attempt at rational organization came not from the crown but rather from an Anglican missionary, Samuel Marsden, who arrived in 1814 to preach.
Expanding European settlement began to encroach on Maori territory and by the 1820s a situation prevailed similar to that in the American frontier, with frequent clashes between settlers and natives. The settlers began to request protection from the British government, which resisted for a time before finally sending a resident in 1832. This guy, James Busby, was supposed to
administer New Zealand under the authority of the governor of New South Wales in Australia, but he was given neither troops, nor material, nor much of a budget. No one paid him any mind and he languished until a French adventurer, one Baron de Thierry, showed up one day in Sydney and declared himself "King of New Zealand." This new threat was used by Busby to coerce 25 of the several hundred Maori chiefs to sign a document creating a "United Tribes of New Zealand."
Well and good, but the governor of New South Wales wouldn't accept the new arrangement - Busby had exceeded his authority.
Back in England a businessman, Edward Wakefield, was launching a settlement scheme by which land was sold to colonists before they got there, the funds being used to defray transit costs and supplies and to begin the development of infrastructure. The British government was to provide protection for this venture. Now they had to get the land.
In 1840 a British representative and about 50 Maori chiefs signed the Waitangi Treaty. By the terms of this treaty the Maori ceded "sovereignty" to the British crown and were confirmed as owners of their land. Well, they had to own the land to be able to sell it, didn't they? That was the general idea: to find someone to buy the land from. Of course the Maori thought of it as permission to keep their land forever, and generally they refused to sell. The standoff between the Maori and the settlers became a severe problem that led to several wars, all of them lost by the Maori. In the end most of the Maori land was sold,
and New Zealand became what it is today: mostly British, a little bit Maori.
In the early 19th century coinage throughout the world circulated as specie, which is to say by its intrinsic value. Most of the world's coinage was Spanish colonial, with a relatively small amount of other stuff, mostly British. Supposedly the foreign coins were disallowed in New Zealand after 1850, but local conditions allowed their continued circulation as needed.
In the late 1850s a lack of small change caused a proliferation of copper merchant tokens in Australia and New Zealand. Most of them were made in Birmingham, England. The New Zealand items are scarcer than the Aussies of course; smaller population to be served made for smaller mintages. I've found them somewhat hard to find as a class, with perhaps 10 or 20 Aussies coming my way for every Kiwi, and not so many Aussies at that. They hardly ever turn up in uncirculated, rarely very worn, often have problems of various kinds. You will note the SCWC has some listings for $2.50 and $3.00 in VG. My sales
records indicate that those prices are unreasonably low. On the high end, some items priced in the hundreds of dollars may very likely languish in inventory while the dealer searches the world for the one collector who will pay that kind of
Late 19th century circulation was mostly British, though it's reasonable to assume that most of the gold would have been Australian. As Australian minors came on line in the early 20th century it began to replace the British coinage. This trend toward Aussie money got a boost in 1930 when the Aussie pound was devalued relative to British sterling. When the New Zealand pound fell in 1931 and again in 1933 a massive (and illegal) export of British coin followed, leading
to an acute lack of small change. It was this situation that led to the introduction of the distinctive New Zealand coinage in 1933.
The first coin released was the 1933 halfcrown. The other 1933 dates were released only in 1934. New Zealand numismatics is divided into pre-decimal and decimal series. Among the predecimals there are a few odd difficult dates, a few very difficult varieties, and 3 commenorative crowns, among them the Waitangi crown, the key to the series. New Zealand grading standards are tight compared with American coins. Drop everything down half a grade to be sure, and never
accept an iffy Unc. It should blaze. There are a lot of proofs recorded through the years, but they never show up in the market. For that matter, Uncs of the early coins are not that easy to find either.
This scarcity of high grade material does not lead to high prices, however. The New Zealand market is sluggish, both at home and abroad. It is an axiom of the business that you have to have an active home market to have good price levels, and there hasn't been one in New Zealand for a couple of decades. So we have the odd situation of lack of (high grade) material and disappointing sales when it does appear. For circulated stuff discounts are the rule.
About that Waitangi crown; the effect of very low mintage was compounded by the melting of some portion of them, so that it really is a very rare coin. A specimen shows up every couple of years though. It is the only New Zealand coin that will regularly get the high price it deserves.
The decimal coins seem to be uniformly disdained both by New Zealanders and the rest of the world. The series is one of those in which a negative expectations syndrome is operating. Prices in the SCWC have been falling for two decades, but no matter what the listed price is the coins will only sell at a discount.
Hard to tell what kind of market there is for the various tiny varieties of the minors, especially since pictures are not in the SCWC to figure out which variety is which. A better way to sort out those coins might be by surface characteristics. The Ottawa coins have smoother surfaces than the British ones, or at least they did back in the 80s, during the 90s they got a lot more the same.
I know there are collectors of these varieties, but I don't meet many of them.
New Zealand has never made gold coins for circulation, but a few commemorative pieces have been made since the 90s. There has not been much interest. Of late there has been a string of $5 denomination silver crowns in proof at excessive prices. Not much interest in these either, so you don't find them in the market.
Proof sets have been issued since 1933. Only a few from the 70s can be considered common. Early ones are hardly ever seen. Mint sets were started in 1965 during the worldwide collecting boom and have been issued almost every year since. You don't see them in the market very often - lack of interest.
Some twentieth century exonumia is available. There are at least two types of plastic decimal practice coins of the period 1966-67, and there are a number of 20th century private tokens as well.