Juno Moneta's Blog

12 Apr 2015

Maori Tribesman Token of New Zealand

Tokens | Juno Moneta

The first coin I posted from New Zealand just had to be this gorgeous Tradesmen's Token of Milner & Thompson. The depictions of Maori tribesmen is just spectacular! The company was in Christchurch and issued a number of designs, this one being the best. Other tokens state they were "Sole Agents for Brinsmead Pianos" (anyone see the movie "The Piano"). These tokens were manufactured during a shortage of official coinage from 1857 to 1881. All of the Milner & Thompson tokens may have been minted in 1881. Some additional information: Copper One Penny Token, minted by Stokes & Martin, Melbourne. Issued by Milner & Thompson, Canterbury Music Depot, Christchurch, 1881. Milner & Thompson's Music store, the Canterbury Music Depot, was opened in 1874 by Robert Thompson, some time soon afterwards he took John Milner into partnership and they worked together for 21 years. When Milner retired Thompson continued in the business until he passed it to his sons in 1907. The business was bought by Charles Begg and Co. in 1920, and was still a going concern in 1950. Milner & Thompson were the last issuers of tokens in New Zealand.
Obverse: Maori warrior standing on an island in front of a palm tree. He holds a large square shield on the ground with his right hand and a weapon in his left. The shield is quartered with plants in each sector, a kiwi emerges walking left from behind the shield. In the sea behind the prow of a war canoe can be seen to the left of the kiwi and a mountainous island is seen in the background. Legend around is NEW ZEALAND
Reverse: Bust a Maori warrior facing three-quarters right with tattooed face, wearing a feather headdress and holding a spear in his right hand and shield; around, ADVANCE NEW ZEALAND. Even in the age of the ubiquitous tattoo, his image is dramatic.

I can add some more recently acquired info: The Polynesians had no form of written language so tattooing was used to express individuality, genealogy, life history, achievements, social status and rank. Ta moko is the Maori customary form of a tattooing tradition that extends back thousands of years, and it is still an extremely visible component of contemporary New Zealand culture. Ta moko is related to the tatu of Eastern Polynesia and the tatau of Samoa (settled around 200 CE). Both words mean "to mark". Maori used a number of traditional designs and many of them are still in use today. The most recognisable is perhaps the koru (or loop) design, along with the hei tiki (or tiki). The koru represents the spiral shape of an unfurling New Zealand fern frond and stands for new life, renewal and hope for the future as exemplified in this Maori proverb: "Ka hinga atu he tete-kura - ka hara-mai he tete-kura" (As one fern frond dies - one is born to take its place.) Each koru in a tattoo signifies a loved one and loving relationships. The tail design of Air New Zealand aircraft displays the koru and you can see the koru in the facial moko below. [JM: Also in this fascinating token of New Zealand.] See a painting of a Maori man with koru tattoo at this: https://www.ancient.eu/image/10738/maori-rangatira---tamati-waka-nene/ [excerpt from "Ancient History Encyclopedia", article by Kim Martins]



Level 7

Now that was interesting. I mean I never heard of the tribe never new they HD a token made of them. Thanks for the info and photo's.mike


Level 5

Spectacular detailed coin and thanks for the history lesson!


Level 4

Great info and wonderful token with a awesome design. Share more please love the read.


Level 4



Level 6

Great information and really cool token!

Ian Fenn

Level 5

Many of the NZ and australian tokens were produced from dies made by the old Soho mint.....

Juno Moneta

Level 4

That's no doubt true, however by then the 'old' Soho mint run by Matthew Boulton, and then his son, was sold and became the Heaton mint. Their products often have the "H" mintmark. But I believe there were other Birmingham private mints as well.

Juno Moneta

Level 4

You'll be happy to learn that this depiction of the Maori culture, that appears on both sides, is the only one of the merchant tokens to do so. It's also one of the more common varieties so you should eventually be able to find one.


Level 6

That is great info and a great token. I'm going to have to check out New Zealand tokens. Thanks!!


Level 5

Nice token and very informative blog. Thanks for sharing.

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