Colonial Money of Australia and Oceania

During the early 18th century, the increasingly frequent visits by European and American sailors to the islands of the Pacific began to include settlers, traders and missionaries who wanted to create a permanent presence in the region. As a result, western concepts of money began to appear.

European-style money came into use, at first in the form of the common world trade coins like the Spanish silver dollar (8 reales), Dutch guilders, English shillings and guineas, Portuguese moidore and Indian gold mohurs.  

The earliest coinage in the region was produced at New South Wales in Australia in the early 19th century when authorities punched holes out of Spanish dollars – the famous “holey dollars.” The resulting cut-out (a.k.a. “dump”) and the host coin were then countermarked with their new values and used as separate coins. In 1851, gold was discovered in Australia, and mints were established in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne to produce gold sovereigns of British design. These sovereigns continued in production until 1931. A full range of regular-issue Australian coinage was introduced in 1910 with silver florins, shillings, sixpence and threepence followed by pennies and halfpennies in 1911. Australia converted to the dollar from the pound in 1966.

New Zealand followed the pattern of Australia, first using foreign coinage and then British coinage. An independent coinage for New Zealand was developed in 1933, which included images of local origin such as the kiwi or a Maori warrior. The nation converted to a dollar standard in 1967.

Coinage was uncommon in Oceania until the beginning of the 20th century when European colonial powers began to issue currency specifically for use in their territories. Great Britain was an exception, except in the case of Fiji, for which a coinage of florins and sixpence was introduced in 1934 featuring a native sailing boat and a sea turtle. As the island-nations became independent after World War II, new money was produced reflecting native scenes and artwork, though many of the smaller nations use Australian or American currency for daily transactions.



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