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Old Coins

What happens to all the 5 cent and old 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins?

Banks will start collecting the 5 cent coins and old 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins on 31 July 2006 from their customers. From the banks the coins will be sent to a storage building the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has set up. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is responsible for looking after the money in New Zealand including introducing the new coins and disposing of the old coins. From this storage buildings the coins will be shipped overseas to be melted down and the metal sold and reused to make other things. The old coins are made of a mixture of two metals, one quarter is nickel and three quarters is copper.

Interesting Coin Fact

To get 1 kg of copper from the old coins, 100 old 50 cent coins need to be melted down or 470 old 5 cent coins. To get 1 kg of nickel from the old coins, 350 old 20 cent coins need to be melted down or 700 old 10 cent coins or 1,400 old 5 cent coins.


Purchasing power over the years

The price of things keeps going up. Buying something for $10 in 1980 is not the same as buying it now, it costs more now. This increasing of prices of most things over time is called inflation. The following table shows the price of shopping items in 1967 and 1995. Has the cost of these items increased in price since 1995?

Shopping List


4 c
58 c
Rice (white, 500g)

13 c

Can of Salmon (210g)
40 c
Tomato Sauce (1 can)
22 c
Packet of frozen peas
22 c
27 c
Toilet paper (4 rolls)
36 c
Tennis balls (4)

These prices taken from the New Zealand Official Yearbooks, 1968 and 1996.

In 1935, Les Stevens came first in the Hamilton to Auckland road cycling race and won 60 pounds. When New Zealand changed from pounds, shillings and pence to dollars and cents in 1967, one pound was equal to two dollars, so in one sense he won $120. However, 60 pounds in 1935 was worth a lot more than today and he bought a new car with his winnings.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has an inflation calculator that works out the buying power of money in different years. Click on the words inflation calculator and you will be able to work out the purchasing power of different amounts of money in different years. By inserting 60 pounds in 1935 then setting the other year to 2006 and pushing 'calculate' you will see that 60 pounds in 1935 has the same purchasing power as $5,638 in 2006.

A coin's journey

In these activities students consider the life of a coin and develop illustrated stories, cartoon strips, raps, songs or dramas about the life of a coin.

  • Ask the class what they have used coins for in the last week.

  • Group the class responses into headings like:

    • to buy food

    • to buy clothing

    • to buy presents 

    • for fun or leisure activities

    • for transport

    • for charity or a donation.

  • Ask the student how long the life of a new coin is likely to be and use this information to get the students thinking about the possible journey of any single coin

    Some coins could be around for 25 years or more. This can be described as a coin 'being in circulation' because the coin is moving through the community from person to person and through businesses and banks.

    Another coin could be given out brand new to a bank customer (put into circulation) and be lost that day.

    Statistics show the average life of a New Zealand 20 cent coin is likely to be around 20 years so you can imagine how many people would handle that coin in its lifetime.

    We can map the journey of a new 20 cent coin using a flow chart.

    The new coin's journey begins in Canada where it is made. It is then shipped to New Zealand and is stored by the Reserve Bank. When banks need new coins they purchase them from the Reserve Bank. The banks give the new coins to businesses or people who ask for them. The coins are now 'in circulation'.

  • Students could work in groups and discuss and record: 

    • groups of people who need to get coins from a bank e.g. shop owners, people who give out change 

    • people who might give coins back to the bank e.g. shops, businesses that collect cash during the day or week, people who have been saving their coins in money boxes or other containers that store coins, councils who have emptied their parking meters

    • situations when they or their family might ask the banks for coins e.g. when they are having a garage sale, or are getting money to put in machines like parking meters

    • situations when they or their family put coins into the bank (deposit coins) e.g. emptying a money box or coin storage container.

    • Sometimes coins get lost and are never used again. On other occasions coins can be lost and then found again. Have the students brainstorm some common and unusual ways coins can be temporarily or permanently lost.

    • Students may need some prompting to realise that one of the main ways New Zealand loses coins is when tourists leave the country taking their small change or coins with them. Banks in some other countries will exchange New Zealand notes for their own notes but banks do not exchange coins.

Interesting Coin Fact

2 million or 2.5 million tourists come to New Zealand each year. If each tourist left with 5 or 6 coins in their bag or pocket, then New Zealand would lose 10 million to 15 million coins each year.



  • Discuss the following sequence with the students.

Bank shop for change to give to customers customer as change for goods purchased person gives coin to another shop to pay for goods the shop takes the coin to the bank as part of the days banking shop

  • Have the students work in groups and add 10 to 20 more steps to their flow charts with some very different things happening to the coin.

  • Have each group share their flow chart with one other group and discuss the similarities and the differences in their flow charts.

  • Have the students use this activity as a basis to develop a cartoon strip, a rap, a song, an illustrated story or a series of dramas about the journey of one or more 20 cent coins.


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