New Zealand's first silver coins – the half crown, florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence first issued in 1933 – were designed by British artist George Kruger Gray. The half crown was the only coin to depict a heraldic motif (the New Zealand coat of arms). An earlier version of the florin gave the kiwi pine-cone-like feathers, which was unacceptable to the Coin Designs Committee. The Māori warrior on the shilling was informed by a similar figure on the Hector Medal (a New Zealand science award), designed by British artist Allan Wyon. The huia, an extinct native bird, featured on the sixpence, and crossed patu (Māori clubs) on the threepence. Kruger Gray's initials are inscribed in tiny letters on each of these coins.
The bronze penny and halfpenny, designed by New Zealand artist Leonard Cornwall Mitchell, were officially issued in 1940, although they first circulated in December 1939. The penny features a tūī in the branches of a kōwhai tree in bloom. The halfpenny features a hei tiki (Māori neck pendant). The British monarch was on the obverse ('heads') side of each coin.
These coins were replaced by new decimal coins with new designs in 1967.
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