Product owner: The Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Issued at face value
The Armistice Day Coin was legal tender. Two million were minted and issued to the general public at face value (50 cents). To ensure the coin would be available to everyday New Zealanders it was distributed into general circulation via retail outlets around the country and sold by NZ Post.
Describe the project nominated
The Armistice Day Coin is the second in a two-coin series produced by the Reserve Bank to mark the centenary of World War 1. It commemorates the history, service, and sacrifice made by service personnel and their families to bring peace to New Zealand and the world.
The war affected almost every family in New Zealand and, as a young country, was a significant event in the formation of our national identity. We sent over 100,000 young men and 550 nurses – almost 9% of our population at the time. Of these, about 58,000 became casualties.
The Armistice Day Coin was launched with an innovative public awareness campaign which invited people to ‘SPEND IT. KEEP IT. REMEMBER.’ This was designed to reassure people they could use it like a standard 50 cent coin or hold onto it as a keepsake. The campaign also had a strong educational component. As well as providing details about the coin’s design and significance, there was information about the history of World War 1 and New Zealand’s role.
Innovation of the design
The Armistice Day Coin’s standout feature is the use of colour. After striking, a computer controlled high-speed colour pad printer added the ink. Coins were inspected for quality both visually by a person and through automated checks. Finally, the ink was cured by passing the coins through a furnace.
On the outer ring is the date the Armistice was signed. This encircles a free-formed remembrance wreath with symbols important to New Zealand’s national identity. The engraved spiral shape is a koru, a sacred Māori symbol for new life, strength, growth and peace. The silver fern is unique to New Zealand, it represents the past, present, and future – and reflects our three armed forces.
At the centre of the coin is a green wreath entwining a vibrant red poppy. The poppy represents the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) and is an international symbol of remembrance.
The Armistice Day Coin is part of a two-coin series. It complements and parallels the award-winning Anzac coin which honours the spirit of the alliance and ‘mateship’ that was formed between New Zealand and Australia 100 years ago at Gallipoli. The Anzac coin was New Zealand’s first ever circulating coin with colour. Using learnings from this limited minting the Armistice Day Coin was produced in higher numbers with a vibrant design intended to stand out in general circulation. It would be a ‘coin for the people’. Even its distribution was carefully planned to ensure New Zealanders of all ages from all walks of life would have the opportunity to ‘SPEND IT, KEEP IT. REMEMBER’. Dispersing the coin for circulation via retail outlets all over New Zealand meant that on 11/11 it quickly found its way into people’s change and became a national talking point.
New Feature(s), Elements, or Design
The coin itself had unique design elements – including the koru, the silver fern, the remembrance wreath and poppy. As part of a two-coin series it was only the second time a coloured coin had been released into general circulation in New Zealand. Building on what was learnt from the first, limited release coin, the Armistice Day coin was intended to be a ‘coin for the people’. The Reserve Bank doubled the number of coins minted to increase the reach of the Armistice message and created an innovative campaign to launch it. This included an augmented reality app that was integral in educating and contemporising the coin. Even the distribution was unusual. Two million coins were split up and distributed through retail outlets and stores all over the country. The idea was to put the Armistice Day Coin into the hands of everyday New Zealanders so people of all ages and from all walks of life could have the opportunity to ‘SPEND IT, KEEP IT. REMEMBER’.
Significance of the Event Commemorated
Although New Zealand’s official memorial day remains 25 April, Anzac Day, Armistice Day – 11 November marks the day in 1918 when fighting between Germany and the Allies came to an end, a little over four years after war began. This ended the fighting in a war of unprecedented scale and lethality. It made its mark on the generations which followed. The social impact of the First World War on New Zealand, as on all combatant nations, was significant and lasting, giving shape to the twentieth century societies that followed. The significant public responses to ongoing centenary events from 2014 makes clear that these events have not been forgotten and remain powerful memories for families and society.
Outside New Zealand and Australia, 11 November is the formal memorial day for many former Allied powers.
The bank consulted with stakeholder groups including the RSA, and with the Canadian Mint to design a coin worthy of this momentous occasion in New Zealand’s history. The final design by Kiwi artist Dave Burke is both beautiful and meaningful with the official RSA’s red poppy in the centre, surrounded by a free-formed remembrance wreath incorporating the silver fern and koru. These iconic New Zealand symbols have deep significance and the colour is both striking and evocative. The fresh green of the wreath represents growth and new beginnings, the silver fern stands proud and is unique to New Zealand. The red of the poppy echoes the red flowers of the pohutukawa tree which in Māori tradition represent the blood of a young warrior.
A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II appears on the obverse side.
Feedback from Stakeholders, Including the General Public
“The RNZRSA was engaged in the development of the Armistice Day coin right from the beginning. Given the significance of Armistice Day in both New Zealand and worldwide, it was considered a very worthwhile and valuable project.”
“The final product enabled many stories to be told and was well received by veterans and their families. It’s a real credit to everyone involved and is a coin that New Zealanders can quite rightly be proud of.”
Jack Steer, Chief Executive, RNZRSA
“We were impressed that the RBNZ proactively sought assistance from the Blind Foundation on the shape, size and colour of the coin so people who are blind or have low vision could experience the coin’s unique design. We were also able to share the story with our community before the coins came into circulation so they knew to expect it in their change.”
Chris Orr, Access & Awareness Advisor, RNZFB