The strange things we find in our donation box (and what we do with them)

If you’ve ever visited Te Papa you’ve probably seen our donation box – and if you’ve put some dollars (or Euro, or yen) in there, we thank you. But it’s not all brand spanking new $2 coins that we receive. Financial accounting manager Peter Corley dives into the box and discovers some of the more interesting items we’ve found.

We get a lot of interesting things in our donation boxes – Te Papa maps, ice cream sticks with double-sided cellotape (for attempting to steal money from the boxes, which in our experience never works), random foreign currencies, coffee cards, used tissues… You name it, we have probably received it in one of our many donation boxes dotted about the museum.

The front of a 10 shilling note, 2017. Te Papa

The front of a 10 shilling note, 2017. Te Papa

We did have a bit of an exciting find recently: a pre-decimal currency NZ 10 shilling note. While we do receive lots of interesting stuff in the donation boxes, a note of this age is quite unusual.

So, we set about finding out what we could.

Early indications had us thinking we could have something of value, but some great research by research fellow Pat Brownsey brought us back down to reality.

Pat was able to identify the year of issue from the serial number as being one of 24 million notes issued in 1959, and given its not-quite pristine condition, it has a face value of around $1.

The front of a 10 shilling note

The front of a 10 shilling note, 2017. Te Papa

So we think we will just be holding on to this one for a while, and if we accumulate any further notes of interest, we will look to realise their face value.

We do receive quite a bit of NZ currency that is pre-1989, so no longer legal tender, presumably from returning tourists who were last here in the 1980s.

The 'Millennium' $10 issued in 2009 (top) alongside a $1 note, withdrawn from circulation in 1991, and the 50c coin, which was replaced in 2006 with the now-used smaller design.

The ‘Millennium’ $10 issued in 2009 (top) alongside a $1 note, withdrawn from circulation in 1991, and the 50c coin, which was replaced in 2006 with the now-used smaller design. Te Papa

While it is no longer legal tender, the Reserve Bank still accepts it, and gives us face value for it.

So we accumulate the coins and notes together, and then send one of the team off with a bag (usually a very heavy bag) to the Reserve Bank to cash it in.

Last year, we cashed up a bit more than $300 of pre-1989 NZ currency.

A box of coins of various currencies

A box of coins of various currencies. Te Papa

We try and do the same with any foreign notes and coins that get donated. These are mostly the common currencies – US and Australian dollars, Euros, and British Pounds, but we also get an array of much less common currencies.

We currently have notes from as far afield as Russia, Chile, Mongolia, Aruba, Oman, and Cambodia.

The common currency notes we can easily exchange, but the coins can present us with a bit more of a challenge.

One of the more random objects donated to Te Papa: a souvenir from the 16th Asian Games in 2010.

One of the more random objects donated to Te Papa: a souvenir from the 16th Asian Games in 2010. Te Papa

There is the opportunity to pass some of these notes and coins to staff members as they travel, in return for getting the NZ dollar value of them.

One regular traveller to Australia has so far been able to convert $800 of Australian silver coins into notes, which can then be easily converted into NZ dollars.

Get in touch if you have any great ideas or uses for foreign coins. All reasonable ideas will be entertained!

6 Responses

  1. Mark Stocker

    Interesting blog, Peter, thank you. The design on the 10 shilling note is a reproduction of Alfred Drury’s excellent bronze bas-relief, depicting the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It’s one of the relief sculptures at the foot of the Queen Victoria memorial, just a few hundred meters from Te Papa. This sculpture is badly underrated largely because its site is less than ideal, with traffic shooting past it either side, but is probably the most distinguished memorial to the great Queen in this country.
    In terms of donations, I am sure Te Papa would be grateful for any 1935 Waitangi Crowns that find their way into our donation boxes, but if the donor is feeling less expansive, a little 3d coin of that same year is a rare minting, and would enhance our Museum’s economic wellbeing!

    Reply
  2. adele

    I could give you heaps of UK old coins… BUN PENNY etc…. which was Queen Victoria, some still readable, some so thin from wear and tear! have several Millennium $10 notes doubt if used more than once! have a thicker penny coin as well from UK… you could make a penny trail around an area!!! Interesting collection at a museum, best place for the coins!

    Reply
  3. Penny Griffith

    Kia ora koutou — sometimes it’s good to know such problems are shared (apart from used tissues!) whatever size the organisation. At Golden Bay Museum in Takaka (Golden Bay/Mohua) we see evidence of our large and very diverse tourism sector in our donation boxes. We, too, make the “funny” coins available to our staff and volunteers on a swap basis if they are going overseas. But, alas, many of our visitors make no donation at all, which is an even more serious challenge.

    Reply
  4. Polly Nelson

    Great post. So how much actual money gets put in the donation box that you can really use? Sorry to hear about the used tissues.

    Reply
  5. Olwen Mason

    What fun that was! Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Siren Deluxe

    I enjoyed this light-hearted insight into the generosity of strangers.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)