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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!