Every year since at least 2008, the New Zealand Post releases what it calls its ‘Annual Coin’, a single silver coin denominated at $5 NZ Dollars. Usually featuring a native animal from amongst New Zealand’s weird and wonderful selection, previous coins we’ve covered have depicted the Short-tailed Bat (2013), and the Kairuku (2014), the latter being a giant extinct Penguin.
This years coin features a bird called the Huia, also now extinct (guess why….), it was the largest species of wattlebird and belonged to a family so ancient that there are no remaining relations worldwide. Officially extinct since the end of 1907, there were credible sightings near Wellington until 1922 and in Te Urewera National Park up to the early 1960’s.
Regarded by the Maori as tapu (sacred), the Huai had the most pronounced difference in bill shape between male and female of any species of bird. The male has a short, stout beak like a crow, while the female has a long bill that arcs downwards (see image at top). Both had the same diet of insects and berries, but females used their beak to probe deep into wood and leaf litter, while males would chisel away at rotting wood.
The coin will be shipping from the end of February at a price of $129.00. Struck by the Royal Dutch Mint, the design is a little more stylistic than other recent offerings, having koru and manaia patterns in the background instead of natural vegetation, but a fine one regardless.
The 1oz silver proof coin has been designed by renowned Maori artist, Dave Burke and depicts the female huia sitting on a branch in three-dimensional relief. The manaia patterns in the background are symbolic of a mythical bird-like figure that is the messenger between the earthly and spiritual realms and the koru represent growth and reaching toward the light.
This legal tender coin is the only $5 silver proof commemorative coin to be issued annually and each coin includes an individually numbered certificate containing further information about the huia. With a mintage of just 1,500 worldwide, you’ll want to get your order in early for this unique coin.