New Zealands annual $5 silver coin features a native bird, the Laughing Owl

Just once a year the New Zealand Post issues a $5 silver commemorative coin and like the Royal Australian Mint’s Kangaroo series, they’re themed into smaller chunks to give the long-running and open-ended series some kind of structure for collectors. We often find that a series without end, or simply one of a size too large for most to collect, often ends up with people buying none of the coins instead. We like to complete a set, so sub-sets are a sensible compromise.

The current subset features animals that are extinct and follows one that covered endangered creatures. With a quite unique set of fauna, New Zealand has plenty of interesting subjects to adorn its numismatics and this series has been no exception. The Laughing Owl is the fourth to debut, previous coins featuring the Kairuku (2014), the Huia (2015) and the magnificent Haast’s Eagle (2016), the latter in particular being a superb design.

Struck in a troy ounce of fine silver, devoid of modifications, this is again, a classic numismatic combining the bird with some traditional Maori-inspired imagery in the background similar to that of the Huia coin. The actual style of the coins in this series isn’t as tightly woven as many others, no doubt in part because of changing designers and even changing mints doing the actual production. This one is struck by the Helvetic Mint, previous years having seen BH Mayer (twice) and the Royal Dutch Mint do the honours. The last two coins have been designed by Maori artist Dave Burke.

The obverse has the usual effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank Broadley on it, surrounded by inscriptions detailing the issue. The denomination appears on the reverse face. Packaging is the standard NZP black snapper case inside a coloured shipper box. This also includes the Certificate of Authenticity. Price is $139.00 NZD ($97 USD / €93 / £79), a bit more than we’d like, but offset a little by the 1,500 mintage and the popularity of these.



The laughing owl, so named for its raucous cry of repetitive shrieks, was a common sight in the South Island in the mid 1800’s. However the laughing owl had no defence against predators, and the introduction of stoats and ferrets from the 1880s is believed to have led to the extinction of this beautiful nocturnal bird.

The robust form and detailed feathers of the laughing owl have been cleverly captured in Dave Burke’s design of this 1oz silver proof coin. The korus in the background represent the forests in which the owl dwelled and the domain of Tāne, God of the Forest. The English name for the laughing owl as well as the Māori name whēkau, can be seen clearly printed following the curvature of the coin.

This 1oz silver proof coin minted from 0.999 silver brings the memory of the laughing owl back to life in this stunning representation. This $5 coin portrays a unique piece of New Zealand’s history, a worthwhile addition to any New Zealand collection.

Each coin is accompanied by an individually numbered certificate of authenticity, and displayed in an elegant black leatherette case.


COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
DIAMETER 40.0 mm
BOX / COA Yes / Yes