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2012 Maori Art - Hei Matau Silver Proof Coin

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The 1 troy oz silver proof hei matau coin is a stunning piece of Māori history and culture, as well as the world's first coin issue to have pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) set into the design.


1 troy oz silver proof coin
Piece of pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) set into the coin
The rim of the coin is etched with notches, said to be the oldest type of carving recorded
Worldwide mintage of only 3000
New Zealand legal tender (first time to have the face value in Māori and English)
Housed in a black and red leatherette box, embossed with the traditional kōwhaiwhai design.


A cultural treasure

The hei matau depicted on the 2012 Māori Art coin was hand-carved by renowned Rotorua Māori artist, Lewis Gardiner. The piece was especially commissioned for the 60 cent stamp in New Zealand Post’s 2011 Matariki stamp issue, and represents an outstanding example of modern hei matau design.

The significance of the hei matau and its associations with navigation, abundance of seafood, mana and knowledge are reflected in the themes of the coin design. The raised pattern on the coin behind the hei matau is based on a traditional Māori kōwhaiwhai (frieze) pattern called ‘koiri’ (to sway/bend) combined with the traditional whakairo (woodcarving) pattern unaunahi (fish scales).

Koiri suggests the swaying of seaweed and the changeable nature of the wind, while unaunahi suggests the movement of shoals of fish. The combination of designs gives rise to the image of a fishing waka (canoe) traversing the ocean’s waves and currents.

Set to the right of the hei matau is a round cabochon of pounamu. Pounamu is a taonga (treasure) held in high esteem by Māori, and the export of pounamu from New Zealand is restricted. The pounamu cabochon is symbolic of the moon, which governs the rise and fall of the tides in the realm of Tangaroa (god of the sea). The notches on the edge of the coin, some say, are the oldest type of carving recorded. The groups of two notches represent strength and abundance, while the groups of three notches refer to three stages of creation (epochs of time): Te Kore (the nothingness), Te Pō (the darkness) and Te Ao Mārama (the world of light).

For the first time, these New Zealand legal tender coins feature the face value of the coin in both English and Te Reo Māori (the Māori language).

Presented with integrity

This stunning coin is presented within a black and red leatherette ipu (container) – colours that feature strongly in Māori mythology and art. The embossed pattern adorning the lid has been designed by Thomas Hansen. As on the coin, the traditional kōwhaiwhai pattern combines the ‘koiri’ design with a traditional whakairo (woodcarving) pattern called unaunahi.

Denomination: One New Zealand dollar
Composition: Silver proof (0.999)
Weight: 1 troy oz
Diameter: 38.60mm
Edge treatment: Plain with notches
Shape: Round
Obverse design: Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley, England
Reverse design: Hei matau set against a traditional kōwhaiwhai design. A piece of pounamu is set into the coin
Mint: Royal Dutch Mint
Worldwide mintage limit: 3000 coins