The Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand Inc. was founded
at The Alexander Turnbull Library on 20 July 1931. The “Royal” prefix was
obtained in 1947 and the Society was incorporated in 1948.
The driving force behind the formation of the Society was
Alan Sutherland who was, at the time, a Hansard reporter on the parliamentary
staff. The Society has excellent records of early meetings thanks to his
detailed minutes as the first secretary. There were 17 foundation members which
included several prominent members of Wellington and New Zealand society: Col.,
The Rev. D.C. Bates (the first President); Sir John Hanham; Dr. James
Elliot (later Sir); Johannes
Andersen (Turnbull Librarian); Willi Fels
(Chairman of Directors, Hallenstein Brothers and D.I.C.). Lord
Bledisloe, the Governor General, was the first Patron and he took an active
interest in the Society.
Alan Sutherland wrote the first history of the Society,
which can be found in the New Zealand Numismatic Society Transactions. To quote
from this history: “The object of forming the Society was to bring together the
fairly considerable number of people scattered throughout New Zealand who were
interested in the fascinating pursuit of studying and collecting ancient and
modern coins and medals, and kindred objects, and who up till then, had been
pursuing their study in a more or less desultory fashion, with only chance contacts
with students and collectors of kindred interests.”
At the Turnbull Library they found a home for the Society
“which considers itself fortunate in having been able to prosecute its studies
in an attractive atmosphere, and to add something to the advancement of
cultural studies in New Zealand”. To this day, the Society still has its home
at Turnbull House though the rooms available are not as grand as those when the
Andersen made his fellow members welcome.
The Society played an important role in the introduction of
New Zealand’s first coins in 1933, with Alan Sutherland on both the “Coinage
committee” (which actually advocated the introduction of decimal currency) and
the “Coinage and banknotes design committee”, with the Society’s then
J. Rankine Brown. The Society continues to have a consultative role with
regard to New Zealand coinage maintaining informal links with the Reserve Bank
and NZ Post.
In 1966, the Wellington Coin Club was formed, partly because
of the increasing interest in the imminent change to decimal currency, but also
because of a concern that the Society was not serving the needs of the
“ordinary” collector. Certainly, the Society has somewhat elitist roots and the
Royal sanction lends support to such an image. In 2005 the Society and the
Wellington Coin Club merged – many collectors belonged to both organizations
and elitism was certainly a distant memory.
In 2007, the Society launched their new website, coincident
with an exciting coin offer
made possible by the generosity of NZ Post.