Students and collectors of coins, medals, and native currencies of Polynesia are represented in New Zealand by the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand, Inc., founded in Wellington in 1931 by Allan Sutherland as “The New Zealand Numismatic Society”. The name was changed in 1947 and the incorporation registered in 1948. The first president was D. C. Bates, retired Government meteorologist, and Lord Bledisloe was the first patron.
Small Government grants help the society to advance the study of numismatics as a cultural pursuit and, in turn, the society helps the Government with advice on designs of coins, medals, and paper money, and sometimes shares in the work of issuing medals to commemorate milestones in the history of the country. The society's first commemorative medal was the Waitangi-Bledisloe, 1935, to mark the gift to the Government of New Zealand by Lord and Lady Bledisloe of the British Residency, first occupied by James Busby in 1833, and nearby land at Waitangi, Bay of Islands. The centennial of the Treaty of Waitangi, which established British sovereignty in New Zealand, was also marked by the issue of a medal in 1940. A proposal to issue a medal in 1942 to mark the three hundredth anniversary of Tasman's discovery of New Zealand was put aside owing to the war. From early colonial days to about 1920 medals were usually given for athletic prowess, for excellence in exhibits of livestock at agricultural shows, and for achievements of outstanding merit. Awards of medals are now usually reserved for scientific research, for saving life, and for service to the Crown.
In the early years of the nineteenth century the ships of many nations frequented New Zealand waters in search of seals, whales, and timber and, as a result, gold and silver coins of many nations were used throughout the settlements. This practice continued until 1849, the last year a Governor gave an official listing of foreign coins at sterling values. These foreign coins, together with copper penny and halfpenny tokens issued by traders from Auckland to Invercargill during the period 1857–82, form a background to the British Imperial coins which were the official currency. They were replaced in New Zealand by coins of distinctive design, dated 1933.
Papers read before the society are published in the New Zealand Numismatic Journal.
The Numismatic Society of Auckland was formed on 1 September 1959; it was incorporated in June 1960.