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Fiji $2 Note to Coin Transition Rocky
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
May 15, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Fiji is looking to save money on its money.

Fiji’s central bank recently issued a $2 coin while withdrawing the bank note of the same denomination. Usually this sort of a transition is relatively simple, however Fiji’s transition appears to be experiencing some unforeseen problems.

On the surface everything appears to be on schedule. Reserve Bank of Fiji governor Barry Whiteside was quoted in the April 3 issue of The Fiji Times newspaper as saying, “The old $2 note has ceased to be legal tender for trading purposes so shopkeepers and traders should not give them out as change. Those who are still holding any $2 notes have until the end of April to exchange them at a commercial banks.”

Whiteside addressed the new $5 polymer composition bank note at the same time.

“The old brown $5 notes will cease to be legal tender for trading purposes on June 30, after which they may (like the $2 notes) be exchanged at a commercial bank up until the end of July. Anyone still holding the notes after this time can bring them to the RBF for exchange.”

There is such a thing as saying too much, which Whiteside did. He continued, “As for the new $5 polymer note, these are being issued through the commercial banks from today, so you will hopefully be seeing them in the market very soon.”

Take a step backwards to understand what is really going on. Fiji has demonetized its $2 note. The $2 note is being replaced with a coin.

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(Coins of Fiji have been produced at the Australian Mint in Canberra, Birmingham in England, British Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, and the U.S. Mint at San Francisco.) Fiji has a new $5 note that will “hopefully” be in the market very soon, while the old note is about to be demonetized regardless of the availability of this new note. Whiteside has acknowledged the $5 notes will not be available through Automatic Teller Machines! (Incidentally, neither are the new $2 coins.)

Add to this mix the Reserve Bank of Fiji is continuing discussions with the Royal Canadian Mint regarding Fiji being dissatisfied with how the new $2 coins are becoming discolored!

Whiteside recently explained part of the $2 coin dilemma. “We understand that a certain amount of tarnishing is expected with all coins or metal combinations that contain varying amounts of copper. We are questioning the level of tarnishing. We are also told that there is a ‘mature’ stage where the coins will tend to get lighter in color with increased handling. As noted however, we are still in discussion on the whole issue.”

There have been numerous newspaper articles indicating word of the new coin and bank note reform has been slow to reach the populace. Merchants and consumers continue to use older coins and bank notes, unaware some of them are no longer legal tender.

All of this is in the wake of the Fiji government making a controversial break from the British Commonwealth of Nations by removing the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from all coins and bank notes of Fiji. In a similar action to what happened when the Peoples’ Republic of China took over Hong Kong, the new coins of Fiji are to depict a flower rather than the British monarch.

Fiji’s current currency system followed the examples of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, adopting a decimal dollar system due to the Fiji dollar being nearly on par with that of the United States at that time.

Coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 cents in 1969, followed by a 50-cent coin in 1975. Each of these corresponds to the diameters and metal compositions of the same denominations in Australia. The metal composition of Fiji’s coins eventually changed. In 1995 an aluminum-bronze $1 coin was introduced. The 1- and 2-cent coins were withdrawn in 2009. The $2 coin is the latest currency innovation.

Due to domestic politics and how Fiji wants to relate to the British Commonwealth the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was dropped from all coins and bank notes in 2013. It is the introduction of this new currency system with which Fiji is having problems.

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