by Richard Giedroyc
May 14, 2013 – Fiji took the political high road earlier this year when it revamped all of its coins and bank notes, removing the traditional portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in favor of more local subjects. At the time of the currency changeover Fiji replaced its $2 bank note with a circulating coin of the same denomination. It now appears this coin may be causing some concern.
Fiji’s current $1 and $2 coins are each composed of aluminum-bronze. They are also similar in diameter. Even in early January, when the new coins were first introduced, there were concerns. Island Buses Limited Director Ravendra Kewal was quoted in the January 9 issue of The Fiji Times as saying, “Some of the drivers are not really educated and the public can fool them. The drivers are now aware of the difference,” referring to the confusion between the new $1 and $2 coins. Kewal added, “The $1 saqamoli should be smaller than the $2 coin so that it can be easily identified and inconveniences can be avoided. Some people can differentiate between the two coins in its new form but confusion arises after the shiny $2 coins fade.”
Suva shopkeeper Bimla Wati is quoted in the same article as saying, “Since receiving the new coins last week, it has been confusing,” adding, “There were times when I accidentally gave a few customers the $2 coin instead of the $1 saqamoli. But this happens during busy hours.”
It is the fading mentioned by Kewal that appears to be the concern. Once circulated the $2 coin looses some of its initial luster, making it challenging to differentiate from the $1 coin of similar diameter. The February 28 issue of The Fiji Times newspaper reported there is an “issue of early signs of discoloring for some new $1 and $2 coins despite being in circulation for almost two months.”
In the article Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Barry Whiteside states he has received an initial report from the Royal Canadian Mint, supplier of the $1 and $2 coins. Although there is an acknowledgement of a problem with discoloration no details are given. A joint analysis on “the issue” is acknowledged by RCM Senior Manager of Communications Alex Reeves in The Fiji Times February article.
Whitehead told the newspaper, “Once our own assessments are completed, we will be able to make a formal announcement on the issue. We do not have such facilities in Fiji to re-color the new coins. The RBF is still in liaison with the RCM on probable remedial actions, if any.” Whiteside continued, “The RCM has been our supplier for a number of years. They have previously supplied us with the older 1- and 2-cent coins, the new smaller and lighter coins which were issued in April 2009, and the new flora and fauna coins of all denominations which we released this year.”
Discoloration of any coin composed of aluminum-bronze should be anticipated as the coin circulates. Canada circulates an aureate composition Loon $1 coin domestically. This Loon $1, as an example, loses its luster and darkens with use. Fiji may have to reconsider the metal content of its coinage if toning from use becomes an issue.