|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2010)|
|Central bank||Reserve Bank of Australia|
|User(s)||Kiribati (alongside Australian dollar)|
|Source||The World Factbook, 2005 est.|
|Pegged with||Australian dollar at par|
|Coins||5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1, $2|
|Banknotes||Australian notes circulate|
|Mint||Royal Australian Mint|
The dollar is the currency of Kiribati. It is not an independent currency but is pegged at 1:1 ratio to the Australian dollar. Coins were issued in 1979 and circulate alongside banknotes and coins of the Australian dollar.
Before independence, Australian coins were used in Kiribati (then called the Gilbert Islands) from 1966 until 1979. Previous to Australia's introduction of the dollar, the Australian pound was chiefly used throughout the islands, though Gilbert and Ellice Islands banknotes issued in the 1940s were also in use and were redeemable for Pound Sterling at face value.
During Japanese occupation of the islands during World War II, the Oceanian pound, an all banknote currency created by the Japanese Government to be a universal currency for the pacific, was in use. The Australian pound was restored as the official national currency after the war ended.
A call to issue coinage for an independent Kiribati in 1979 was made to legitimize its new political status, and although Australian banknotes would be used, the decision to issue domestic coins was widely favored and accepted. A two dollar coin was later introduced to replace the note and celebrate the nation's tenth anniversary.
Kiribati's first coins were introduced in 1979 following independence and were directly pegged to the Australian dollar. 20,000 proof and uncirculated sets were released specifically for the collectors market along with a large supply of coins for general circulation within the Gilbert Islands as well as newly annexed territories within Kiribati. The coins were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 dollar.
Except for the 50 cents and 1 dollar pieces, all of these coins are the same size, weight, and composition as the corresponding Australian coins, with the 1 and 2 cent pieces composed of bronze and the 5, 10, 20, 50, and $1 being composed of cupro-nickel. As usual for other pacific island states, only the lower denominations (1-20 cent) share any commonality, with the largest denominations being unique to their respective countries. The 50 cent piece is round with reeded edges, unlike the dodecagonal (twelve sided) Australian equivalent. The Kiribati 1 dollar is the same twelve sided shape as the Australian 50 cent coin, but it is smaller and oddly enough, weighs about 4½ grams less than both the Australian and Kiribati half dollars.
In 1989, nickel-brass 2 dollar coins were introduced coinciding with Kiribati's tenth anniversary of independence and Australia's issuance of their 2 dollar coin and the demonetization of the 2 dollar note. The Kiribati $2 piece is round and much larger than the Australia's comparatively tiny $2 piece, with the same circumference of the 20 cent coin and a thickness similar to the British 1 Pound coin.
Most Kiribati coins are dated 1979, marking an event to cooincide with independence, but with some exception. In 1992, Kiribati began producing 1 and 2 cent pieces in copper-steel clad and 5 cent pieces in nickel-steel clad restruck off of 1979 planchets as production of these denominations began to exceed the face value with the original materials. These coins are distinct in their luster and obvious attraction to a magnet and were produced to compensate for Australia's discontinuation of the two lowest denominations and a shortage of the latter. However, a small mintage of the 1992 issue 1 cent was struck in bronze. 10, 20, 50, and $1 coins have yet to appear as later issues and do not appear to be restrike coins. So most of the denominations remain as a single date issue. Although Kiribati retained 1 and 2 cent coins well after Australia demoted theirs, redundancy and devaluation has slowly removed these coins from general circulation.
Most coinage within Kiribati is heavily worn or corroded as cash is the main mode of exchange within the islands, with ATM services being nearly nonexistent in most areas outside of the capital. Brief coin shortages are also a common occurrence. Kiribati no longer issues local coinage and hasn't now for quite some time, so most examples are either uncirculated from the bank or heavily used. Australian coinage has also become more frequent than local coinage in more populated regions for these reasons as the government feels it more practical and cost effective to have coins sent rather than specially produced.
Although unnofficial, Kiribati does occasionally issue noncirculating bullion and collectors coinage. Although not to the extent as some other neighboring countries.
The obverse of all Kiribati coins depicts the national crest of the republic, while the obverse depict flora, fauna, and items of cultural importance to the islands. The coins were designed by sculptor and engraver Michael Hibbit.
Reverse depictions are as follows:
1 CENT: Christmas Island Frigate Birds
2 CENTS: B'abal Plant
5 CENTS: Tokai Gecko
10 CENTS: Unripened Breadfruit Plant
20 CENTS: Three Dolphins
50 CENTS: Panda Nut Plant
1 DOLLAR: Outrigger Canoe
2 DOLLARS: Traditional Meeting Lodge and Giant Conch Shell.
Australian pound Sterling banknotes were first introduced to the region in 1914 shortly before the Gilbert Islands gained status from a protectorate to a crown colony of Great Britain in 1916. These continued to be the main source of exchange until the decimalization of 1966.
In 1942, local banknotes were issued under the authority of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Government and were locally produced with a primitive and austere design. These notes were valued on parity with sterling and issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 10 shillings and 1 pound. After the wartime emergency had passed these notes were discontinued and gradually phased out. Due to their scarcity, these notes are highly collectable.
In 1966, the new Australian dollar became the new official currency of The Gilbert and Ellice islands, replacing the pound notes. Initially only 1, 2, 5, 10 dollars were used, but 20, 50, and 100 dollars were later sent for use. This continued to be the official currency after the breakup of the joint Gilbert and Ellice colonies and following independence of the Gilberts and annexed territories as Kiribati. The 1 dollar notes circulated alongside a local coin.
The 1 and 2 dollar notes were later withdrawn in favor of both Kiribati and Australian issued coins.