In the 1930s, New Zealand devalued its pound in relation to sterling and a whole new series of coinage and bank notes were introduced under the authority of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The government commissioned the accomplished English numismatic artist George Kruger Gray to design the dominion’s new coinage, which included this very handsome half-crown. It’s a splendid convergence between Maori and European design, two cooperating strains of New Zealand’s national culture. The country’s shield of arms is topped by a Tudor crown and flanked by indigenous motifs.
The portrait of George V is a surprising blend of modern and traditional. Kruger Gray spurned the more usual practice of putting the sovereign’s floating naked head in the middle of the coin. Instead he has the King-Emperor crowned and clothed in robes of state and breaking the circle of denticles around the coin. What are those little nibs called going around the inside rim of a coin? That’s right, denticles. No, I hadn’t heard of them either.
George Kruger Gray’s numismatic accomplishment was not limited to New Zealand: he also designed coins or sets of coins for Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Great Britain, Jersey, Mauritius, New Guinea, South Africa, and Southern Rhodesia.
And, wouldn’t you know, his house in St. Paul’s Studios was up for sale recently.