Tongan paʻanga

Tongan paʻanga
Tonga paʻanga (Tongan)

1 paʻanga
ISO 4217
Code TOP
100 hau
1/100 seniti
Symbol T$ (sometimes PT)
seniti ¢
Banknotes T$1, T$2, T$5, T$10, T$20, T$50, T$100
Freq. used 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, T$1
Rarely used 1¢, 2¢
User(s)  Tonga
Central bank National Reserve Bank of Tonga
Inflation 4.5%
Source The World Factbook, 2012 est.

The paʻanga is the currency of Tonga. It is controlled by the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (Pangikē Pule Fakafonua ʻo Tonga) in Nukuʻalofa. The paʻanga is not convertible and is pegged to a basket of currencies comprising the Australian, New Zealand, United States dollars and the Japanese yen.

The paʻanga is subdivided into 100 seniti. The ISO code is TOP, and the usual abbreviation is T$ (¢ for seniti). In Tonga the paʻanga is often referred to in English as the dollar and the seniti as the cent. There is also the unit of hau (1 hau = 100 paʻanga), but this is not used in everyday life and can only be found on commemorative coins of higher denominations.


Entada phaseoloides, native name paʻanga, is a bean-like vine producing large pods with large reddish brown seeds. The seeds are roundish, up to 5 cm diameter and 1 or 2 cm thick. When strung together they are used as anklets, part of the kailao dance costume. They were also used as playing pieces in an ancient disc-throwing game, lafo.

On 1 December 1806 Tongans attacked the passing ship Port-au-Prince in order to take it over. They failed, as the crew sank the vessel. The chief of Haʻapai, Fīnau ʻUlukālala, resorted to the next plan, to plunder whatever was worthwhile. On his inspection tour he found the ship's cash. Not knowing what money was, he considered the coins as paʻanga. Finally, not seeing anything of value, he ordered the remains of the ship to be burned. It was much later that William Mariner, the only survivor of this attack, told him that those pieces of metal were of great value and not merely playing stones.

When Tonga introduced decimal currency, it decided not to call the main unit the dollar because the native word, tola, translated into a pig's snout, the soft end of a coconut, or, in vulgar language, a mouth. Pa'anga, on the other hand, translated into money.

Mariner also passed down the following statement of Fīnau ʻUlukālala:

If money were made of iron and could be converted into knives, axes and chisels there would be some sense in placing a value on it; but as it is, I see none. If a man has more yams than he wants, let him exchange some of them away for pork. [...] Certainly money is much handier and more convenient but then, as it will not spoil by being kept, people will store it up instead of sharing it out as a chief ought to do, and thus become selfish. [...] I understand now very well what it is that makes the papālangi [white men] so selfish – it is this money!


The paʻanga was introduced on 3 April 1967. It replaced the pound at a rate of 1 pound = 2 paʻanga. Until 11 February 1991, the pa'anga was pegged to the Australian dollar at par. Since that time, a basket of currencies is taken (see above) and the paʻanga has continuously declined. As in 2006, one needs about T$1.60 to get 1 Australian dollar. Official exchange rates are released daily by the National Reserve Bank, established 1 July 1989, but rather towards the end of the day than early in the morning.


2 paʻanga coin depicting Taufa'ahau Tupou IV in military uniform.

In 1967, circulating coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 seniti and 1 and 2 paʻanga. The 1 and 2 seniti were struck in bronze with the other denominations in cupro-nickel. The 50 seniti, 1, and 2 paʻanga were only struck in small numbers as these denominations were also issued in note form. In 1974, dodecagonal (twelve sided) 50 seniti were introduced but 50 seniti banknotes continued to be issued until 1983. In 1974, 1 seniti coins were struck in brass rather than bronze, but reverted to bronze in 1975.

In 1975, a new series of coins was issued, themed around FAO and food production and featuring a new portrait style effigy of the king. This was followed by another series of similar theme in 1981. 1 and 2 Pa'anga coins continued to be issued. Starting in 1978 the 1 Pa'anga coins were redesigned with an innovative, or at least unique rectangular shape while the 2 Pa'anga (depicted on the right) remained round and continued to be one of the world's largest circulating coins at the time, larger even than standard "English crown sized" coins. The reverses of both were changed annually to commemorate a different FAO goal or event. Later seven sided Christmas themed pa'anga coins also exist. However, due to the 2 Pa'anga coin's large size and weight and the awkward shape of the 1 pa'anga, they failed to compete against the 1 and 2 Pa'anga notes that were simultaneously issued so production of these denominations ended in the 1980s due to low commercial demand. All 1 and 2 pa'anga coins still remain legal tender but are rarely used.

in 2002, nickel-plated steel replaced cupro-nickel in the 10, 20, and 50 senti and the 5 senti in 2005. The change did not occur in the 5 senti initially as there was still a reasonable quantity of coins in stock at the time of the change. The move was made to reduce costs in production of the coins. The weight of the coins was also slightly reduced, although they remained the same approximate size as earlier dated coins. In 2011, commercial demand for 20 and 50 seniti prompted these denominations to be issued featuring the effigy of Tupou IV posthumous, who had died in 2006. A new obverse design for George Tupou V had not yet been made or selected at this time, possibly due to increased health concerns regarding the latter monarch, who died in March 2012.

For a brief period, some of the higher denomination coinage from the 1967-1968 series was "countermarked" with commemoration stamps that were added to the coin after being struck. The most distinct of these is Oil Search series which was plated in gold or "gilt." Some countermarked pieces were released into circulation but many were also sold to collectors.

Current circulating coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 seniti. The one and two seniti coins are becoming less common due to low value and may only be readily available for months after a release by the banks. Total prices in shops are usually rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 seniti.

In 2011, Tonga had announced plans to introduce a new and more modern series of coins shortly after neighboring Samoa and Fiji had done so, and on 3 March 2015 the Royal Australian Mint announced the production of new coins that would begin release later that year. Dignitaries, including Tongan Princess Angelika Tuku'aho whose father will feature on her county's coins took turns striking the coins at a ceremony. "I'm very proud and honoured to be able to strike the coins today," she said. "This is also in celebration of His Majesty's coronation that is coming up in July."[1]

The first series of coins showed Queen Salote Tupou III, two years after her death. The reverse designs were Tu'i Malila (a radiated tortoise presented to the Tongan royal family by Captain Cook in 1777) on the 1 and 2 seniti, wheat sheaves and a stylized depiction of the constellation Crux on the 5 and 10 seniti, and the Royal Tongan coat of arms on the higher denominations. From 1968, the portrait of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV appeared, facing right, with the first year issue commemorating the coronation event. Since 1975, all coins have borne the word "Tonga" on the obverse and the inscription "Fakalahi meʻakai" (Tongan: "Grow more food") and the denomination on the reverse. All 1975–2011 coins are FAO themed. The King is shown in military uniform in portrait format rather than profile.

As part of a coinage reform, new coins were minted in 2015 by the Royal Australian Mint.[2]

Specifications and designs are:

Value Diameter Composition 1975–1979 1981-
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse
1 seniti 18 mm Bronze Maize Pig Maize Vanilla
2 seniti 21 mm Marrows PLANNED FAMILIES FOOD FOR ALL, six people holding hands Taro PLANNED FAMILIES FOOD FOR ALL, six people holding hands
5 seniti 19 mm Cupronickel Chicken with chicks Bananas Chicken with chicks Coconuts
10 seniti 24 mm King Grazing cattle King Bananas on tree
20 seniti 29 mm King Bees and hive King Yams
50 seniti 32–33 mm King Fishes around a vortex King Tomatoes
Value Diameter Composition 2015 [3]
Obverse Reverse
5 seniti ? mm Nickel-plated steel King Tupou VI Heilala
10 seniti ? mm King Tupou VI Malau
20 seniti ? mm King Tupou VI Kalia
50 seniti ? mm King Tupou VI Milolua
1 pa'anga ? mm Aluminium bronze King Siaosi (George) Tupou V Coat of arms of Tonga

The King is shown facing on the 10,20, and 50 seniti, under the initials FAO.


In 1967, notes (bearing the portrait of Queen Salote Tupou III) were introduced by the government in denominations of ½, 1, 2, 5 and 10 paʻanga. From 1974, the portrait of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV appeared on the notes. ½ paʻanga notes were issued until 1983, with 20 paʻanga notes introduced in 1985, followed by 50 paʻanga in 1988. In 1992, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga took over production of paper money. On 30 July 2008, a new banknote series with greater security features was introduced featuring George Tupou V and a redesigned look. During this issue, a 100 paʻanga banknote was introduced for the first time.[4]

The obverse of Tongan notes feature text in the Tongan language and shows the portrait of the monarch. The reverse is in English language and shows typical motives and landmarks of Tonga: the Haʻamonga ʻa Maui Trilithon, a humpback whale, burial mounds, school students and rugby players, the royal palace, the Tongan Development Bank, the Port of Vavaʻu (twice, once depicted as it was around 1900, and the other in contemporary depiction), and ngatu making.

On June 29, 2015, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga introduced a new family of paʻanga banknotes in six denominations, from 2 to 100 paʻanga. They feature a portrait of the current king of Tonga, Tupou VI.[5][6]

Current TOP exchange rates

See also


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