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Wellington Reserve Bank Museum

Updated on September 26, 2014
1 million dollars in $50 notes
1 million dollars in $50 notes
A pre-currency token from Wellington's grand old store Kirkaldies on Lambton Quay
A pre-currency token from Wellington's grand old store Kirkaldies on Lambton Quay

The Reserve Bank Museum is a little gem of an attraction located in the Reserve Bank building at number 2 the Terrace. Although small the museum boasts some fascinating pieces such as collectors coins, counterfeit bank notes and a glass case containing a million dollars worth of $50 notes. I was particularly fascinated by the "currencies" that were issued by private companies prior to the establishment of New Zealand's national currency. One of these tokens was issued by local retailer Kirkcaldie & Stains who are still open for business on Lambton Quay.

Other displays are about the work the central bank does to manage inflation. Old photographs of people using money to wall-paper walls or fuel fires during the great depression and examples of “trillion-billion” dollar notes issued in countries such as Zimbabwe show how an out of control economy can affect the lives of real people

The MONIAC machine
The MONIAC machine

The MONIAC Machine

Pride of place in the Museum is the Moniac computer. The Moniac, which stands for Monetary National Income Analogue Computer was created in 1949 by the famous New Zealand born economist Bill Phillips.

A masterpiece of number 8 wire and Kiwi ingenuity, the MONIAC uses pumps and water to model the effect of monetary policy on an economy. About a dozen MONIAC machines were built. Most were sent to Universities including Harvard and Cambridge although one was bought by the Ford Motor Company and another by the Central Bank of Guatemala.

The MONIAC machine at the Wellington Reserve Bank is one of the few still operating and can be seen in action on the first Wednesday of the month between 12.15pm and 12.45pm.

Tour Guides

I was lucky enough to discover the Reserve Bank Museum as part of a guided tour and would definitely recommend arranging for a guide if you can. We were told that the guides are free for school and tour groups. The guide we had was very informative and able to communicate the history and importance of the bank in a really engaging and entertaining manner.

Cost

The Reserve Bank Museum is free to visit.

Getting there

The Reserve Bank Museum is located on the ground floor of the Reserve Bank building at number 2 the Terrace. It is just a short walk from Lambton Quay, one of the city's premier shopping districts. The historic parliament buildings and iconic Beehive are also nearby. Visitors coming from the Airport or southern suburbs can take one of the many buses that stop on Lambton Quay. For those coming from the North the Museum is only a few minutes on foot from the Railway station.

The Museum entrance to the right of the Reserve Bank main door
The Museum entrance to the right of the Reserve Bank main door

New Zealand Reserve Bank Museum

A marker2 the terrace wellington -
2 The Terrace, Wellington, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
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