Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Weight: 6.080 g
Gift of Dr P. Cribb
Coins and Medals
Nickel 20 franc coin
Nouvelles Hébrides, AD 1979
French coin issued for the South Pacific islands
Vanuatu, a series of islands in the Pacific Ocean to the east of Australia, was for two centuries known as the New Hebrides or Nouvelles Hébrides. The first people to arrive on the islands were Polynesian settlers in the 2nd millennium BC. Although the first Europeans to visit the island were the Portuguese in AD 1606, it was the French and British who laid claim to the island in the eighteenth century. Captain Cook visited the islands in 1774, and named them after the Hebrides, the Scottish island group on the other side of the world.
In 1878 France and Great Britain pronounced the islands neutral territory and from 1906 ruled them as a condominium, that is, a state controlled by two or more ruling nations. From the 1960s until independence in 1980 the coins of the New Hebrides, such as this, were minted in Paris with a symbol of the French Republic on one side and images relating to the islands on the other. The coins were denominated in francs. Since independence the Central Bank of Vanuatu has issued a local denomination, the vatu.
J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)