The Kingdom of Tonga rests in the southern Pacific Ocean in Oceania along with its nearby island nations of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Wallis and Futuna, Samoa, Kermadec, and Niue. The Polynesian archipelago consists of 177 islands grouped into three main islands, namely, Vava’u which comprises the northern part, Ha’apai in the center, and Tongatapu in the south. Tonga is formerly known as the Friendly Islands and a former British protectorate that later became a constitutional monarchy. Although a protectorate, Tonga maintained its sovereignty and is the only Pacific nation that remains an Indigenous monarchy. With rainforests, volcanoes, and tropical beaches, Tonga’s tourism industry has been a primary source of its hard currency.
The First Banknotes In Tonga
The Tongan pa’anga has been the nation’s official currency since 1957, replacing the Tongan pound. Earlier issues of the Tongan pa’anga paper bills depicted a portrait of Salote Mafile’o Tofou III who reigned as queen from 1918 until 1965. Her portrait is replaced with King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV’s portrait on banknotes issued between 1973 and 1989. This set of notes has a common design on the obverse, reflecting the coat of arms of Tonga on the left and the king’s portrait to the right. Their reverse shows vignettes of landmarks, attractions, and Tonga’s way of life. The half-pa’anga banknote, for example, features five men harvesting copra on the back.
On its 2008-2015 issues, pa’anga banknotes portray the nation’s new king, George Tupou V. These banknotes also bear enhanced security features such as a wide windowed security thread with demetalized text on smaller denominations. In addition, a color-shifting thread on next larger denominations, and an Optiks thread on the largest valued note.
On July 25, 2015, a new version of Tongan pa’anga banknotes begins to circulate as a result of the National Reserve Bank of Tonga. They feature a portrait of the new king, Tupou VI, Tongan motifs, and landmarks.