The paanga is the currency of the Tonga. It is controlled by National Reserve Bank of Tonga (Pangikē Pule Fakafonua o Tonga) in Nukualofa. The paanga is not convertible and is pegged to a basket of currencies comprising the Australian, New Zealand, and United States dollars and the Japanese yen.
The paanga is subdivided into 100 seniti. The ISO code is TOP, and the usual abbreviation is T$ (¢ for seniti). In Tonga the paanga 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 paanga) but this is not used in every day life and can only be found on commemorative coins of higher denominations.
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 Haapai, Fīnau Ulukālala, resorted to the next plan, plunder what ever was worthwhile. On his inspection tour he found the ship's cash. Not knowing what money was he considered the coins as paanga. 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 Ulukālala:
Circulating coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 seniti. The one and two seniti coins are becoming less common nowadays, as they lose value due to a yearly inflation of about 10%, and are only readily available for some months after a release by the bank. Total prices in shops are usually rounded to the nearest 5 or 10 seniti, although some shops believe that to round means always to round up.
The first series of coins showed Queen Salote Tupou III, two years after her death. The reverse designs were a giant tortoise on the 1 and 2 seniti, wheat sheaves and stars on the 5 and 10 seniti, and the Tongan coat of arms on the higher denominations. From 1968, the portrait of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV appeared, facing right. Since 1975, all coins have borne the word "Tonga" on the obverse and the inscription "Fakalahi meakai" (Tongan: "Grow more food") and the denomination on the reverse. The King is shown in military uniform looking forwards. Specifications and designs are:
|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||Chicken with chicks||Coconuts|
|10 seniti||24 mm||King||Cow||King||Bananas|
|20 seniti||29 mm||King||Bee hive||King||Yams|
|50 seniti||32-33 mm||King||Fishes around a vortex||King||Tomatoes|
The obverse of the notes is features text in the Tongan language and shows the portrait of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. The reverse is in English language and shows typical motives and landmarks of Tonga: the Haamonga a Maui Trilithon, the royal palace, the Tongan Development Bank, the Port of Vavau (twice, once as it was around 1900, and the other contemporary), and ngatu making.