samoan tala money currency bills notes cash samoa

Samoa Currency Spotlight

In Business and Currency by Kyle RammlerLeave a Comment

From German marks, to New Zealand pounds, and now finally a currency all its own, Samoa’s currency history is as fascinating as the island nation itself. Find out why its position in the South Pacific is both a blessing and a curse in our Currency Spotlight on the Samoan tālā.

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History and Culture | Travel Guide

  • Symbol: WS$
  • Currency Code: WST
  • Subunit: sene (1/100)
  • Coins: 10, 20, 50 sene, 1 and 2 tālā
  • Banknotes: 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 tālā
  • Samoa GDP (nominal): $785.9 million
  • Inflation: 6%
  • Central Bank: Central Bank of Samoa


Prior to WWI Samoa used the German mark, but after Germany was defeated Samoa was ceded to New Zealand. The pound it used was known as the Western Samoan pound but it did not have unique coinage. Instead it used first British and then New Zealand coins. The currency was on par with British pound sterling until 1930 when the Great Depression caused the value of the New Zealand pound to break from that of the British pound. The New Zealand pound later returned to parity with the GBP in 1948.

Samoa gained independence in 1962 but continued to use the pound until 1967 when the New Zealand dollar was introduced. The name tālā is the Samoan spelling of dollar, and the sene is the Samoan spelling of cent.

The tālā was introduced at a rate of 2 tālā to 1 NZD.


From an initial rate of 2 WST to 1 NZD, the WST has strengthened slightly to around the 1.78 WST to 1 NZD mark at the time of writing.

WST Samoan tala USD US dollar

WST Samoan tala CAD Canadian dollar


The modern tālā coins were minted by the Royal Australian Mint in 2011.

Value Description
10 sene Fautasi canoe racers
20 sene Teuila flower
50 sene Manumea bird
1 tālā Kava bowl and fly swatter
2 tālā National crest of Samoa


Value Colour Obverse Reverse
2 tālā Blue and yellow The capital Apia, and Malietoa Tanumafili II (the late head of state) A family in a fale (a Samoan house)
5 tālā Red and pink A Samoan fale (house) and trees in a bay Former residence of Robert Louis Stevenson in Mount Vaea
10 tālā Blue and green Manu Samoa 7s (national rugby team)  winning the Hong Kong Sevens in 2007 Children
20 tālā Yellow and orange The Sopoaga Waterfall on Upolu island Manumea pigeon, the national bird of Samoa
50 tālā Purple and blue Government of Samoa office in Apia Central Bank of Samoa
100 tālā Green and yellow Malietoa Tanumafili II (the late head of state) Cathedral of Apia


Samoa’s economic prosperity is hampered by the island’s extreme vulnerability to Pacific storms. Agriculture employs about 66% of all workers, and the country is heavily dependent on agricultural exports. Remittances and developmental aid make up a significant portion of GDP. The tourism sector has grown from 70,000 visitors in 1996 to 120,000 in 2014. The country does have a flexible labour market which could bode well for future development.

samoan tala samoa currency money bills cash

The bottom line

Samoa is a unique country and its position in the South Pacific serves as both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. The expanding tourist sector will see many people visit Samoa’s tropical waters, but these same waters can be potentially devastating should a major storm hit the country.

Learn more about Samoa with our Profile and Travel Guide.

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