A Historic Rare Coin of Panama

Panama separated from Colombia the Third of November of 1903 after it had gained its independence from Spain on November 28, 1821.  Being neglected by the Central Government of Colombia, the Panamanians decided to become independent and looked forward with close relations with the United States which was interested in building a canal to unite the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

Once Panama separated from Colombia, it needed to create a new coinage system that would fit the needs of the people of Panama and the be acceptable to the United States which was about to start construction on the Panama Canal (and intended to pay the majority of the canal workers in Panamanian money). The system Panama developed was a hybrid between the Colombian pesos that people were used to and the United States dollar.

To help facilitate the construction of the Panama Canal, the government of Panama established parity or a ratio of one-to-one between Panamanian and American currency. Panama went on the gold standard (although no gold coins were issued for the next 70 years) with one gold Balboa equivalent to one gold American dollar. American money was made legal tender in Panama.

Initially Panama’s smallest denomination was the 2½ centésimos coin. However, the need for something smaller became evident, and in 1907 the medio centésimo was issued. Keeping in mind the double-size coinage scheme they had in place, Panama selected to issue a half cent coin. It was slightly smaller than an American cent but made of nickel instead of copper.  When I was a kid living in Changuinola, I saw coins equivalent to a quarter of a cent called “cuartillos”. We could only buy cheap candy with these coins at the Chinese store next door.

Around 1917 there was a steep rise in the value of silver due to World War I. It had no effect on American money, but the precious metal content of the double-size Panamanian money quickly surpassed the face value of the coins. Lots of Panamanian coins were shipped out of the country to be melted down for their silver content. The Panamanian government acted by doing away with the double-size coinage and selecting parity of size with American coins. The smallest denomination issued the next time around was a one centésimo similar in size and metal content to an American cent.

The Cuartillos and Dos Centavos y Medio coins have been out of circulation in the Panamanian economic system.  They are only mentioned by coin collectors or coin ads on the Internet.  Their prices vary according to its quality; (e.g., Fine, Very Fine and Extra Fine).

Several days ago, Arnulfo and his wife Mirta visited us with an unusual coin issued in 1929.  It was a Dos y Medio Centésimos de Balboa coin in a relatively acceptable condition.  Mirta was very excited and wanted to promote the coin through the Internet and find out if someone would be interested in buying it.  I said I would volunteer to photograph the coin and place the offer in Lingua Franca.

Below is the picture of this rare Panamanian coin in case you are a coin collector and might be interested in submitting a bid to purchase it and add it to your collection.  Mirta would be most pleased.  Here we go.

Photograph of a Dos y Medio Centésimos de Balboa Panamanian coin issued in 1929. The face of Vasco Núñez de Balboa can be seen on the face of the coin.  Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
This is the other side of the coin which reads the nominal value of the coin; Dos y Medio Centésimos de Balboa (Two and a Half Cents of a Balboa). Photo ©Omar Upegui R.

If you are interested in acquiring this rare collection piece, you can contact Arnulfo Casas directly at arnulfoecasas@hotmail.com, or if you live in Panama, at cellphone number 6683-1915.

Oh, before I forget, Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the South Sea (Mar del Sur) in 1513, since he travelled south to discover this great body of water.  The name was later changed to Pacific Ocean. Its current name was given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Spanish expedition of world circumnavigation in 1521, who encountered calm seas during the journey and called it Tepre Pacificum in Latin, meaning “pacific” or “peaceful sea”.

And now you know a little bit of rare coins of Panama and the Spanish Conquistadores of the narrow Isthmus of Panama.  Good Day.

Source:  Coins of Panama.com


6 thoughts on “A Historic Rare Coin of Panama”

  1. Pingback: Panama Canal

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