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Monedas de Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Monedas in Circulation

You may have noticed that my Blog sat relatively quiet last week, with only my usual Friday Fix posting popping up thanks to electronic editor Maggie Pahl. That's because I was traveling in Costa Rica with my eldest son's high school Spanish Club. We had a great time exploring the culture and getting to know the wonderfully friendly people of San Jose. This was a homestay visit, so we had the priviledge of experiencing first hand daily life, food and activities of our host families. Daily trips brought us to the rainforest for hikes, horseback riding, zip-lining, river cruises, beaches, volcano visits and hot springs. What a great and varied country!

On a numismatic note, I was careful to observe the currency and means of exchange in day to day practice. Seemed that most places in San Jose used Colones, while tourist venues had items and services priced sometimes in Colones and sometimes in U.S. Dollars. Some services, like the fishing boat my son and some friends chartered, insisted on payment in U.S. Dollars. In the larger cities like San Jose, debt cards were easily used, while out in the more rural areas cash was a necessity. Tourist centers, like Jaco, often accepted any of the three aforementioned means of exchange and would often round down to avoid giving out change. Of the current coins in circulation, the most often used are the 100 and 500 Colones. In any given day the most prominent coin piling up in anyones pocket will be the 100 Colones and I noticed dates from 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. The 100 Colones dated 2000 is a completely different type, with major changes to the arms and legend. The 1999 date 100 Colones has differences in the arms, which constitute a variety.

The coin smaller denominations are not often given out. In fact, many cash registers only contained the 100 and 500 Colones and nothing smaller. In some places I did get change of smaller denominations; the 50 Colones from 1997, 1999 and 2002, the 25 Colones from 1995, 2001 and 2003, the 20 Colones from 1983 and 1985, 1988 and 1994, the 10 Colones from 1983, 1999 and 2002, the 5 Colones from 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2001, and of course the 2005 aluminum 5 and 10 Colones all turned up sometime during our stay. We also noticed that the 2000, 5000 and 10,000 Colones banknotes have become the core of most business transactions of consequence. The 1000 Colones notes were few and far between and all seen were very well worn and tattered, making us wonder if they are on their way out, with a new 1000 Colones coin possibly on the horizon?

My host family was so kind as to search through drawers and put together a group of some of the older, out of circulation coins for my collection. One recent coin they turned up, which no longer seems to circulate is the little brass 1 Colon of 1998. A pair of stainless steel pieces; a 1 Colon from 1993 and a 2 Colones from 1984, were located. Also found were a 10 Centimos of 1975, a nice aluminum 25 Centimos dated 1986 and a 1984 50 Centimos. One more fun fact that materialized during their search was when a pair copper-nickel of 5 Centimos dated 1976 and 1978 were pulled out of a large canvas bag and laid on the table for me. I asked what was contained in the remainder of the bag and discovered that the whole back was little copper-nickel 5 Centimos. My host family said they used these to ante up in various card games, like poker chips! What a wonderful paralell to our U.S. 1 cent coin, which is used for betting in social club card games with retirees to teenagers coast to coast!