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Scarce 5 pesos gold certificate turns up

Recently, PMG was entrusted to authenticate and grade an astonishing Colombian 5 pesos gold certificate of deposit issued by the Casa de Moneda de Medellin. It is the only known example of this note type and is unlisted in Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues.

Specialized collectors of Colombian paper money are no doubt familiar with these gold certificates of deposit. They were intaglio-printed by the American Bank Note Company (ABNC) for the Casa de Moneda de Medellin between the years 1919 and 1920. These certificates were produced in four different denominations (2-½, 5, 10, and 20 pesos), with their Pick #s being S1026-S1029 respectively.

5 pesos Gold Certificate of Deposit, Casa de Moneda de Medellin, Colombia. Printed by Litografia J.L. Arango, ca. 1918-19. (From the collection of Julian Cuartas)

However, this particular note pre-dates the ABNC-printed notes and was produced using offset lithography printing by a local Medellin company, La Litografía J.L. Arango. Litografía J.L. Arango was founded in 1872 by Jorge Luis Arango, who is considered to be the pioneer of lithography in Antioquia. He imported lithographic printing stones from Europe to start the business and, upon his death, his son – also named Jorge Luis Arango – succeeded him in the management of the company and modernized the facilities.

Law 15 of the Colombian Congress of Sept. 10, 1918, authorized the Casa de Moneda de Medellin to mint gold and issue gold consignment certificates. Article 9 of Law 15 states that “anyone may enter in the Medellín and Bogota Houses of Currency, gold bars duly rehearsed to receive consignment certificates that represent the effective value of the gold consigned reduced to Colombian currency.” These certificates could then be used to buy and sell other goods and services in exchange for the gold on deposit.

The text and the signature titles of the 5 pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed gold certificate of deposit was used as the reference for ABNC creating the later 1919-1920 dated series, as seen by the 1919-dated 2 ½ pesos example above (Pick #S1026a). (From the collection of Julian Cuartas)

Once this law was enacted, it is believed that the Casa de Moneda de Medellin issued these Litografia J.L. Arango-printed gold certificates of deposit from the end of 1918 and well into 1919. Unfortunately, the quality of these Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificates was such that counterfeit examples started to appear in the marketplace. To preserve the integrity and confidence of their certificates, the Casa de Moneda de Medellin moved to contract ABNC to print new high-quality certificates to foil counterfeiting. These new ABNC-printed certificates were dated 1919-1920 (Pick #S1026-S1029) and replaced the old Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificates.

Presumably, all of these Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificates were redeemed and destroyed upon the introduction of the ABNC-printed certificates. How, then, did this 5 pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed example survive destruction and end up in PMG’s grading room nearly one hundred years later? The answer can be found in an old ABNC archive file folder marked “Dept. of Antioquia, Bank Notes, Medellin, Colombia, 1919-1923.”

ABNC Archives Documents from The Department of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia. Note that request for quotation originally included 50 and 25 pesos denominations, but these denominations were subsequently deleted in the final order to ABNC. (Images courtesy of Danilo Parra Ariza)

The Department of Antioquia, located in northwest Colombia with Medellin as its capital, is one of the 32 departments that make up the Republic of Colombia. In late March of 1919, the Government of Antioquia sent a letter to ABNC requesting a quote for the dispatching of “Certificados para la Casa de Moneda.” Among other things, the letter requested that “The text and the signatures are to be the same as per specimen enclosed herewith.” The specimen contained therein was none other than the 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed example.

It is amusing that ABNC’s reply – sent in early May of that same year – contained a paragraph admonishing the Government of Antioquia in a thinly disguised promotion for ABNC’s services: “We need not remind you of the necessity of having these certificates prepared with every possible safeguard against counterfeiting and under conditions where the custody of the work is absolutely sure at every stage of their manufacture. We would respectfully point out that the Government is taking great risks in circulating monetary documents prepared with so little in the way of security or protective features as the specimen enclosed in your letter.”

Fortunately for collectors of Colombian paper money, ABNC saved this correspondence in their archive files. When the ABNC archive documentation was auctioned off, a New York resident acquired the files. All the ABNC files related to Colombia were subsequently acquired by two dealers in Colombia. Two boxes full of ABNC folders, sorted by bank names, were then shipped from New York to Bogota, where the dealers did a thorough review of all the folders. To their great surprise, they found many specimens, proofs, and printer’s models that even the banks who had originally ordered the work no longer had any record of.

The 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificate found in this archive documentation was offered to a collector in Colombia that specialized in items from the Department of Antioquia. The collector agreed to purchase it, and it has remained in their personal collection since.

Danilo Parra Ariza was able to obtain a picture of the 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificate and listed it as DP 9630 in his recently published catalog Compendio Historico del Papel Moneda en Colombia” Primera Edicion (page 735).

When the text and signature titles of the 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificate is compared to those of the ABNC printed gold certificates, it can be seen that ABNC did indeed closely follow the wording as instructed.

However, if you look carefully at the text between the Litografia J.L. Arango and ABNC examples, you can spot a few minor differences in the text. These differences are explained in a subsequent letter sent by C.E. Restrepo & Ca – an agent of the Government of Antioquia – to ABNC in May of 1919. In it, they requested some modifications to the text, the most notable being that the signature title at the left should simply read “El Tesorero.”

It was common at the time for some banks to request that bank note printing companies leave the date and signatures spaces blank, to be filled in later by hand at the time of issue. As a result, the handwritten dates and signatures can change position according to the mood of the signatory! Such was the case with this 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificate.

It can be observed that this particular 5 Pesos Litografia J.L. Arango-printed certificate was not officially issued, as the date has not been filled in. While technically this would be an undated remainder, PMG believes that the term “Specimen Proof” best describes this piece. It is understood that this piece was taken from unissued inventory and that the serial number was intentionally crossed out to cancel the example prior to sending it to ABNC as a “Specimen,” where it was to be used as a reference piece for creating the new series of gold certificates of deposit. Thus, while this piece is referred to as a “Specimen” in the above-mentioned letter to ABNC, it is lacking Specimen identification. As a result, Specimen Proof is a better descriptor for this modified remainder.

It is believed that this 5 Pesos example is the only survivor of the issue of Casa de Moneda de Medellin gold certificates of deposit printed by Litografia J.L. Arango. However, we also know from Article 9 of the aforementioned Law 15 that, “the consignment certificates shall be issued in series of two pesos fifty cents, five, ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred pesos…”. It is therefore plausible that other denominations were printed by Litografia J.L. Arango for the Casa de Moneda de Medellin.

Perhaps one day in the future, another example will surface in the PMG grading room. Until that day comes, we can be thankful for the meticulous record keeping of ABNC and the dedication of Colombian paper money collectors for bringing this piece to light.


Acknowledgement is made to Danilo Parra Ariza, Julian Cuartas, Mauricio Acosta, and Andres Felipe Cortazar for their valuable input and suggestions.

Enciclopedia del Desarrollo Colombiano Coleccion Los Fundadores, Volumen II, Artes Graficas by Gonzalo Canal Ramirez and Jose Chalarca.


This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter. >> Subscribe today.


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