Costa Rica is not only well known for being a popular beach and eco-adventure vacation destination; currency collectors, also known as ‘notaphiles’, have long held Costa Rica’s bank note design in high esteem. The latest editions will not disappoint them.
On Monday, June 20th 2011, the Central Bank of Costa Rica put the new ₡ 1.000 and ₡ 2.000 bank notes into circulation. The introduction of these new notes coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Central Bank of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is in the process of issuing a whole new series of beautiful colored notes. On one side will be a famous Costa Rican and on the opposite side there will be representations of different ecosystems and fauna.
For those of you unfamiliar with the money in Costa Rica, it is termed the Colon or plural Colones after Christopher Columbus, known in Spanish as Cristóbal Colón. The colon is represented by a ₡ (a cent sign with two slashes).
The exchange rate varies daily but a general rule of thumb that I use is to divide the colones by 500 to get the rate in dollars. The exact exchange rate appears daily in La Nacion, the largest Costa Rican newspaper, in the economía section. As of Friday, August 12, 2011, the exchange rate at which the dollar was being bought was ₡ 498.88 and the rate at which the dollar was being sold was ₡ 509.73.
So the ₡1,000 note is approximately worth $2.00. In the older currency this was a red bank note and was give the nickname “rojo” because of the red color. They kept the primary color of the ₡ 1,000 red. However, the new currency features the Costa Rican Head of State, Braulio Carrillo on the front. Braullio Carrillo was Costa Rica’s president twice during the 1830s. He helped promote the country’s agricultural economy and built the highway linking San José to the Caribbean coast. That highway now intersects the Braullio Carrillo National Park, which is one of the most visited National Parks in the country.
On the back of the note the eco system depicted is of the dry forest. A Guanacaste tree, a national symbol of Costa Rica appears. A deer grazes next to a pitaya (the plant that produces dragon fruit), more cactus flowers and four scorpions appear. Among several security features is a translucent leaf-shaped watermark that changes from red to gold.
The new notes were printed by the French company, Oberthur Technologies and the 1,000 colones is made of polypropylene, a plastic that is three times as durable as the current cotton fiber paper. They are also considered more secure.
To assist the visually impaired, all of the notes are different in size. Another feature is the notes are designed to include embossed dots around the number and face so that they are easily distinguishable by touch.
On the ₡1,000 note is a circle with the words “Estado de Costa Rica”. This has raised a great deal of concern among the citizens of Costa Rica and may require the bill to be reprinted. Costa Rica does not have states, they are a republic. They speculate that someone is selling them out and perhaps making them a state of Mexico or the U.S. Certainly if the bills are reprinted, the current ₡1,000 note will become a collector’s item.
The ₡2,000 note, worth approximately $4.00 was also printed by Oberthur Technologies using their Motion windowed security thread. The ₡2,000 note is blue and features Mauro Fernández Acuña, a Costa Rican politician in the late 1800s who played major roles in the judiciary and the Legislative Assembly. He is largely credited with reforming the country’s educational system. With him on the front is the Colegio Superior de Señoritas building in San Jose. This prestigious girl’s school was founded in 1888, and was one of the first in a series of institutions implemented by the government to help make higher education more available. This building completed in 1892 and the neighboring Vitalia Madrigal School were declared a national heritage site on July 11, 1988.
On the reverse side of the ₡2,000 note Costa Rica’s coral reef ecosystem appears. This features a bull shark, star fish, sea turtles and slimy sea plumes.
On Sept. 1, the old ₡1,000 bill and ₡2,000 bill will no longer have a value. They will still be able to be redeemed at branches and agencies of local banks. By Nov. 1, the old notes can solely be exchanged at the Central Bank headquarters in downtown San José.
For more information on Costa Rican money, visit the El Museo de Numismática.