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Costa Rican colón

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Costa Rican colón
colón costarricense (in Spanish)
ISO 4217 Code CRC
User(s)  Costa Rica
Inflation 4.74% (Jan. - Dec. 2011)
Source Índice de Precios al Consumidor 2011, INEC Costa Rica, 3 January 2012
1/100 céntimo
Plural colones
Coins 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 colones
Banknotes 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 colones
Central bank Central Bank of Costa Rica
Website www.bccr.fi.cr

The colón is the official currency of Costa Rica. It is named after Christopher Columbus, known as Cristóbal Colón in Spanish. The plural is colones in Spanish. The ISO 4217 code is CRC.

The symbol for the colón is a c with two slashes (₡). The symbol for the colón in many English language Windows keyboards can be made by pressing ALT+8353.

The colón sign is not the same as the US cent sign, but the US cent sign is much more commonly available (¢). As such, it is frequently used instead of the colón's own sign in price markings and advertisements.

The colón is divided into 100 centimos

The colón was introduced in 1896 and replaced the Costa Rican peso. Between 1917 and 1919 coins were issued using the name centavo for the 1/100 subunit.

First coins, 1897–1917

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In 1897 gold 2, 5, 10 and 20 colones were issued. Later, silver 50 centimos and cupro-nickel 2 centimos were issued in 1903. In 1905 silver 5 and 10 centimos were issued. The 5 and 10 centimos had the initials G.C.R. (Gobierno de Costa Rica) because they were issued by the government.

Government coins, 1920–1941

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The government resumed in 1920 making 5 and 10 centimos coins with the G.C.R initials. Silver 25 centimos coins were made in 1925. The last government issued coins were brass 10 centimos coins in 1941.

Banco Internacional coins, 1935

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In 1935, the International Bank of Costa Rica (Banco Internacional de Costa Rica) issued cupro-nickel coins of 25 and 50 centimos and 1 colón. These had the initials B.I.C.R.

Banco Nacional coins, 1937–1948

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The National Bank made 25 and 50 centimos coins in 1937. This bank also issued 1 colón coins. These coins had the initials B.N.C.R. 5 and 10 centimos coins were made in 1942. 2 colones coins were made in 1948.

Banco Central coins, 1951–

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The Central Bank of Costa Rica took over coin production in 1951. These coins had the initials B.C.C.R. (Banco Central de Costa Rica).

The first Banco Central coins were 5 and 10 centimos. Then 1 and 2 colones coins in 1954. In 1965, 50 centimos coins were made. 25 centimos coins were made in 1967.

By 1983, 5 and 10 centimos coins were discontinued. 25 centimos to 2 colon coins were made smaller in size. By this time 5, 10 and 20 colon coins were made.

By 1998, small brass 1, 5 and 10 colon coins were made. In this same year 25, 50 & 100 colones coins were added. In 2003, 500 colones coins were made. In 2006 aluminium 5 and 10 colones coins were made.

1 colón coins are no longer used. In 2009 the large silver-colored ¢5, ¢10 & ¢20 were withdrawn. There are only the smaller silver-colored ¢5 and ¢10 coins and gold-colored ¢5, ¢10, ¢25, ¢50, ¢100 & ¢500 coins.


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Private bank issues, 1896–1914

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Four private banks, the Banco Anglo–Costarricense, the Banco Comercial de Costa Rica, the Banco de Costa Rica and the Banco Mercantil de Costa Rica, issued notes between 1864 and 1917.

The Banco Anglo–Costarricense was established in 1864 and issued notes from 1864 to 1917. It later became a state-owned bank and in 1994 went bankrupt and closed. Notes were issued in denominations of 1, 25, 50, and 100 pesos as well as 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 colones. Some 1, 5, 10 and 20 colon notes (unsigned and undated) were released in 1963 when the bank celebrated its 100th anniversary. Some had Muestra sin Valor ("sample without value") printed on them in order to nullify the legal tender status and to prevent people from selling them. Most, however, didn't have that printed on them, which makes it harder nowadays to find notes with the seal.

The Banco de Costa Rica was established in 1890 and issued notes from 1890 to 1914. It is currently a state-owned bank. Notes were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 100 pesos as well as 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones.

The Banco Comercial de Costa Rica issued notes between 1906 and 1914 in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones. The Banco Mercantil de Costa Rica issued notes between 1910 and 1916, also in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones.

Government issues, 1897–1917

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The government issued gold certificates in 1897 for 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 colones. Between 1902 and 1917, it issued silver certificates for 50 centimos, 1, 2, 50 and 100 colones.

Banco Internacional, 1914–1936

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In 1914, the Banco Internacional de Costa Rica introduced notes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones, to which 25 and 50 centimos, 1 and 2 colones were added in 1918. Although 25 centimos were not issued after 1919, the other denominations continued to be issued until 1936. After 1917, the Banco Internacional's notes were the only issued for circulation.

Banco Nacional, 1937–1949

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In 1937, the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica took over paper money issuing and issued notes for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones until 1949. Many of the early notes were provisional issues overprinted on notes of the Banco Internacional, including the 1 colón notes which were briefly issued.

Banco Central, 1950–

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The Banco Central de Costa Rica began issuing paper money in 1950, with notes for 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 colones. The first notes were provisional issues produced from Banco Nacional notes (unsigned and undated). The Central Bank printed on them the corresponding signatures and dates, and the legend "BANCO CENTRAL DE COSTA RICA" over "BANCO NACIONAL DE COSTA RICA". Regular issues of notes began in 1951, but a second provisional issue of 2 colon notes was made in 1967. 1000 colon notes were added in 1958, followed by 500 colones in 1973, 5000 colones in 1992, and 2000 and 10,000 colones in 1997.

Current Circulating Banknotes
Value Main colour Obverse Reverse
1000 colones Red Braulio Carrillo Colina Guanacaste tree/White-tailed deer
2000 colones Blue Mauro Fernández Acuña Bull shark
5000 colones Light Blue Pre-Columbian Sculpture Toucan, stone sphere, jaguar and local plants
5000 colones Yellow Alfredo González Flores; Banco International de Costa Rica building in San José Mangrove swamp, flowers, crab, monkey
10,000 colones Blue Emma Gamboa Jaguar and Puma
10,000 colones Green José Figueres Ferrer, Abolition of the Army Rainforest ("Bosque Lluvioso"), orchid flower, mushroom cop, three-toed sloth, birds
20,000 colones Orange Maria Isabel Carvajal (alias Carmen Lyra); outline of Costa Rica, rabbit stroking a wolf - from Lyra's "Cuentos De Mi Tía Panchita" (Tales of My Aunt Panchita) Volcano Hummingbird, Senecio oerstedianus sunflower, and coffee plants
50,000 colones Violet Ricardo Jimenez Oreamuno, Supreme Court (San José) Fog forest ("Bosque Nuboso"), parasol mushroom, Bromelia flower, Morpho butterfly

Whenever a banknote of a specific denomination is changed (design, security features, colour, etc.), a new series is released. Every banknote issued by this bank measures approximately 6.6 cm x 15.5 cm. Every note also has the serial and series numbers printed in red ink. Exceptions occurred with:

  • 2 colones provisional issue: black
  • 5 colones provisional issue: orange
  • 10 colones provisional issue: blue
  • 500 colones series B: black
  • 1000 colones series A issue: dark blue

Every issue also features the signatures, date, and the agreement number printed in black.

The 1983 "Z" series of the 20 colón note was an experimental issue of the American Banknote Company which made the notes out of a polymer. To date, this has been the only Costa Rican note made of that material.

Banknote reform

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Since 2012, Costa Rican banknotes are undergoing a reform and are being replaced by a new model. Two new denominations were introduced as part of the reform; 20,000 and 50,000 colones.[1] The old notes will all be withdrawn from circulation and be replaced by new ones. The new banknotes will have different colors, shapes and images than their predecessors. All the denominations have a different length so that people with visual impairments can recognize the banknotes easily.

Currency peg

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On February 6, 2011, the United States dollar was worth 508.11 colones. The colón has had an unusual relationship with the U.S. dollar that may best be described as a "crawling peg"; instead of being defined by a constant value to the dollar, the colón instead would grow progressively weaker at a fixed rate of about 3.294 colones per dollar per month. On October 16, 2006, however, this crawling peg was modified[2] due to weakness in the U.S. dollar and the perception that the colón is now undervalued. The exchange rate is now free to float within a currency band referenced to the United States dollar. The floor of the band has been set at a fixed value, while the ceiling changes at a fixed rate. In practice the exchange rate has remained fixed at the lower value of the currency band.

Since October 17, 2006 the colón is no longer bound to controlled devaluations (known in Costa Rica as minidevaluaciones) by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. With the new system, sistema cambiario de bandas, the exchange rates posted by the Central Bank are a "reference" and each authorized financial institution can determine their value independently in hopes that the free market will provide a mechanism to keep them reasonable.


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The colón is sometimes referred to as the peso, which was the name of the Costa Rican currency before the colón, until 1896. This is very common across Latin American countries, where most have (or had at some point) currencies called pesos. Another nickname is caña (Spanish for sugar cane, plural cañas) but this nickname is more often used in plural for amounts under 100 colones. For example: 5 cañas, 10 cañas, 20 cañas. This term has become less popular.

Teja (roof tile in Spanish) is used as another nickname. It means one hundred colones. For example: five hundred colones are called "cinco tejas". "Teja" can also be used for 100,000 colones. "Media Teja" (half a roof tile in Spanish) is used for 50 colones or 50,000 colones.

The one thousand colones note is called "un rojo" (one red) because of its red color.


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  1. Articles on Costa Rica Archived 2011-09-17 at the Wayback Machine BanknoteNews.com
  2. "daily exchange tables". Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2020-09-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

Other websites

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