Old Family Banknotes by the Central Bank of Costa Rica
By Manuel Chacón Hidalgo, Numismatic Curator, MBCCR
5 colón banknote, series D. First issued in 1968, the obverse shows former president Rafael Yglesias Castro (1894-1902), whose administration built the National Theater. The reverse contains an engraving of a painting in the lobby of the National Theater, an “allegory to coffee and banana” as the base of Costa Rican commercial agriculture. It upheld the notion that coffee was a staple in the Costa Rican economy, as well as the country’s agricultural basis and the calling of Costa Rican society, one of “humble peasants,” as stated in the National Anthem of Costa Rica .
10 colón banknote, series D. First issued in 1972, the obverse shows a portrait of Rodrigo Facio and an engraving of the School of General Studies of the University of Costa Rica. The reverse has an engraving of the Central Bank of Costa Rica building. Facio was included in this banknote for his contributions to society as a university scholar, economist, and promoter of the central banking system. These contributions explain the engravings of the Central Bank and one of the University of Costa Rica buildings on the banknote.
20 colón banknote, series C. First issued in 1972, its obverse shows the portrait of former president Cleto González Víquez, lawyer and historian, and his home city (Barva de Heredia). The reverse is an allegory of justice and law, quite possibly related to González’s law career and his participation in the Central American Court of Justice project in mid 1910.
50 colón banknote, series D. First issued in 1978 to commemorate the 100 years of the Bank of Costa Rica (1877-1977); On the obverse, a portrait of Gaspar Ortuño y Ors, prominent banker of the late 19th and early 20th century. On the reverse an engraving of the old Bank of Costa Rica building, which Ortuño headed for many years. It was issued as a series E banknote starting in 1987.
100 colón banknote, series H. Issued in 1993, in the obverse, it shows a portrait of Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno, former president of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers. The reverse shows an engraving of the Supreme Court of Justice.
500 colón banknote, series D. Issued in 1994 and first issued in 1951 as a series A banknote. It is engraved with the image of the National Theater and the portrait of Manuel María Gutiérrez, who wrote the lyrics of the National Anthem, one of Costa Rica’s most important national symbols.
1000 colón banknote, series D. This banknote, which displays the portrait of economist Tomás Soley Güell and an engraving of the National Insurance Institute (INS as per the acronym in Spanish), was first issued in 1975, as a series B banknote. The series D banknote with the same images has been in circulation since 1997. The image of Tomás Soley was chosen for his contributions to the Insurance Bank, founded in 1924, which later became the INS.
5000 colón banknote, series C. First issued in 1991 as a series A banknote, its design captures part of Costa Rica’s natural and cultural heritage: the obverse has an engraving of a pre-Columbian gold object of a shaman, while the reverse is a stone sphere and a human figure in the same material, both from the Costa Rican South Pacific region, a tropical forest in the background with the engravings of a jaguar and a toucan. Series B and C show slight variations in color and security marks.
2000 colón banknote, series A. First issued in 1998, it shows a portrait of renowned Costa Rican scientist Clodomiro Picado Twight, as well as a panel of Cocos Island, a paragon of Costa Rica’s biological diversity. The reverse shows an ocean floor image with the figures of a hammerhead shark and a dolphin, both characteristic Cocos Island water animals.
10000 colón banknote, series A. First issued in 1998, it displays a portrait of teacher and distinguished Costa Rican citizen Emma Gamboa, as well as four volcanoes, considered some of the country’s leading ecological tourist attractions: Irazú, Poás, Arenal, and Rincón de la Vieja volcano. The reverse has an engraving of a jaguar. This banknote marks the first time a woman was featured in a Central Bank banknote, a social recognition of women’s contribution to Costa Rican development, which Costa Rican women achieved after years of struggles and advances in gender studies, particularly in the last decades of the 20th century.
It is important to point out that the state systematically promoted the remembrance of political, economic, and cultural figures that embodied the ideal citizen, to reinforce a given concept of state and nation. Banknotes served to convey these types of values, together with other elements, such as statues of renowned figures in public places. This refers to the last banknotes issued by the BCCR in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000 y 10 000 colon denominations.
Article based on:
Chacón Hidalgo Manuel. (2004). Las imágenes en los billetes del Banco Central de Costa Rica (1950-2001). San José, Costa Rica: Banco Central de Costa Rica.
How to cite this article
Chacón Hidalgo Manuel. (2005). Billetes del Banco Central de Costa Rica. San José, Costa Rica: Fundación Museos del Banco Central. Available at: link