The History of the Mint of Costa Rica
By Manuel Chacón Hidalgo, Numismatic Curator, MBCCR
Mints — facilities in charge of manufacturing coins — are very important because they provide a country with the currency needed for commercial transactions.
The first Mint of Costa Rica was founded in 1825 as a provisional institution. Located in Alajuela, it was first called “Ingenio San José de los Horcones.” It is here that the first gold coins in Costa Rica were minted.
The Mint of Costa Rica became a permanent institution on October 13, 1828, and officially opened in 1829. The first coins to be minted were for the Central American Confederation, on dies brought from Guatemala.
It is unclear where the first mint in San José in 1828 was located. In 1833, it was relocated to an adobe house where the National Bank of Costa Rica currently stands, on 1st Avenue, and then to a different facility in front of the old Atlantic Railroad Station.
The Mint of Costa Rica was finally moved to the eastern side of what is now the Old Main Customs building — nowadays the Customs Theater — in 1917, in what was a shack made of metal structure and zinc walls. It remained there until it closed in 1949.
The Mint only operated sporadically, and remained closed otherwise, due to a shortage of metal to manufacture coins, as well as to the high cost of replacing damaged equipment. This situation resulted in a constant shortage of coins, which led to the government authorizing circulation of foreign currency, and currency was commissioned abroad, in the United States of America and England.
The only position open while the Mint of Costa Rica was closed was that of assayer, the person in charge of verifying the quality of coins in circulation.
The Mint of Costa Rica was of great use to the country. In its early days, it boosted mining activity in order to obtain the metal needed to mint coins. It also supplied the economy with the growing amounts of circulating currency necessary for commercial transactions, boosting specialized fields of work, such as metal foundry, assaying, engraving, and mechanics. Skilled workers performed these specialized tasks for the private sector as well, minting coffee tokens, metal seals, and repairing equipment, among others.
The institution closed in 1949, during the administration of the Founding Committee of the Second Republic, on the grounds that machinery was too deteriorated and its replacement would demand a very large investment. More efficient machinery was already available, cutting down coin minting times from years to just a few weeks, which meant the Mint had little work for the remainder of the year.
The closing of a local industry brought nostalgia, but it did lead to a modernization of out monetary system, when the Central Bank of Costa Rica was created in 1950.
How to cite this article?
Chacón Hidalgo Manuel. Historia de la Casa de Moneda. (2005). San José, Costa Rica: Fundación Museos del Banco Central. Available at: link