Costa Rican

Costa Rican colón

Colón was also the name of El Salvador's currency until 2001. For this, see Salvadoran colón.

The colón (named after Christopher Columbus, known as Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) is the currency of Costa Rica. The plural is colones in Spanish, but English-speakers often say colons instead. The ISO 4217 code is CRC.

The symbol for the colón is a c with two slashes. The symbol "₡" has Unicode code point U+20A1, and the decimal representation is 8353. In HTML it can be entered as ₡ The colón sign is not to be confused with the cent sign (¢), which has a code point U+00A2 in Unicode (or 162 in decimal); or the cedi sign ₵, which has a code point U+20B5 in Unicode (or 8373 in decimal).


The colón was introduced in 1896, replacing the peso at par. The colón is divided into 100 centimos, although, between 1917 and 1919, coins were issued using the name centavo for the 1/100 subunit of the peso.


First coins, 1897-1917

Because the colón replaced the peso at par, there was no immediate need for new coins in 1896. In 1897, gold 2, 5, 10 and 20 colones were issued, followed by silver 50 centimos in 1902, cupro-nickel 2 centimos in 1903 and silver 5 and 10 centimos in 1905. The 5 and 10 centimos bore the initials G.C.R., indicating that they were issues of the government.

Centavo issues, 1917-1919

In 1917, coins were issued in denominations of 5 and 10 centavos rather than centimos. 50 centavos coins were minted but not issued (see below). All bore the G.C.R. initials.

Government issues, 1920-1941

The issuance of centimo coins by the government (still indicated by the initials G.C.R.) was resumed in 1920, with 5 and 10 centimos issued. In 1923, silver 25 and 50 centimos from the peso currency, along with the unissued 50 centavos from 1917 and 1918, were issued with counterstamps which doubled their values to 50 centimos and 1 colón.

In 1925, silver 25 centimos coins were introduced. The last government issued coins were brass 10 centimos issued between 1936 and 1941.

Banco Internacional issues, 1935

In 1935, the International Bank of Costa Rica issued cupro-nickel coins in denominations of 25 and 50 centimos and 1 colón. These bore the initials B.I.C.R.

Banco Nacional issues, 1937-1948

In 1937, the National Bank introduced coins in denominations of 25 and 50 centimos and 1 colón which bore the initials B.N.C.R. These were followed by 5 and 10 centimos in 1942 and 2 colones in 1948.

Banco Central issues, 1951-

In 1951, the Central Bank took over coin issuance using the initials B.C.C.R. and introduced 5 and 10 centimos coins. These were followed by 1 and 2 colones in 1954, 50 centimos in 1965 and 25 centimos in 1967. In 1982-1983, 5 and 10 centimos coins were discontinued, the sizes of the 25 centimos to 2 colones coins were reduced and 5, 10 and 20 colones coins were introduced. Between 1995 and 1998, smaller, brass 1, 5 and 10 colones coins were introduced and coins for 25, 50 and 100 colones were added. 500 colones followed in 2003. Aluminium 5 and 10 colones were introduced in 2006. Coins of 1 colon are no longer found in circulation.


Private bank issues, 1896-1914

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 colones 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 now-a-days to find notes with the seal.

1 colon, 1917 5 colones, 191x 10 colones, 191x 20 colones, 191x

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.

1 peso, 1899 5 colones, 190x 10 colones, 190x 20 colones, 1906

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

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

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

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 .

1 colón, 1943 2 colones, 1938 2 colones, 1940 2 colones, 1941 2 colones, 1944 10 colones, 1949

Banco Central, 1950-

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 colones notes was made in 1967. 1000 colones notes were added in 1958, followed by 500 colones in 1973, 5000 colones in 1991, and 2000 and 10,000 colones in 1997.

2 colones, 1967 100 colones, 1954 5 colones, 1972
Current Circulating Banknotes
Image Value Main Colour Description
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse
1000 colones Red Tomás Soley Güell National Insurance Institute
2000 colones Light Brown Clodomiro Picado Twight Hammerhead shark and dolphin
5000 colones Light Blue Pre-Columbian Sculpture Toucan, stone sphere, jaguar and local plants
10,000 colones Blue Emma Gamboa Jaguar and Puma

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 6.6cm x 15.5cm. 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.

Banknotes reform

In 2010, Costa Rican banknotes will undergo a reform and be replaced by a new model. Two new denominations will be introduced; 20,000 and 50,000 colones. The current notes will all be destroyed and replaced by new ones. The new banknotes will have different colors, shapes and images than their predecessors. All the denominations will have a different length so that blind people can also recognize the banknotes. This is expected to occur in the first trimester of 2010, and currently discussions are being held on the color, image, shape, material and security measures for the new banknotes.

Currency peg

On June 4, 2006, the United States of America (U.S.) dollar was worth 506.81 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 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.


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 slang name is caña (Spanish for cane, plural cañas).

Teja (roof tile) is used as a slang term, which means 100 colones, therefore the 500 colones coins are called 5 tejas and the 50 colones coin is referred as "media Teja" (half roof tile)

The 1,000 colones note is called "1 rojo" (1 red) due to it being red colored

The 5,000 colones note is called tucán (toucan), referring to the image of a toucan, also it's called as "5 Rojos" (5 Reds). This also applies for any amount that are multiples for a Thousand Colones up to 99, like "99 Rojos" which is "99 000 Colones" (99 Thousand Colones).

See also


External links

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