In December 1821, the Viceroy of New Granada ordered the Popayán mint moved to Quito, where it could produce money for royalist forces in the field. But Simón Bolívar's army was advancing, so the mint equipment was installed at Pasto, the last royalist stronghold, where it began producing coin January 24, 1822.
Quito was part of Gran Colombia until 1830 as Departamento del Sur. Gran Colombia's monetary regulations retained the old Spanish colonial system, with both milled and hammered coin circulating. Gold and silver were minted at Popayán and Bogotá, copper at Caracas. On July 28, 1823, Bolívar authorized a mint at Quito, but almost a decade would pass before one opened there. Cobs (macuquina) were ordered withdrawn in 1826, but because of the lack of other coin, they continued to circulate. All kinds of foreign coin circulated on the coast as a result of foreign trade, but in the interior provinces only old Spanish colonial coin and macuquina circulated, mostly Peruvian.
President Flores asked Congress to etablish a mint at Quito, and on November 8, 1831 Congress passed its first monetary law, authorizing coin "like that minted at Popayán". This resulted in the Quito mint producing silver only 666 fine. The Quito mint did not begin regular production until 1833. Meanwhile, the shortage of coin was met by foreign coin and counterfeit coin.
Flores authorized (December 26, 1832) the import for circulation of all coin of Spain and the new American states, except for the "reales" minted at Popayán. Before coins from Granada (Colombia), could be imported, they had to be presented at the Quito mint and, if of good quality, countermarked on the reverse with the letters "MdQ" (for moneda de Quito, coin of Quito) in monogramed script.
Coins of Cundinamarca and Granada, dated 1818-1821, counterstamped 'MdQ' (quantities unknown):
■ 1/4 real
■ 1/2 real
■ 2 reales
■ 8 reales
silver 666 fine dated 1833-1836
■ 1/2 real 16 mm
■ real, 20 mm, 3·00-3·95 g
■ 2 reales, 25 mm
gold 875 fine dated 1833-1835
■ escudo, 18 mm, 3·383 g
■ doblón, 22 mm, 6·766 g
After more minting equipment was obtained from Chile and installed at Quito, the minting of onzas (8-escudo pieces) was authorized (February 1838). A 4-real coin was authorized October 8, 1841 with the same features as the other denominations, but with the added inscription "MORAL INDUSTRIA" around the circumference, making the coin more difficult to counterfeit.
Poor quality and counterfeit coin from Colombia and Bolivia entered circulation in Ecuador, and the coins produced by the Quito mint had many flaws, so that currency standards were difficult to maintain. The use of merchant tokens became widespread. In an attempt to end the use of tokens, the government introduced a cuartillo (1/4 real) in 1842. The cuartillo was 333 fine and was called a calé (the name given in Spain to the 4-maravedí coin and which in Ecuador came to be applied to any small coin of low value).
The National Convention passed a new monetary law in June 1843, changing the coin type (design) in an effort to distinguish good money from bad. It adopted a new coat of arms for the obverse and placed a bust of Simón Bolívar on the reverse on both gold and silver. It authorized a gold onza (E.8), 1/2 onza (E.4), doblón (E.2), escudo, and 1/2 escudo (never minted). Silver coins were the peso fuerte (R.8), medio peso (R.4), peseta (R.2), real, medio (R.1/2), and cuarto (R.1/4). But the absurdly low quantities of coin minted in 1844-1845 resulted in an influx of worn coin and coin of inferior quality from neighboring countries.
■ medio peso (R.4), 33 mm (1844, 1845)
■ onza (E.8), 36 mm (1844, 1845)
The November 1846 monetary law adopted a new type with a bust of Bolívar for gold and a Liberty bust for silver. These appeared on coins dated 1847. The bulk of the circulating currency consisted of poor quality, worn coins. As soon as the new silver coins appeared, they were clipped and perforated in order to reduce their value to that of the circulating currency, while gold coins immediately disappeared abroad.
By the 1850s the Quito mint was not receiving enough precious metals to justify its operation. It had to coin a minimum of 6,000 pesos a year just to meet overhead. The mint was shut down during 1853 while the government considered the options of keeping it open or shutting it down. The mint equipment was worn and could not produce coin in sufficient quantity to compete with the foreign coin that entered Ecuador, especially through the port of Guayaquil.
Many coins in circulation were pierced with a hole, and this was causing problems in financial transactions. The governor of Pichincha Province proclaimed that anyone piercing a coin minted after 1855 would be punished according to existing penal regulations and that anyone receiving such a pierced coin had to make note of the person passing it.
The Ecuadorian silver coinage had been debased ever since 1833. The government wanted to produce coins of high silver content to finance foreign exchange, so the debased silver had to be withdrawn and replaced with 900 fine silver. This was the reason for the 5-franco coin, but its appearance in October 1858 caused some confusion. The decimal system was quite unfamiliar to the public and, despite the franco's introduction, the custom of counting in pesos of 8 reales or tostones of 4 reales continued.
Production of the 5 francos could not be sustained and it proved impossible to replace all the poor coin (moneda feble, i.e., coin 666 fine). The 1859 earthquake closed the Quito mint until 1861.
Banco Particular de Guayaquil obtained permission in June 1861 to have 200,000 pesos in coin 666 fine minted on the pre-1856 octal system (Sistema Octavario). Dies for the coins were engraved in Paris and arrived in Quito in October 1862. These were the last coins produced at the Quito mint. In February 1863 the mint equipment gave out and the government did not attempt to replace it. Besides, Banco de Guayaquil had no wish to continue minting: in minting 35,580 pesos, it had suffered a loss of 6,776 pesos (19%). Thus, after 1863, all Ecuadorian coin was minted abroad.
To keep coin in circulation, President Gabriel García Moreno prohibited the export of coin 666 fine. The circulation of various kinds of tokens became common. Imbabura Province, in the north, was authorized to allow the free circulation of Colombian francos.
La Caja de Amortización, Guayaquil, opened in 1860, issuing notes for 5 and 10 pesos in the amount of 100,000 pesos. It closed in 1861.
Banco Particular de Descuento i Circulación de Guayaquil, founded in 1861 by an association of 50 merchants, began issuing notes in 1862 in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 20 pesos, adding a 50 and 100 in 1864, and notes for 2 and 4 reales in 1865. This bank did much to popularize the use of paper money. It merged into Banco del Ecuador in 1870.
Banco de Circulacion y Descuento de Planas, Pérez y Obarrio opened at Guayaquil in 1865 and, without government authorization, issued 300,000 pesos in notes of 4 reales and 1, 5, 10, and 20 pesos. In 1867 it was obliged to recall its notes and close its doors.
Banco del Ecuador, founded in 1867, began operations at Guayaquil in 1868, issuing overprinted notes of the Luzarraga bank for 1, 4, 5, and 10 pesos. It issued new notes in 1870 for 2 and 4 reales and 1 peso.
In 1877 President Ignacio de Veintimilla authorized the free circulation of coin less than 900 fine, with the immediate result that good quality coin disappeared from circulation, replaced by coin from Chile and Bolivia that was only 500 fine.
Banco Nacional, Guayaquil, issued notes briefly in 1871 for 2 and 4 reales and for 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 pesos. It was taken over by Banco del Eduador, which began withdrawing Banco Nacional's notes in 1872.
Banco de Quito was the first Quito-based bank. It began issuing notes in 1874 for 2 reales and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos. A new series appeared in 1880 for 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 pesos.
Banco de la Union, Quito, issued notes from 1882 for 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 pesos. It handled the personal finances of President Veintimilla.
Banco Anglo-Ecuatoriano was established in 1884 at Montecristi, later movng to Guayaquil. It issued notes for 1, 5, and 10 pesos.
The Government signed a contract, October 6, 1887, with Banco del Ecuador to withdraw Chilean coin and low-quality national coin and replace it with coin of standard fineness. A decree of April 12, 1889 made the Bolivian coin circulating in the southern part of Ecuador equal to other coin, since its holders had been losing 20% on exchange. Banco Internacional was entrusted with withdrawing the Bolivian coin, paying partly in good coin and partly in notes. In 1890 Colombian coin 835 fine was exchanged at its face value.
Between 1887 and 1892 over 1·75 million sucres worth of substandard coin was withdrawn, so that only high quality silver coin remained in circulation. President Antonio Flores Jijón (son of Presidente Juan José Flores) announced that from August 15, 1890 only national coin was allowed to circulate in Ecuador, and Ecuador's monetary system was finally unified. But the total face value of coin in circulation had been reduced. In order to allevite the shortage of small change, the President authorized (June 14, 1890) the minting of 30,000 sucres in copper coins of 1/2 and 1 centavo.
The fall in the price of silver had been gradual in 1884-1890, but became very pronounced after 1893, and the government began looking at ways to adopt the gold standard. In 1897, the Monetary Commission reported that of the 4,790,730 sucres that had been minted up to then, 2,810,850 had been in 1-sucre coins and 2,079,000 in halves, tenths, and twentieths. It also reported that of the total, 2,931,081·15 was deposited with the banks and that half of the remainder was still in circulation, the other half either exported or usd by industry.
Banco de la Union issued notes for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 & 100 sucres until it closed in 1895.
Banco Anglo-Ecuatoriano issued notes for 1, 5 & 10 sucres until it was reorganized as Banco Internacional in 1887.
Banco de Londres y Ecuador, Quito, evidently issued notes for 1, 5, and 10 sucres. (No information about this bank is available.)
Banco Internacional was reorganized in 1885 from Banco Anglo-Ecuatoriano. It issued notes for 1, 5, 10, 20, 100, 500 & 1000 sucres. New designs of the 50 & 100 appeared in 1889. It was reorganized in 1894 as Comercial y Agricola.
Banco Comercial y Agricola, reorganized in 1894 from Banco Internacional, issued notes for 1, 5, 20, 100, 500 & 1000 sucres. The color of the 1-sucre note was changed in 1897,
silver 900 fine dated 1884-1916
■ medio décimo, 15 mm, 1·250 g
■ décimo, 18 mm, 2·500 g
■ 2 décimos, 23 mm, 5·000 g
■ medio sucre, 30 mm, 12·500 g
■ sucre, 37 mm, 25·000 g
Banco del Pichincha, Quito, issued notes for 1, 5, 10, and 20 sucres from 1906. A second issue was for 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 & 100 sucres.
Banco del Azuay, Cuenca, issued notes from 1913 for 1, 2, 5, and 10 sucres.
gold 900 fine dated 1899-1900 (Heaton mint)
■ 10 sucres, 22 mm, 8·136 g (100,000 pieces)
To mint the cóndor, the government sold 3 million sucres in silver coin (all the half-sucre coins and all the foreign silver that it had taken from circulation in southern Ecuador). The cóndor was minted at Birmingham and issued through the private banks Banco Comercial y Agrícola and Banco del Ecuador.
The economic situation was disastrous, due in part to the fraud of the commercial banks, the most notorious of which was Banco Comercial y Agrícola's issue of notes in excess of the legal limit in the huge amount of 18 million sucres. The Junta de Gobierno produced by the July Revolution (Revolución Juliana, July 9, 1925) wished to create a central bank, despite violent opposition. There were then six banks of issue: del Ecuador, Commercial y Agricola, de Pichincha, Credito Agricola e Industrial, del Azuay, and the recently opened (1920) Banco de Descuento.
The Kemmerer Financial Mission (Comisión de Expertos Financieros) arrived in 1926, and its report was the basis for the monetary reform of March 4, 1927, which created El Banco Central del Ecuador and put the sucre on the gold exchange standard, with devaluation (58·8%) to 300·933 mg Au (equivalent to US$0·20). The new cóndor was 8·35925 g 900 fine, valued at 25 sucres (equivalent to the US half eagle). Banco Central's statutes were approved June 3, it was formally inaugurated August 10, and it began operations October 1. Ecuadorian gold was recoined at Birmingham, silver at Philadelphia.
Caja Central de Emisión y Amortización overprinted certain private banknotes of 1, 2, 5, and 10 sucres with its own name, domiciled them Quito, and put them into circulation in December 1926. This was a provisional series to prepare for a central bank of issue.
El Banco Central del Ecuador, Sociedad Anonima released notes for 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 sucres in 1928. These notes had a gold redemption clause, e.g., “Pagará al portador á la vista CINCO SUCRES en oro ó giros oro” (promises to pay the bearer at sight FIVE SUCRES in gold or gold exchange). The gold clause was retained on Banco Central's notes until 1939.
Banco Central sent 63,680 cóndores of the 1898 standard to Birmingham to be recoined into 20,000 new cóndores, the remainder to be sold as bullion.
gold 900 fine dated 1928 (Birmingham)
■ cóndor (25 sucres), 22 mm, 8·35925 g (20,000 pieces)
Parity was registered with the International Monetary Fund on December 18, 1946 at 65·827 mg fine gold (13·50 per US$), but a system of multiple exchange rates was adopted in 1947. The sucre's IMF par was devalued to 15 per dollar in 1950, to 18 per in 1961, and to 25 per in 1970.
The sucre maintain a fairly stable exchange rate against the US dollar until 1983, when it was devalued to 42 per dollar and a crawling peg was adopted. Depreciation gained momentum and the free market rate was over 800 per dollar by 1990 and almost 3000 per in 1995.
The sucre lost 67% of its foreign exchange value during 1999, then in one week nosedived 17%, ending at 25,000/US$1 on January 7, 2000. On January 9, President Jamil Mahuad announced that the US dollar would be adopted as Ecuador's official currency. Protests led to his removal. Vice President Gustavo Noboa became president, only to confirm the government's commitment to dollarization.
On March 9, 2000, Noboa signed a law passed by Congress, replacing the sucre with the United States dollar at an official exchange rate of 25,000 sucres per US$1. Both currencies were to circulate, the dollar being used for all but the smallest transactions. Only coins would continue in the local currency.
The US dollar became legal tender in Ecuador March 13, 2000 and sucre notes ceased being legal tender on September 11. Sucre notes remained exchangeable at Banco Central until March 30, 2001 at 25,000 sucres per dollar. Ecuador now only issues its own centavo coins.
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