By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek …..
With nearly 500 years of western-style monetary history, Mexico’s numismatic story is quite fascinating.
As one of the oldest North American currencies, the Peso began as a colloquial name for the Spanish Colonial 8 Real coin. The term was used since it translates simply as “weight”. So, a Peso oro/plata would refer to a gold/silver weight. It wasn’t until 1821, when Mexico formally broke away from Spain as an independent nation, that a proper Peso denomination was instituted. This was simply a formalization of the previous trends, and the new gold coin was worth 8 Reals, or half of a gold Escudo.
It wasn’t until the establishment of the Second Mexican Empire 42 years later in 1863 that Emperor Maximilian approved the introduction of a new decimalized coinage system, with 1 silver Peso worth 100 Centavos. While production of the new Centavos coins began immediately, it took a further three years (1866) until the first silver 1 Peso coin was struck in 1866.
These coins continued to be struck by the restored Republic, albeit after a complete redesign in 1869. Shortly thereafter, the Porfiriato government was forced to complete a further redesign of the Peso in 1873 to satisfy the needs of Chinese merchants. At the time, these merchants did not trust the silver content of coins bearing the new design and placed a large premium on receiving coins with the previous 8 Real Cap-and-Ray design.
Despite all of these design changes, the Peso’s metal content remained stable until 1905. As the denomination’s first major debasement, the content of the gold coinage was reduced by 49.3%. Similarly, the silver content was not reduced until 1918. This marked the start of a trend in which the weight and fineness of all of Mexico’s silver coinage were continually reduced until the last silver 100 Peso coin was struck in 1977.
This cessation of silver coinage was due mostly to the oil crisis of the 1970s and the resulting economic instability that culminated in the Mexican government defaulting on its debt in 1982. Then-President Carlos Salinas managed to halt the dramatic capital flight and dramatic inflation with his economic strategy titled the Stability and Economic Growth Pact. However, this proved to be too little, too late for the Peso, and on January 1, 1993, the Mexican Central Bank first devalued the coinage and later introduced a new currency.
This new currency, written as N$ and called the Nuevo Peso, was equivalent to 1,000 old Pesos. Officially called Type B coins, this series consisted of the stainless steel 5 centavos, large type stainless steel 10 centavos, large type aluminum-bronze 20 and 50 centavos, as well as the 1, 2, and 5 bimetallic Nuevo Pesos. The Peso coins all displayed the state’s name and coat of arms on the obverse and stylized reverse designs from the Aztec Sun Stone’s Ring of Splendor on the 1 and 5 Nuevo Peso denominations, and the Ring of Days on the 2 Nuevo Peso.
Nuevo Pesos circulated until 1996, at which time they were replaced with the current Type C denominations and renamed as the Peso. There was, however, no major redesign or mass recall undertaken to withdraw Nuevo Pesos from circulation. Instead, banks simply pulled them from circulation over time and only distributed the current Type C coins. One denomination, the 50 Peso coin, did not make the switch and was discontinued in 1995 after only two years.
Additionally, the Mexican Mint released the new 10 Peso bimetallic coins with a base metal core, replacing those with a silver core in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the 5 centavos coin was discontinued in 2002 after 10 years of production. While discontinued, the coin is still legal tender. Collectors should note that while the last four years of production (1999-2002) are considered relatively rare, examples dated 2002 are the only true rarity. Never placed into circulation, this date was only issued in Mint Sets.
Finally, with the release of three Type D coins in 2009, the Mint conducted its most recent recoinage efforts. These denominations–the 10, 20, and 50 centavos–replaced the earlier Large Type coins of the B and C series. In a cost-saving measure, the Mexican Mint decided to strike these small change denominations from the punched-out ring cores used to produce the 1, 2, and 5 Peso coins. The obverse designs of all three denominations display the state’s name and coat of arms. On the reverses are the denominations partially ringed by designs from the Aztec Sun Stone: the Ring of the Sacrifice on the 10 centavos, the Thirteenth Acatl Day on the 20 centavos, and the Ring of Acceptance on the 50 centavos.
Ultimately, however, the 10 and 20 centavos coins have lost their economic utility and slowly dropped out of circulation. In fact, many stores have begun pricing their products in increments of 50 centavos. Mintage figures of both denominations reflect this trend, as they have declined significantly over the past decade. The 20 centavos peaked in 2011 with 239,362,000 pieces and dropped to just under four million coins in 2019. At the same time, the 10 centavos denomination experienced a similar decline from 463,960,000 coins in 2011 to just under nine million in 2019.
The larger multi-Peso coins are used mainly as platforms for circulating commemoratives. From 2008 to 2010, the Mint struck 37 different 5 Peso designs to commemorate famous historical Mexicans. During this time, the Mint continued to strike the standard design, however at an extremely reduced rate of just under 10 million coins annually in order to accommodate these commemorative designs. Similarly, the 10 Peso coin has been struck annually with a standard design, and with only two commemorative designs. The 20 Peso denomination has hosted 11 different commemorative designs between 2000 and 2022. Lastly, as the workhorse circulating commemorative denomination, the 100 Peso has no standard design and is only used as a commemorative platform. In fact, between 2003 and 2007, over 69 different 100 Peso coins were issued!
Currently, as with the Type C 5 centavos and Type C and D 10 and 20 centavos coins, the Banco De Mexico is also in the process of pulling a number of circulating commemorative coins from circulation.
These include the:
- 20 Peso coin – The New Millenium (“Señor del Fuego”/Lord of Fire)
- 100 Peso coins – 180th Anniversary of the Consolidation of the Mexican Republic States into a Federation
- 100 Pesos coin – 400th Anniversary of the First Edition of the literary work “The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote de la Mancha”
- 100 Pesos coin – 80th Anniversary of the Foundation of Banco de México
- 100 Pesos coin – 470th Anniversary of the Mexican Mint
- 100 Pesos coin – 100th Anniversary of the Monetary Reform of 1905
- 100 Pesos coin – Bicentennial of the Birth of Don Benito Juárez García, “Benemérito de las Américas” (Meritorious Thinker of the Americas)
Overall modern Mexican coinage is quite fascinating and has many different types to interest nearly all collectors.
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Krause – 2020 Standard Catalog of World Coins – 1901–2000
Krause – 2020 Standard Catalog of World Coins – 2001–Date
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About the Author
Tyler Rossi is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies Sustainable International Development and Conflict Resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington D.C., he worked for Save the Children creating and running international development projects. Recently, Tyler returned to the US from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient coinage from around the world. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).