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Monday, 18 May 2015

186) Currency of Mexico : Pesos and Centavos (Part II): The Evolution of Mexican coinage:

186) Currency of Mexico: Pesos and Centavos (Part II): The Evolution of Mexican coinage:

The advent of the Spaniards in Mexico and introduction of Precious Metal coins:

Spain introduced the tradition of metal coin mining to the recently discovered Americas in the 1500s.

Metal coining was a concept that the Spaniards had learnt during the conquest of Spain by the Greeks who were the pioneers of metal coin minting in Europe and later by the Romans, who had developed metal coining to a fine art.

During the first stage of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the Spaniards who arrived in the “New World” had to use "Castellano coins" (Spanish coins), and the local medium of exchange which the indigenous peoples used, such as cocoa, jade or jadeite beads known as “Chalchihuis” coarse cotton blankets or “Patolcuachtli”, duck feather quills filled with gold powder and hatchets or copper shears in the form of the Greek letter “tau”. In fact, cocoa continued to be a medium of exchange in some areas of Southeast Mexico, until the beginning of the 20th century.

While the indigenous mediums of exchange were used, the Spanish conquerors hoarded a large amount of gold and silver from the New Continent. These metals were later used to mint coins in the style of European metal coins.

Gold and copper alloy discs were melted to make coins (“Tepuzque”) pesos), whose weight corresponded to that of a “Castellano” from which years later, Mexico’s Monetary Unit, as well as, that of other Latin American countries, the “Peso” originated.

The discovery of mineral wealth of the New Continent changed Spain’s colonial perspectives. Very soon, the growth in trade in “New Spain” (the name given to Mexico by the Spaniards) made the creation of a Coining Mint in Mexico necessary.

In 1535, when the Viceroyalty of New Spain was still being cemented, Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza received a decree founding the “Mint of Mexico” (“la Casa de Moneda”), the first in America, with the following mandate from King Charles I and Queen Juana, inter alia mentioning: Y PONGASE EN LA PARTE DONDE HOBIERE LA DEVISA DE LAS COLUNAS UNA M LATINA, PARA QUE SE CONOZCA QUE SE HIZO EN MEXICO” (meaning “ and let a Latin M be placed where the columns are divided to reveal that it was made in Mexico”).

In April 1536, the Mint of Mexico started functioning.

The first coins minted in Mexico were the Charles and Juana coins.  These coins were handmade by using a hammer. Despite being coarse, they were of even thickness, round and nice in appearance. These coins were issued in two varieties: the first variety had an inscription in gothic letters, while the second variety used Latin characters.

 On the Obverse, they depicted the names of the King and Queen in Latin (“CAROLUS ET JOHANA REGES) meaning “Queen Dona Juana” (Joanna the Mad) “and her son Charles I”, who actually governed for his mother. (Also on this face, was the Coat of Arms of Castile, Leon and Granada, with quadrants divided between castles and lions and a pomegranate in the lowe rosetteOn the Reverse, the inscription is completed and reads “CARLOS Y JUANA REYES DE ESPANA E INDIAS”, meaning “Charles and Juana, King and Queen of Spain and the Indies”). There are also the words “PLUS ULTRA”, meaning “further beyond”.

Silver coins were issued in denominations of 4, 3, 2, 1 and ½ Reales while copper coins were also minted in denominations of 4 and 2 Maravedies for use by the Mexicans, but the latter stopped being minted because the locals rejected them.

As many countries and other Spanish colonies did not have silver or coining mints they adopted the Mexican coin as a payment medium through re-stamps.

The pressing need for more coins to meet the demands of the Spanish Empire, led to a deteriorating quality of  minting and the new coins were coarse and made with hammer blows to pieces of metal of an irregular shape and thickness  but with the prescribed fineness of metal content.

The Mexican Mint, therefore supplied coins to other Spanish Colonies and other countries as well. Mexican coins became a currency that dominated international markets for more than three centuries.

A specimen of a Spanish coin minted in the Mexican mint in 1733.

During 1535 – 1821, when the Viceroyalty of New Spain was in place, mining of precious metals was so profitable, that it the Spaniards to accumulate great wealth in fine metals. The money of the period consisted exclusively of metal coins made by using gold, silver, and to a lesser extent copper.

During the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, metal coins continued to be were minted in gold and silver. The nominal value of the coins was equivalent to the value at which the metal they contained could be sold. This was what enabled them to be accepted as a means of payment.

Later, “Macuquina” coins (the term “Macuquina” is of Arabic origin, deriving from the word “macuch” meaning “approved” or sanctioned”), were minted during the entire period from the reign of Philip II till the reign of Philip V.

In 1679, Macuquina gold coins were minted for the first time at the Mexican Mint during the reign of the last Hapsburg King, Charles II, who because he had no heirs, was succeeded by Philip of Anjou (Philip V).

Philip V, during his first reign, improved coin production by introducing technological advances.

Apart from Macuquina coins, he also started the minting of well-manufactured transitional coins, without a protective cord and which were not round, known as trimmed coins.

During his second reign, Philip V, got rounded coins made with a cord that protected them from cuts and filings. This change was possible due to the introduction of the arming press. These coins were minted from 1732-1772.

During the 18th century, silver coins were minted called “Columnarios” (meaning “Coins of Worlds and Seas”). These coins were so named, because there were two hemispheres set on sea waves joined by a large crown between two crowned pillars around the inscription “VTRAQUE VNUM” (meaning “Both are One”) on their Reverse.

Obverse & Reverse of an 8 Reale silver coin (Columnarios) issued in 1761, during the reign of Charles III at the Mint of Mexico. The Obverse shows the Royal Arms, while on the Reverse face is depicted two hemispheres set on sea waves joined by a large crown between two crowned pillars, with the peripheral legend “VTRAQUE VNUM” (“Both are one”). Notice the “O upon M” Mint mark of the Mexican mint on the right periphery on the Reverse face.

The coins of this period are the best in terms of design. Besides their fine ore (fine metal content), the Mexican coins stood out for their magnificient craftsmanship and beauty, which made them the main international payment medium at the time.

The Gold coins bore the image of the King in armour, wearing a large wig, which was in fashion during the so called “Age of Enlightenment”, which led to these coins being referred to as “Peluconas”. These coins were minted from 1732 – 1759.

In 1771, Charles III changed the type of silver coins minted.

In 1772, the first new type of coins (busted coins) were minted with the portrait/bust of the monarch on the Reverse. Wigs no longer appeared on gold coins, their design resembled the one used on silver coins.

The above is a specimen of a gold 8 Escudo coin issued during the reign of Charles IV showing on the Obverse the King’s bust and on the Reverse, the Royal Arms, surmounted by a crown and surrounded by a collar and badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Notice the “O upon M” Mint mark of the Mexican mint on the lower periphery.

During the reign of Ferdinand VII, the denominations ¼ Reale in silver and ½ Escudo in gold were introduced and copper minting in denominations of 2/4, , ¼ and 1/8 Reales was resumed.

Owing to demand for coins both inside and outside New Spain, and the financial interests of the Crown, a decision was made to reduce the fine metal content of coins minted in Mexico slightly, which was accepted immediately in local and international markets.

The last monarchs to govern New Spain, Charles IV and Ferdinand VII, had to face the decline of the Spanish Empire, which along with internal unrest caused by social inequalities and the crown’s authoritative regime, led to Mexico’s Independence.

In 1810, the War of Independence began and had a devastating effect on the economy of New Spain.

One of the reasons was that roads became very dangerous owing to the presence of insurgents and armed bandits. The most sought after booty was silver which was carried on the backs of mules or on small wagons, transported from mines to the Mint of Mexico for coin production.

The Capital’s inhabitants, who were mostly Creoles (Spaniards born in New Spain) or people from the Peninsular (born in Spain), opted to send their assets abroad for protection, while other Spaniards hoarded or hid them to avoid plunder. The mines were also abandoned or taken over by belligerent forces to stop the enemy from exploiting their precious metal resources.

Money was now in short supply, leading to the issuance of Necessity coins both by the Royalists and the insurgents.

Because of the difficulty in transporting metal from the mines to the Mint of Mexico, different Royalist authorities authorised the creation of provisional mints near to the mining areas. Thus mints were set up in Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Neuva Vizcaya, Oaxaca, Real de Catorce, Sombrerete, Valladolid and Zacatecas.

Several of the mints cast official Necessity coins, although coins with designs different to those made at the Mint of Mexico were also produced.

Most of these were silver coins, with the exception of some gold coins minted in Guadalajara. Some copper coins were also minted in the Mexican territory, including at San Antonio de Bejar, Sierra de Pinos and Lagos.

The scarcity of money led to insurgents minting their own coins to pay the troops. The insurgent mints used rudimentary tools and because there was no silver supply, mostly a few copper coins were issued.

In October 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla commissioned Jose Maria Morelos to organise an army in the Sounth of the country.

In March 1811, after Hidalgo was captured, Morelos led the insurgent movement and began the second phase of the movement in which the ideas of intermediary groups were united with the demands of the people and the goals of the Independence movement were clearly outlined in the document “Sentimientos de la Nacion” (meaning “Sentiments of the Nation”), which for the first time raised the prospect of Mexico’s independence from Spain.

A noteworthy feature of the copper coins minted by Morelos was that, they could be exchanged for their face value in silver or gold, once the Revolution triumphed. This was the first time that fiduciary currency was used in Mexico.

The Obverse of these coins had a monogram of Morelos (“MOS”) along with their denomination and year of minting.

On the Reverse was an arc with an arrow and underneath was the word “SUD”. There were two main types, a simple one and the other had a floral arrangement. Coins in 8, 2, 1 and ½ Reale denominations were issued.

Another variety of insurgent coins were also made with the initials “T.C.” (standing for the clandestine insurgent mints located in either “Tierra Caliente” or “Torres de Cuautla” or “Tlacotepec”) between the arc and the word “SUD”, which have a better finish, either because more adequate machinery was used or because their operators were more experienced. The coins of this variety were mostly 8 Reales, while a few 2 and ½ Reale coins were also issued.

Following the capture of Miguel Hidalgo by the Spaniards, Ignacio Lopez Rayon led the insurgent army.

On 19.08.1811, Rayon set up the Supreme National American Junta, which was presided over by him. He minted coins which would ultimately replace the colonial ones. The first such coins were cast in silver in 1811 and 1812 in 8 Reale denomination. These coins were roughly minted and bore the name of Ferdinand VII, but the designs were completely Mexican.

Later, one-Reale silver coins of a different design to the previous ones were issued, inscribed with the inscription “CONGRESO AMERICANO” (meaning “American Congress”) on the Obverse.

In April 1812, the insurgents captured a large amount of silver bars from Spanish forces at Pueblo and set up a mint that operated until 1813.

The denominations included 2, 1 and ½  Reale silver and copper coins.

On 25.11.1812, Morelos attacked and occupied Oaxaca, where he captured a large amount of silver bars which enabled him to resume minting of both “SUD” coins as well as a variant similar to the provisional Oaxaca coins.

Coins minted in Oaxaca were the most important of the Morelos coins, not only was the quantity large but the types, varieties and values were also numerous. These coins were made of silver and copper, both smelted and minted. Although the designs on the Morelos coins were fairly uniform across insurgent controlled territories, several varieties existed because they were minted in different places (Tecpan, Huautla, Oaxaca, Acapulco, Tlacotepec, Chilpancingo, Cerro de Atijo and Tehuacan).

On 14.09.1813, as the Junta presided over by Rayon was disorganised, to offset the interests of the Creoles that it also represented, Morelos installed the Congress of Anahuac in Chilpancingo. The Congress put an end to the Rule of Ferdinand VII from 06.11.1813 onwards and declared Anahuac free from Spanish rule.

In October 1814, Morelos and Representatives of the Congress of Chilpancingo met again at Apatzingan, where they finalised the constitution of Apatzingan, which was Mexico’s first Constitution.

The minting of coins of the coins of the Junta now for the first time depicted features that were entirely representative of Mexican symbolism:

The Eagle (crowned) atop a nopal cactus in place of the “Plus Ultra” on the Royalist coins.

Owing to the growing number of counterfeits of the SUD coin, especially copper coins, Morelos put in place several measures against counterfeiters. However, as these activities continued, he issued an order that all the currency circulating in territories under his command to be revalidated for strict control.

The most common re-stamp was circular, measuring 13 mm in diameter with the monogram of Morelos between two stars. On coins with a Ferdinand VII bust, the re-stamps were engraved on the face, which may have been done on purpose to cover the monarch’s image. There are also re-stamps of the Junta of Zitacuaro and the Congress of Chilpancingo, as well as, those of the NORTH (used by Lopez Rayon in Zatecas) and ENSAIE.

Some instances of insurgent re-stamps, were of undetermined origin, as in the case of the Mexican Eagle, a re-stamp consisting of an oval in the centre of which is an eagle with a roughly engraved serpent in its beak; it was marked on 8, 2 and 1 Reale coins.

From 1822 to 1823, after Mexico gained Independence in 1821, the new Emperor, Augustin de Iturbide, ruled over a country with its economy in shambles and the country stripped of its precious metal asstes which the Spaniards shipped out to Europe.

During Iturbide’s Rule, (referred to as the First Empire), two varieties of gold and silver coins were minted in 8 and 4 Escudos and 8, 2, 1 and ½ Reale denominations.

On the Obverse of the first variety is the bust of the Emperor and the inscription “AUGUSTINUS DEI PROVIDENTIA”.

On the Reverse is a crowned Eagle facing left with open wings atop a nopal cactus among wooden clubs and crossed holsters. The inscription is continued on the Reverse: “MEX.I.IMPERATOR CONSTITUT”.

The Obverse of the second variety is the same, but on the Reverse is a different design of the Mexican Eagle.

In 1823, Mexico overthrew Iturbide’s Rule and became an Independent Republic with an economy in ruins. After the Republic was proclaimed, Guadalupe Victoria became the First President of Mexico.

The Republican Government introduced new varieties of coins and decreed that the minting of gold and silver coins would take place, in line with the Spanish octal system in the denominations of Escudos and Reales, but with different designs.

The Phyrgian Cap:

 The new designs were inspired by the symbols of freedom and justice used during the French Revolution. These symbols include the Phrygian Cap used by the inhabitants of Phrygia (a former region of Asia Minor, currently part of Turkey). The Romans gave a special meaning to this cap, as slaves wore it when they were freed. During the French revolution the cap became a symbol of liberty and was recognised as such throughout the world.

Interestingly, since 1823 to present day issues, Mexican coins have depicted the National Emblem on the Obverse, and until 1905, it was accompanied by the inscription “REPUBLICA MEXICANA” (meaning the “Mexican Republic”), while the Reverse designs have undergone several changes.

Obverse of a Gold 8 Escudo coin issued in 1847, depicts the National Emblem accompanied by the inscription “REPUBLICA MEXICANA” (meaning the “Mexican Republic”)

Reverse of the above Gold 8 Escudo, depicts an arm holding a rod topped with a Phrygian Cap on an open Law book and the inscription “LA LIBERTAD EN LA LEY” (meaning “Liberty in the Law”).

The Gold coins have an arm on them holding a rod topped with a Phrygian Cap on an open Law book and the inscription “LA LIBERTAD EN LA LEY” (meaning “Liberty in the Law”). The first Silver coins with Reale denominations show a radiant Phrygian Cap and are known as “Republican shiners”.

Some provisional Mints became foreign mints, which were subsidiaries of the Mint of Mexico.

As mining production and coin minting grew again, mainly for export to Eastern markets, new mints catering to the foreign demand were created with up to 14 mints operating throughout the Mexican Republic.

These were located in Alamos, Culiacan, Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalupe y Calvo, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Estado de Mexico (Tlalpan), Oaxaca, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas while the main mint continued to be located in Mexico City.

The Republican coins were minted in several varieties, with each mint having its own mint mark.

Thereafter, Mexico went through a period of great political and social unrest, many Governors, five constitutions and wars against foreign invaders who continued to view Mexico both as a spoil of War and a source of wealth. As a result, more than half of the territory was lost.

The second half of the 19th century saw significant political and social changes. Mining gradually recovered, but not to the levels it had reached prior to the War of Independence.

Silver coins continued to be the main export product, but profits from its trade were not used to improve production but to pay interest on foreign debt.

Through the Decree of 15.03.1857, the Government ordered a change to the decimal system, but the conditions the country was in, prevented its implementation.

Civil war broke out due to foreign protest over Benito Juarez’s decision to suspend the payment of foreign debt, which became an excuse to justify French intervention led by Napoleon III. The monarch took advantage of some offers from the monarchist party to place a foreign prince at the head of the Mexican Government.

The decimal system could not be fully put in place and only a few Republican coins of one, five and ten cents were minted in 1863.

In 1864, Napoleon III proposed Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg as monarch, who was proclaimed Emperor.

One of the first things that he did was to order the minting of currency under the decimal system. This was when the first one “Peso” coins began to be minted.

The Maximilian coins stand out as elegant pieces. On the Obverse is a profile of the Emperor and the inscription “MAXIMILIANO EMPERADOR” (Maximilian Emperor). On the Reverse is the Imperial Emblem and the inscription “IMPERIO MEXICANO” (meaning “Mexican Empire”), the denomination and the year of issue.

The ten and five cent pieces and one cent copper pieces have simpler designs.

After the fall of the Second Empire, the Mexican Republic was restored under President Benito Juarez, who ordered the minting of “Scales of Justice” coins.

Between 1869 and 1905, coins of the undernoted variety were minted with several interruptions.

Gold coins of 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 and ½ Peso were made along with silver coins in the denominations of 1 Peso, 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5 cents.

On the Obverse, the National Emblem and the inscription “REPUBLICA MEXICANA” (Mexican Republic) were depicted, while, on the Reverse from the middle down were scales (representing the Judicial branch) and a sign with the word “Ley” (“Law”) on it (referring to the Legislative branch), in the background were crossed swords (Executive branch) and at the bottom, the denomination in letters, mint mark/initials, and the initials of the official who tested the coin for its ore content.

Around 1892, all the Coining Mints were repossessed by the Government (with the exception of Oaxaca) and some continued to manufacture coins until 1905, when the drop in international prices of silver forced the Porforio Diaz Government to implement a far reaching monetary reform that significantly scaled back coin production until only the minting at the Old Mint of Mexico, the first in the American continent that had been working consistently for more than 460 years, continued minting silver coins at its originally allocated capacity.

The Monetary Reform of 1905, introduced the Gold standard, amended Coinage law and established the use of the National Emblem surrounded by the words “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (United Mexican States) which are still used – present day.

This Reform created gold coins in denominations of ten and five Pesos with 900 thousandths gold content on which for the first time since the restoration of the Republic, appeared the image of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a historic figure of the War of Independence.

Among the most beautiful coins of this period was the first commemorative coin, the so-called “Peso de Caballito” (“Miniature Horse Peso”), designed by the French artist Charles Pillet to commemorate the 1910 War of Independence Centenary.

The 1910-1917 Revolution had a profound impact on the issuance and circulation of currency.

Due to a shortage of currency, the opposing forces had to issue their own currency which was mostly coarse, including Banknotes, vouchers and pieces of cardboard to meet their needs.

Among the many coins minted by Francisco Villa, is the famous “Peso de Bolita” (meaning “Little ball”)  and “MUERA HUERTA” ( “May Huerta Die”) minted in Cuencame, Durango. The two main varieties of the second coin make it the only minted coin to make a political demand on anyone carrying it : a death sentence for Huerta.

Some other notable pieces are the silver Zapatista coins known for their inscription “REFORMA” (Reform), LIBERTAD” (Freedom), “JUSTICIA Y LEY” (Justice and the Law), on which two mountains and a smoking volcano appear in the centre. Above them is a drawing of a sun in the form of a human face.

There is also a very rare coin minted with metal from a mining field called “Suriana”, whose name is included in the 2 Peso denomination coin dated 1915.

After the Revolution, coinage had to adapt to the country’s new circumstances and needs. The use of gold and silver coins had become entrenched in Mexican society, since the Spanish Vice-Regal period, but now due to the disruption in the value of gold and silver, there was a need to adapt monetary law to the times, hence several coins made of industrial metals was produced.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the purchasing power of coins diminished due to inflation which led to the minting of high-denomination coins – the fifty Peso denomination was exceeded and at one point and even  coins of 1000 Pesos and 5000 Pesos were issued.

On 18.06.1992, it was decided that from 1993 onwards, a new unit of the Monetary system of the United Mexican States equivalent to 1000 old Pesos would be issued. The new unit was called “Nuevo Pesos(New Pesos) and was identified by the symbol “N$” or by placing “Neuvo” in front of it. In other words, if someone had 1000 old Pesos, they would now have 1 new Peso.

In order to comply with the decree, Banco de Mexico issued a new Series of bimetallic coins in the denominations of 10, 5, 2 and 1 Peso and 50, 20, 10 and 5 centavos.

The 10 Peso coin had a silver inner ring (later changed to base metal), while the 5, 2 and 1 Peso coins were made of cupro-nickel and aluminium bronze.

In 1996, the term “Nuevo” was omitted from newly minted coins, (as users were already familiar with the new Series) and were issued with the same designs as the previous Series in 1, 2, 5 and 10 Peso and 5, 10, 20 and 50 Centavos denominations.

Mint of Mexico mints one rupee coins for India:

Obverse & Reverse of a one rupee coin issued for the Government of India in 1997. Notice the Mint of Mexico mint “O upon M” on this coin from my collection.

In 1997, Mint of Mexico minted one rupee coins for the Indian Government. This was a time when India did not possess adequate capacity to mint sufficient coins to meet the domestic demand. India only gained self sufficiency in minting coins to meet its domestic demand after from 2001-02 onwards.

Presently Circulating Coins:

The presently circulating coins are from the “Type C” Series:

On the Obverse of all these coins in the centre field is the National Emblem with the legend “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (UNITED MEXICAN STATES) inscribed along the top of the coin.
 On the Reverse of the one Peso coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “1”, towards the left is the symbol “$”. On the upper side is the year of minting. Towards the right of the numeral “1” is the Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The outer ring has a stylised image of the “Ring of Splendour of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 21.0 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 3.95 gms (outer ring 2.14 gms, inner centre 1.81 gms); Edge: Plain;

Metal Composition: Inner Centre (Aluminium Bronze): Copper: 92%, Aluminium: 6% and Nickel: 2%; Outer Ring (Stainless Steel): Chrome: 16 – 18%; Nickel: 0.75% maximum; Carbon: 0.12% maximum; Silicon: 1% (maximum); Manganese: 1% (maximum); Sulphur: 0.03% (maximum); Phosphorus: 0.04% (maximum) and the remainder is iron.
 On the Reverse of the two Peso coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “2”, towards the left is the symbol “$”. On the upper side is the year of minting. Towards the right of the numeral “1” is the Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The outer ring has a stylised image of the “Ring of the Days of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 23.0 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 4.52 gms (outer ring 2.14 gms, inner centre 2.38 gms); Edge: Plain;

Metal Composition: Inner Centre (Aluminium Bronze): same as the 1 Peso coin Outer Ring (Stainless Steel): same as the 1 Peso coin.
 On the Reverse of the five Peso coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “5”, towards the left is the symbol “$”. On the upper side is the year of minting. Towards the right of the numeral “1” is the Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The outer ring has a stylised image of the “Ring of the Serpents of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 25.5 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 7.07 gms (outer ring 3.25 gms, inner centre 3.82 gms); Edge: Plain;

Metal Composition: Inner Centre (Aluminium Bronze): same as the 1 Peso coin Outer Ring (Stainless Steel): same as the 1 Peso coin.
 On the Reverse of the ten Peso coin, in the centre , the Circle of stone representing “Tonatiuh” with the “fire mask “ is depicted. The outer ring on the upper periphery is the denomination of the coin “$10”; On the left periphery is the year of minting; and on the right periphery the Mexican Mint mark “O upon M” is seen. On the lower periphery is the inscription “DIEZ PESOS” (TEN PESOS).

On the Reverse of another ten Peso coin, is a portrait of General Ignacio Zaragoza and in the background is a battle scene between Mexicans and the invaders. The forts of Loreto and Guadalupe are also shown in the background. On the upper periphery is mentioned “150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF PUEBLA/MAY 5TH (150 ANIVERSARIO DE LA BATALLA DE PUEBLO/5 DE MAYO). Also mentioned are the commemoration years “1862” and “2012”, the denomination of the coin “$10” and the Mexican Mint Mark “O upon M”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 28.0 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 10.329 gms (outer ring 5.579 gms, inner centre 4.75 gms); Edge: Milled.

Metal Composition: Inner Centre (Aluminium Bronze): Nickel-Silver: Copper 65%; Nickel: 10%; Zinc: 25%.  Outer Ring (Aluminium Bronze): Copper 92%; Aluminium: 6%; Nickel: 2%.

On the Reverse of the five Centavo coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “5”, towards the right is the symbol “c”. On the upper side is Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The year of minting is above the numeral “5”. To the left, parallel to the engraved pentagon, is a stylised image of the “Solar Rays of the Ring of “Quincunxes” of the Sun Stone”.

The above is an image of a Roman Quincunx coin. Notice the five dots in the third quadrant on the coin-face on the right.

(A Quincunx: is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, with four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth in the centre. The Quincunxwas originally a coin issued by the Roman Republic (2011-200 BC), whose value was five-twelfths of an “As”, a standard bronze coin. On the Quincunx coins the value was sometimes indicated bay a pattern of five dots or pellets).

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 15.5 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 1.58 gms; Edge: Plain.

Metal Composition: Stainless Steel; (same as the outer ring of the one Peso coin).
 On the Reverse of the ten Centavo coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “10”, towards the right is the symbol “c”. On the lower side is Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The year of minting is above the numeral “10”. To the right, parallel to the edge, is a stylised image of the “Ring of the Sacrifice of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 14.0 mm; Shape: Round; Weight: 1.755 gms.

Metal Composition: Stainless Steel; (same as the outer ring of the one Peso coin).
 On the Reverse of the twenty Centavo coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “20”, towards the right is the symbol “c”. On the lower side is Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The year of minting is above the numeral “20”. To the right, parallel to the 12-sided frame, is a stylised image of the “Thirteenth Acatl Day of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 19.5 mm; Shape: 12-sided; Weight: 3.04 gms; Edge: Plain.

Metal Composition: Aluminium Bronze (copper 92%; Aluminium 6%; Nickel: 2%).
 On the Reverse of the fifty Centavo coin, in the centre is the denomination of the coin “50”, towards the right is the symbol “c”. On the lower side is Mint of Mexico mint mark “O upon M”. The year of minting is above the numeral “50”. To the right, parallel to the semi-circular frame, is a stylised image of the “Ring of Acceptance of the Sun Stone”.

The specifications of this coin are:

Diameter: 22.0 mm; Shape: 12-sided, notched; Weight: 4.39 gms; Edge: Plain.

Metal Composition: Aluminium Bronze (copper 92%; Aluminium 6%; Nickel: 2%).

The Aztec “Calendar Stone” or “Sun Stone” or “Stone of the Five Eras”:

The above is an image of the "Aztec Calendar Stone or "Sun Stone"

This is a late post-classic Mexica sculpture, which is the most famous work of Atec sculpture. The stone measures 358 cm (or 11.75 ft.) in diameter and 98 cm (or 3.33 ft.) in thickness. The stone weighs about 24 tons. The sculpted motifs on the surface refer to the main components of the Mexica cosmology.

In the centre of the monolith is the face of the solar deityTonatiuh” which appears inside the glyph for “4 movement” (Nahuatl: Ollin) thus the name “Sun Stone”.

                  The above is an image of the Sun God “Tonituah”.

 (Tonatiuh: means “Movement of the Sun” and refers to the Sun God, whom the Aztecs believed to be the leader of “Tollan” (heaven).

He was also known as the fifth Sun, because the Aztecs believed that he was the Sun that took over when the fourth Sun was expelled from the sky. For them, each Sun was a God with its own cosmic era. It was also a belief that the God demanded a human sacrifice as a tribute, otherwise the Sun would refuse to move through the sky.

The Aztecs were fascinated by the Sun and carefully observed it, and had a solar calendar similar to that of the Mayans. Many of Aztec monuments that have survived today are structures aligned to the Sun.

 In the Aztec calendar, Tonituah is the Lord of the thirteen days from 1 Death to 13 Flint. The preceding 13 days are ruled over by “Chilchiuhtlicue” and the following thirteen by “Tlaloc”).

Some of the circles of the glyphs are for days of the months which may have been illuminated by the sun’s rays at different points, during different months, depending on the Sun’s position, as such the stone may have been a “Solar Calendar”).

Apart from the above interpretations, some of the symbols may represent the “Five Ages” (or “Eras”) that the Mexica believed the Earth had passed through:

The four squares that surround the Central deity represent the four previous suns (or “eras”), which preceded the present era, “4 Movement”. Each era ended with the destruction of the world and humanity, which were then recreated in the next era.

The top right square represents the 4 Jaguar (Nahuatl: “Nahui Ocelotl”), the day on which the first era ended, after having lasted 676 years, due to the appearance of monsters that devoured all of humanity.

The top left square shows 4 Wind (Nahuatl: “Nahui Ehecatl”), the date on which, after 364 years, hurricane winds destroyed the Earth and humans were turned into monkeys.

The bottom left square shows 4 Rain (Nahuatl: “Nahui Quiahuitl”), the date on which, after 312 years, a rain of fire destroyed the Earth and transformed humans into turkeys.

The bottom right square represents 4 Water (Nahuatl: “Nahui Atl”), an era lasting 676 years, when the world was flooded and all humans were turned into fish.

Placed among these four squares are 3 additional dates: 1 Flint, 1 Rain and 7 Monkey and a “Xiuhuitzolli” (or a “Ruler’s turquoise diadem”) glyph.

These dates may have had both historical and cosmic significance, but as the ancient culture was destroyed by the Spanish invaders, who could tolerate no other “culture” than their own, interpreting the meaning of these dates is left to conjecture.

An interesting interpretation of the Aztec Stone may be its geographical significance. The four points may relate to to the four corners of the Earth or the the cardinal points. The inner circles may denote space as well as time, with Tenochtitlan as the Centre of the World, and, therefore, as the Central Authority.

Commemorative coins:

In 1996, two commemorative coins with silver centres were issued.

One was a 20 Peso coin, depicting Miguel Hidalgo and the other was a 50 Peso coin depicting the “ninos heroes” (boy heroes) on it.

In 2000, Banco de Mexico brought out two 20 Peso coins to commemorate the beginning of the new millennium.

One 20 Peso Commemorative coin had the God of Fire (“Xiuhtecuhtli”) on it and shows a styling of the Aztec Calendar stone or Sun Stone’s Solar gleam ring (Piedra del Sol) while the other 20 Peso Commemorative coin depicted Octavio Paz, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature. The inner rings of these coins were made of Cupro-nickel, and the outer rings were of Aluminium Bronze.

In 2003, commemorative coins were issued in the denomination of one hundred Pesos to celebrate the 180th Anniversary of the Federal Union of Mexican States. These coins have a Sterling Silver 0.925 standard centre and an Aluminium Bronze outer Ring. The programme was launched in two stages:

In the first stage, the Reverse of the coins depicted the Coat of Arms/Emblem of Mexico and were issued in alphabetical descending order. In other words, they began with the Zacatecas coin and ended with the Aquascalientes coin.

In the second stage, the Obverse faces of the coins bore images related to architecture, art, science, fauna, flora, typical dresses or dances or geographical areas of interest found in each state. In this phase, the coins were put into circulation in ascending alphabetical order. In other words, they began with the Aquascalientes coin and ended with the Zacatecas coin.

In September 2005, a 100 Peso coin was issued to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the First edition of “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra.

In November 2005, 100 Peso Coins was issued commemorating the:

a)   80th Anniversary of the creation of Banco de Mexico,

b)   470th Anniversary of the setting up of the Mint of Mexico and,

c)   100th Anniversary of the 1905 Monetary Reform.

In March 2006, a 100 Peso coin was issued to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Don Benito Juarez Garcia.

In October 2008, a series of five peso commemorative circulating coins commemorating the bicentenary of the beginning of the Independence movement in Mexico and the Centenary of the Mexican Revolution began to be issued. A total of 19 different coins depicting the heroes of the Independence movement and 18 different coins depicting the figures of the Revolution were put into circulation.

In August 2009, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins with new features were circulated.

In March 2011, a 20 Peso coin was issued to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Octavio Paz being awarded the Nobel Prize. The inner ring of this coin was made of Cupro-nickel and the outer ring was of Aluminium Bronze.

On 08.09.2012, a 10 Peso coin was issued to remember the sacrifice and honour the 150th Anniversary of the death of General Ignacio Zaragoza, who fell in the city of Puebla de Zaragoza on 08.09.1862.

In December 2012, a 20 peso gold coin was issued displaying on the obverse the “Aztec Calendar stone” image.

On 15.08.2013, a 20 Peso coin was issued to commemorate the Mexican Armed forces Centennial.

On 05.11.2013, a 20 Peso coin commemorating the 150th Birth and 100th Death Anniversary of Chiapas Senator Belisario Dominquez Palencia was issued. This coin was put into circulation in recognition of his firm stand in upholding democracy and legality.

The coin commemorates the Senator’s fight to defend democracy and his condemnation of Victoriano Huerta’s regime. On 09.02.1913, Mexico City’s garrison rose up against the legitimately elected government headed by Francisco I.Madero, initiating the period known as the Decena Tragica” (meaning “ten tragic days”). In those fateful days, the former regime’s sympathisers among the armed forces usurped power and murdered President Madero and Vice-President Jose Maria Pino Suarez and several other democratically elected leaders who spoke against General Huerta (who illegitimately took over the Presidency) were murdered/assassinated.


  1. Hi, that is a LOT of information/trivia to digest.. whew!!! quite awesome... actually, I have not been able to read through the whole of it.. I am interested to see the end of post where you mention references and sources of images.. which are missing here :-( So, these images are from your collection/internet?

    I was lucky to have read through your other article on the mexican silver peso.. cause I stumbled on a dirty mexican peso 1882 coin in an exhibition.. and got it for 100 Rs.. basically cause the seller did not know much about it.. it was quite dirty, so mebbe he did not even realise it was silver.. it's quite a bulky coin at about 20gms and looks exactly like the coin depicted in your mexican silver peso post, with the cap that says 'LIBERADO'. Thank you for enlighenting me on that coin.

    Mexico has an interesting pre-hispanico themed set (pre Neuvo Peso) that I am certain you would be interested in from a historical/story telling perspective. I will try and share the image of that on email with you.


    1. Thank you, Rahul. Will wait for the coin set in the email. Some of the images are from a pamphlet that I have had in my library for the past four decades or so, not sure where I got it from,. Always wanted to write about Mexican history. Got the chance when one of my friends gave me scans of his Banknotes.

  2. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented:
    "The Golden coins of Mexico are really beautiful".

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