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Sunday, 17 January 2016

248) Currency and Coinage of the Republic of Chile: Pesos and Centavos:(Part I) Brief History and Evolution of Coinage in Chile:



248) Currency and Coinage of the Republic of Chile: Pesos and Centavos: (Part I) Brief History and Evolution of Coinage in Chile:


The Republic of Chile (or “Republica de Chile”) is a South American country which is in the shape of a narrow strip of land between the Andes to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Chile borders Peru to the North, Bolivia to the North-East, Argentina to the East and the Drake Passage in the far South.

Possible origins of the country’s  name:

The name Chile has interesting origins. It seems that the Incas called the valley of the Aconcagua “Chili” which was a distortion of the name of a Picunche tribal chief called “Tili” who ruled these territories at the time of the Incan conquest in the 15th Century.

 Other interpretations of the name Chile include a Native American word “Chile” which stands for “ends of the Earth” or “Sea Gulls”, the Mapuche word “Chilli” which also means “where the Land ends” or the Quechua word “Chiri”, meaning “Cold” or “Tchli” which means “snow” and also stands for “the deepest point of the Earth.

Later history – the advent of the Spaniards:

In 1520, the first Spanish explorers landed in Chile.

Later, in 1535, Spanish conquistadors came through Peru to Chile in search of gold, silver and precious metals.

By 1540, the Spanish began to annex Chilean territories to the Spanish Empire, but did not find the gold and precious metals which they were looking for. Instead their exploratory teams found that the arid Atacama Desert in Northern Chile contained great mineral wealth, including copper. They also found agricultural potential in Chile’s Central valley found lush green forests and grazing lands along with several lakes, canals, fjords, inlets, canals etc, in the lands they captured.

By the mid-16th century, Spain conquered and colonised Chile replacing Inca rule in Northern and Central Chile, but could not conquer the independent Mapuche people (or the Araucanians) that inhabited South-Central Chile.

The Spanish found the Mapuche people stubbornly resisted their plans to expand southwards and every time there was a confrontation, the Mapuche pushed them further northwards.

Interestingly, the Mapuche were fiercely independent people and had earlier successfully resisted many attempts by the Inca Empire of Peru, during the reign of Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1471-93 BC) to overcome their resistance at the Battle of the Maule River valley:

The Battle of the Maule: took place in the Valley of the Maule River, sometime between 1471 and 1493, in which the Mapuche and their Allies numbering around 20,000 warriors had fought an army of the Inca Empire led by the Inca general Sinchiruca having an equal number of soldiers.

The Battle lasted six days in which both armies fought hard and suffered losses amounting to about half of their men dead and the other half wounded. On the next three days neither army came to the designated battle field. Instead, both sides fortified their encampments, hoping that the other side would attack them, but both armies refused to attack the other, whereafter the Mapuche returned home having won a tactical victory, having halted the Inca advance at the border of their territories, while the Inca Army detachment having been mauled very comprehensively, retreated and after linking up with their main Forces and returned home to Peru.

This battle spelt the end of the Inca six-year expansion campaign to annex new territories in and around Chile and determined the Southern limits of the Inca Empire, beyond which they never ventured again.

In 1818, Chile after several battles fought between the Freedom fighters and Spanish forces, declared it’s Independence from Spain and initially by the 1830s it had become a stable Authoritarian Republic.

In the 1880s, Chile ended the Mapuche resistance and annexed territories in the North after defeating Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, (waged from 1879 to 1883).

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Chile went through a left-wing political polarisation and a period of turmoil.

In 1973, the country experienced a coup d’├ętat that removed Salvador Allende’s left-wing government and a right-wing military dictatorship headed by Augusto Pinochet was set up.

In 1990, the Pinochet government was ousted from power after it lost a Referendum in 1988.

Since then, Chile is governed by a centre-left coalition through several Presidencies.

Central Bank of Chile or “Banco Centrale de Chile:

Banco Central de Chile” is the Central Bank of Chile.

The Central Bank of Chile was established on 22.08.1925 under the government of Arturo Alessandri Palma. The Bank’s Headquarters is located in Santiago.

Since 10.10.1989, the Bank has become an autonomous entity which status is guaranteed by the present Constitution of Chile, which has made the Bank an autonomous institution of Constitutional rank.

This ensures that the Bank is independent from national authorities and endeavours to provide credibility and stability free from any political interference.

Its primary task was to rein in inflation, promote the stability and efficacy of the financial system and the normal functioning of internal and external payment systems and providing a solid base for the country’s permanent growth.

The Central Bank of Chile has the sole authority to issue Banknotes and coins which can be printed/minted in Chile or abroad.

The Bank is responsible for the regulating the amount of currency and credit in circulation in order to provide an adequate stock of money for users.

Historical development of Coinage of Chile:

In 1749, coins were struck at the Santiago mint in the Spanish colonial designs which were prevalent at that time. These included silver Pesos and gold coins like the 8 Escudo pieces of Ferdinand VII.

Scan coin image of Ferdinand VII

Until 1851, Chile also issued gold Escudos worth 16 Reales or 2 Pesos.

In 1925, at the time of establishment of the Central Bank of Chile, the “old” Peso was still the monetary unit of Chile.

From 01.01.1960, the Escudo became the legal tender in Chile upto 1975. The Escudo was sub-divided into 100 centesimos. It replaced the “old” Peso at an exchange rate of 1 Peso to 1000 Escudos.

Since 25.09.1975, the monetary unit of Chile is the Peso, which replaced the Escudo due to high inflationary pressures in the country.

The Peso subdivided into 100 Centavos is presently the circulating currency of Chile although Centavos coins have gone out of circulation.

The First Chilean Peso (1817-1959):

Between 1817 and 1959, coins of the First Chilean Peso were circulated. The Peso at this time had a value of 8 Spanish Colonial Reales and 1 Escudo was valued at 2 Pesos. Silver coins in the denomination of ¼, ½, 1 and 2 Reales and 1 Peso and gold coins of 1, 2, 4 and 8 Escudos were issued. This currency is now referred to as the “Old” Peso.

 The 1817 issues showed the Peso inscribed with “Chile Independent” with Santiago mentioned below an erupting volcano.

In 1835, copper coins denominated in Centavos were circulated along with the Real and Escudo coins already in circulation. During this year, the Peso of 100 Centavos was adopted. The design showed a star, a condor and the Liberty head on the Obverse and the denominational value on the Reverse.

By 1851, the Real and Escudo denominations stopped being issued and further issues of Centavos and Decimos (equivalent of 10 Centavos) took place in large numbers.

Between 1851 and 1853, decimal coinage consisting of ½ and 1 Centavo (both denominations in copper), ½ and 1 Decimo, 20 and 50 Centavos (all denominations in silver), 5 and 10 Pesos (both denominations in gold) were issued.

In 1860, 1 Peso gold coins were circulated.

Between 1870 and 1871, ½, 1 and 2 Centavos coins (both denominations in cupro-nickel) were circulated.

Between 1878 and 1883, all the denominations were reduced to being minted in copper.

In 1885, a Gold Standard was adopted pegging the Peso to the British Pound at an exchange rate of 13½ Pesos to a British Pound (GBP).

In 1886, a 2½ Centavos copper coin was circulated.

In 1895, in keeping with these valuations, a new gold coinage was introduced in the denominations of 2, 5, 10 and 20 Pesos.

In 1896, ½ and 1 Decimo coins were replaced by 5 and 10 Centavo coins.

In 1907, a 40 Centavos silver coin was circulated in lieu of the 50 Centavos coin, but was not very popular.

In 1919, the last of the copper coins in the denominations of 1 and 2 Centavos were stopped being minted.

In 1920, 5, 10 and 20 centavos coins were minted in cupro-nickel, instead of silver.

In 1925, coins and Banknotes were circulated in the Condores denomination each of which was worth 10 Pesos.

Later, in 1926, the Peso which was still pegged to the British Pound but had to be devalued to 40 Pesos to 1 GBP, owing to inflationary pressures. To meet the lower valuations, a gold coinage was issued in the denominations of 20, 50 and 100 Pesos for the last time.

In 1927, 2 and 5 Peso coins were issued (both denominations in silver).

In 1932, the Gold standard was suspended when the Peso’s value was reduced considerably due to rampant inflation.

In 1933, Cupro-nickel 1 Peso coins were circulated replacing the last of the silver coins.

In 1942, 20 and 50 Centavos and 1 Peso (all denominations in copper) were introduced. The Peso coins depicted Bernardo O’Higgins who was the Dictator of Chile from 1817-1823.

Between 1954 and 1959, the last coins of the First Peso Series were circulated.  

Introduction of the Chilean escudo (1960 to 1975):

In 1960, 1 Centesimo coins (Aluminium) and 2, 5 and 10 Centesimo coins (all Aluminium-Bronze) were circulated.

In 1962, ½ Centesimo coins were circulated.

In 1971, a new coinage was introduced. This consisted of 10, 20 and 50 Centesimos (all Aluminium-Bronze) and 1, 2, and 5 Escudos (all Cupro-Nickel). This coinage was issued for two years.

In 1972, 5 Escudo coins were minted in Aluminium.

In 1974 and 1975, 10 Escudo coins (Aluminium) and 50 and 100 Escudo coins (both Nickel Brass) were issued.

Image of a 100 Escudo coin issued in 1974 which depicts variation of the flying condor.

The new Peso coins (1975 – present day):

In 1975, coins in the denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50 Centavos and and 1 Peso were circulated. The 1, 5 and 10 centavo coins were very similar to the 10, 50 and 100 Escudo coins of the earlier Series.

Since 1983, the Centavo coins are rendered obsolete due to rampant inflation.

In 1976, 5 and 10 Peso coins were circulated.

In 1981, 50 and 100 Peso coins were circulated.

In 1990, when the military dictatorship (which was in power from 1973-1990) in Chile ended, the Obverse designs of the 5 and 10 Peso coins depicted an image of a winged lady wearing a classical robe and shown as having broken a chain binding her two hands together, in a symbolic reference that the  military dictatorship had ended. Besides her image was mentioned the date of the coup d’├ętat that brought the military regime to power (1973) and the word “LIBERTAD” (meaning “Liberty”).


After a return to democracy, a design featuring the portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins from the denomination of 50 Pesos downwards was engraved.

In 2000, 500 Peso coins were circulated.

Presently circulating Coins:

On the Obverse of the 500 Peso coin is depicted a portrait of Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, in the inner core of the coin. On the upper periphery, on the outer ring, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). To the left of the engraving of the Cardinal is mentioned his name “CARDINAL RAUL SILVA HENRIQUEZ”. The mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark) is seen on the right centre right of the inner core. Sprigs of laurel are placed on the lower periphery of the outer ring.

Cardinal Raul Silva Henriques (27.09.1907 – 09.04.1999): He was a Chilean Cardinal of the Catholic Church who served as archbishop of Santiago from 1961 to 1983. In 1962, he was elevated to the Cardinalate.

As founder of the Academy of Christian Humanism, Committee of Cooperation for Peace in Chile (COPACHI) and the Vicariate of Solidarity, he was an outspoken opponent of Augusto Pinochet, the Military Ruler of chile from 1973 to 1990.
 On the Reverse of the 500 Peso coin is depicted the denomination of the coin “500 Pesos” in the inner core, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Sprigs of laurel are placed on the periphery of the outer ring. On the topmost periphery is a five-pointed star.

The specifications of this coin are:

Metallic Composition: Bimetallic: (Inner Core): Alpaca (70% Copper, 15% Nickel, 15% Zinc), Gold coloured. (Outer Ring): CuAl: (95% Copper, 5% Aluminium); Silver coloured.

Diameter/Size: 26.00 mm; Weight: 6.50 gms; Shape: Circular; Edge: Serrated.  This denomination was first circulated from: December 2000.
 On the Obverse of the 100 Peso coin is depicted a Mapuche woman in the inner core of the coin. On the upper periphery, on the outer ring, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). At the bottom periphery, on the outer ring, is the phrase “PUEBLOS ORIGINARIOS” (meaning original natives), thereby recognising the contribution of the Mapuche in resisting foreign invaders/colonists and preserving the indigenous cultures. To the left of the engraving of the Mapuche woman is the name “MAPUCHE”. The mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark) is seen on the right centre right of the inner core.
 On the Reverse of the 100 Peso coin is depicted the National Coat of Arms on the inner core, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Further below moving from the inner core to the outer ring, is mentioned the denomination of the coin “100 Pesos”. Sprigs of laurel/a laurel wreath is placed on the outer ring on the left and right peripheries.
The specifications of this coin are:
Metallic Composition: Bimetallic: (Inner Core): Alpaca (70% Copper, 15% Nickel, 15% Zinc), Silver coloured. (Outer Ring): CuAlNi: (92% Copper, 6% Aluminium, 2% Nickel); Gold coloured.

Diameter/Size: 23.50 mm; Thickness: 2.00 mm; Weight: 7.58 gms; Shape: Circular; Edge: Divided into sixths, alternating smooth and serrated.  This denomination was first circulated from: December 2001.
 The above is an image of the Reverse of an old 100 Pesos coin issued in 1981 showing the denominational value
 The above is an image of an old 100 Pesos coin issued in 1981 showing the National Coat of Arms
 On the Obverse of the 50 Peso coin is depicted a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins facing right. On the left and right peripheries, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). To the right of O’Higgins portrait is mentioned the phrase “LIBERATADOR B.O’HIGGINS” (meaning “Liberator O’Higgins”). Towards the centre left is the mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark).

Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme (1778 – 1842): He was a Chilean independence leader who together with Jose de San Martin freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile (from 1817-1823), he is considered to be one of Chile’s founding fathers.
 On the Reverse of the 50 Peso coin is depicted the denomination of the coin “50 Pesos” in the centre, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Sprigs of laurel are placed on the left and right peripheries but inside a ten sided border beading.

The specifications of this coin are:

Metallic Composition: CuAlNi: (92% Copper, 6% Aluminium, 2% Nickel); Diameter/Size: 25.00 mm; Weight: 7.00 gms; Shape: 10-sided; Edge: engraved with a beaded chain; on the outer periphery the coin is engraved with a beaded chain.  This denomination was first circulated from: September 1981.

On the Obverse of the 10 Peso coin is depicted a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins facing right. On the left and right peripheries, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). To the right of O’Higgins portrait is mentioned the phrase “LIBERATADOR B.O’HIGGINS” (meaning “Liberator O’Higgins”). Towards the centre left is the mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark).
 On the Reverse of the 10 Peso coin is depicted the denomination of the coin “10 Pesos” in the centre, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Sprigs of laurel are placed towards the left and right peripheries.

The specifications of this coin are:

Metallic Composition: CuAlNi: (92% Copper, 6% Aluminium, 2% Nickel); Diameter/Size: 21.00 mm; Weight: 3.50 gms; Shape: Circular; Edge: Serrated.  This denomination was first circulated from: September 1990.
 On the Obverse of the 5 Peso coin is depicted a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins facing right. On the left and right peripheries, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). To the right of O’Higgins portrait is mentioned the phrase “LIBERATADOR B.O’HIGGINS” (meaning “Liberator O’Higgins”). Towards the centre left is the mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark).
 On the Reverse of the 5 Peso coin is depicted the denomination of the coin “5 Pesos” in the centre, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Sprigs of laurel are placed towards the left and right peripheries.

The specifications of this coin are:

Metallic Composition: CuAlNi: (92% Copper, 6% Aluminium, 2% Nickel); Diameter/Size: 15.50 mm; Weight: 2.20 gms; Shape: Octagonal; Edge: Smooth.  This denomination was first circulated from: May 1992.
 On the Obverse of the 1 Peso coin is depicted a portrait of Bernardo O’Higgins facing right. On the left and right peripheries, is the name of the issuing country “REPUBLICA DE CHILE” (meaning “Republic of Chile”). To the right of O’Higgins portrait is mentioned the phrase “LIBERATADOR B.O’HIGGINS” (meaning “Liberator O’Higgins”). Towards the centre left is the mint mark “o” over “S” (which is the Santiago Mint Mark).
 On the Reverse of the 1 Peso coin is depicted the denomination of the coin “1 Peso” in the centre, below which is the year of issue, (“2011” on this coin). Sprigs of laurel are placed towards the left and right peripheries.

Metallic Composition: Aluminium: (98% Aluminium, 2% other metals); Diameter/Size: 15.50 mm; Weight: 0.70 gms; Shape: Octagonal; Edge: Smooth.  This denomination was first circulated from: March 1992.

Coat of Arms or Emblem of Chile:



The present Coat of Arms of Chile was adopted on 26.06.1834.

Armiger: is the Republic of Chile

Crest: Three feathers Azure, Argent and Gules (Blue, Silver and Red). This crest was a symbol of distinction that former Presidents of the Republic used to wear on their hats.

Torse: Azure, Argent and Gules

Escutcheon: Party per fess Azure and Gules a mullet Argent (meaning: the shield is partly blue (top half) and partly red (bottom half) with a silver coloured five pointed star (in the centre of the shield)

Supporters: Dexter (to the left of the viewer) A huemul proper (which is a mammal endemic to Chile), Sinister (to the right of the viewer) a Condor also proper (the most significant bird of prey in the Andes), both navally crowned Or (The Naval crowns symbolise the heroic deeds of the Chilean Navy in the Pacific Ocean).

Compartment: A Pedestal Or on the bottom, white Band with the motto placed on the Pedestal

2 comments:

  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented:
    "The history of 'Free' Chile is interesting. What I liked more is the beautiful & 'real-like' photographs of Coins of Chile."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lalingkar sahab. The Banknotes section of Chile is very beautiful and interesting too. I have almost finalised my post on them.

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