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Panama Canal Commemorative Quarter

October 2, 2017 0 Comments

quarter balboa

The Republic of Panama is a popular destination for winter holidays for many Americans, with over half a million travelling there every year. As well, it is a popular lower-cost choice for long-term stays by those lucky enough to have left the rat-race and retired. So if you are thinking of expanding your coin interests beyond the US Mint, then Central America, and Panama in particular, seems like a logical place to start. A vacation there will fill your pockets with interesting coins, and dealers in the country will have plenty of rarer items. Even if you don’t get there, you could likely have friends or relatives who do, and who can bring you back some coins in their pockets.

It is likely that not many people realize that one of the biggest engineering feats of American know-how was not in America at all, but in Panama. The Panama Canal revolutionized world shipping, creating whole new routes for goods around the globe. When the French failed at building a canal through the narrow strip of land separating the Pacific from the Atlantic Ocean, the task was taken up by America’s great ‘can do’ President, Teddy Roosevelt. The canal was officially opened in 1914, and to mark that centenary, the Republic of Panama has released a pair of circulation quarters. The coins were only released in 2016, but Panamanians have a more relaxed attitude.

With its strong connection to America, and marking a great engineering feat that had proved too much even for the great French engineer Eiffel (yes, the one who built the tower), this coin seems the perfect place to start a coin collection of foreign coins with connections to the USA.

The obverse of the two coins is the same. It features the coat of arms of Panama, rather than the expected bust of a famous president. The motto on the coat of arms, appropriately for the country of the canal, features the words PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO – ‘for the benefit of the world’, and above the crest are the words REPÚBLICA DE PANAMA. The year of issue, 2016, is below the crest.

On the reverse you will find one of two different designs related to the canal. One shows two workmen digging, set against an enormous gear for the lock system. They are flanked on either side by two large digging machines. The words, 1907 CONSTRUCCIÓN DEL CANAL DE PANAMA, are written below the design. The second coin shows the first ship passing through the canal, and we can see how tight a fit it is. The words, 1914 PRIMER TRANSITO POR EL CANAL DE PANAMA, run below it. This translates as, ‘first traffic for the Panama Canal.’

Above the picture on both coins are the words, UN CUARTO DE BALBOA. The Balboa is the Panamanian Dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of one to one. The US dollar is also legal tender in Panama, so when you visit you won’t need to go through the usual hassle of changing money. In fact, only coins are specifically Panamanian, since US dollars are used for paper money, but denominated in balboas.

Collecting foreign coins is an interesting compliment to collecting American coins, and what better place to start than with a coin so closely connected to the achievements of the United States?

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