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August 29, 2023 uncategorized

The Fascinating World of Peruvian Currency: Design, Symbolism, and History

If you’re planning on visiting Peru soon, then you will soon be more than familiar with the nuevo sol (the “new sun”)—Peru’s official currency since 1990.
The Biblioteca Nacional in Peru and a note of 100 soles, the Peruvian national currency.The Biblioteca Nacional in Peru and a note of 100 soles, the Peruvian national currency.
The nuevo sol, which is divided into 100 cents, has its origins in the 1929 world crisis. Economic and monetary difficulties led the then-government to create the Central Reserve Bank of Peru. This organization’s aim was clear: to replace the currency at the time (the “Inti”) with the nuevo sol, with a view to stabilization. At the time of the replacement, one nuevo sol was equivalent to one million intis (or one thousand million old soles). The old sol itself has a fascinating history. Originally created as the official currency in the 1860s, it was replaced by other currencies during Chile’s occupation of Peru. It was reintroduced in the 1930s, and was replaced by the inti in the 1980s.
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The Value of the Nuevo Sol

If you’re wondering how your currency would be valued in nuevos soles, conversion is easy. One USD is equivalent to 3.68 soles. Meanwhile, one Canadian dollar will fetch you around 2.76 soles. The Australian dollar is worth slightly less, currently equalling 2.42 soles.

The Nuevo Sol: Denominations and Design

Banknotes in Peru are denominated in values from 10 to 200 nuevos soles. Those in circulation are for 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 nuevos soles. As for coins, there are both cents and nuevos soles. The denominations are as follows: 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as 1, 2, and 5 new soles. The obverse of all notes bear the image of a historical figure. Coins, meanwhile, contain the pertinent denomination and symbols on the obverse side, while the reverse side bears the Peruvian Coat of Arms surrounded by the lettering “Banco Central de la Reserva del Peru” (“The Central Reserve Bank of Peru”).

Symbolism on Peruvian Coins

Each coin bears different symbols on the obverse side. The 10 cent coin, for instance, shows ancient reliefs discovered at the archaeological site of Chan Chan—the most sizeable pre-Colombian city in the Americas and the capital of the Chimú Empire. The 20 cent coin also bears these ancient reliefs. The front side of the 50 cent coin differs. The left side of the denomination bears a delicate laurel and oak branch and the right side features the logo of the Casa del la Moneda (the National Mint).

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The 1 (Nuevo) Sol Coin

Next up comes the 1 nuevo sol. The version of this coin (minted between 1991 and 2010) bears the words “Un Nuevo Sol” , as well as an intertwined branch and the logo of the Casa del la Moneda. In 2012, the coin had a design change: the number 1 replaced the word “Un”, and the logo of Peru brand (Marca Peru) appeared to the left of the number. In 2016, the nuevo sol was renamed sol, and a new 1 sol coin was minted. The Peruvian Centra Reserve Bank also issued a special 1 (nuevo) sol series to promote a numismatic culture with one of the country’s most iconic coins.

The 2 and 5 (Nuevos) Soles Coins

These coins hare made in two tones, with an outer steel ring and an alpaca core. They come in three different designs. The first (minted between 1994 and 2009) bears a large 2 on the right and the iconic colibri (from the Nazca Lines in southern Peru), with the words Nuevos Soles beneath the number. The second (first minted in 2010) design is similar, but bears two overlapping images of the Nasca Lines colibri. The third, minted in 2016, is identical to the second, but bears the word “Soles” instead of “Nuevos Soles.” The 5 nuevos soles coin has also been through three different designs. The first was minted from 1994-2009, the second from 2010 to 2015, and the third in 2016. The first two coins have a number 5 to the right and the famous Nazca Line frigate bird to the left. However, the positioning of the bird in the second version and the words “Nuevos Soles” extend to the steel portion of the coin. The third version features the 5 to the left, with the Frigate Bird now to the right.

The Profound Symbolism of Peruvian Banknotes

As mentioned, all banknotes contain images of Peruvians who have left their mark on the history and/or culture of their country. As is the case with the soles and nuevos soles, banknotes have been through many design changes, though they retain the images of the key historical figures they represent. The 10 Nuevos Soles note features José Abelardo Quiñones Gonzáles, a famed Air Force Captain and celebrated national hero. The back of the note features the beautiful archaeological site of Machu Picchu. The 20 note features the historian, professor, politician and diplomat, Raúl Porras Barrenechea on the front and the wall of Huaca (an adobe pyramid from the ancient city of Chan Chan). The 50 note bears an image of the famous Peruvian poet, Abraham Valdelomar Pinto on the front and the New Temple of Chavín de Huantar on the back. The 100 Soles bill bears the image of Pedro Paulet, an engineer and architect (to name just a few of his many professions), while the back bears an image of the marvelous spatuletail (a hummingbird that is only found in the northern Peruvian Andes). Finally, the 200 note features Saint Rose of Lima (the patroness of Lima, the Philippines, Latin America, and India) on the front and the Sacred City of Caral on the back.

Peru’s currency is colorful, creative, and deeply symbolic. Each note and bill speaks of the achievements of notable Peruvians, and/or of the beauty of the Peruvian landscape. Each image inspires further research, owing to its symbolic significance. The complete collection of currency tells the story of a land with a fascinating history and rich cultural and natural heritage.

Britt Fracolli
Britt Fracolli
Britt is a California native who now calls Peru home. She is a traveler with a passion for all things outdoors, scuba diving, and capturing memories with her camera.
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