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Mexican Peso

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Please see Mexican Nuevo Peso for the modern Peso Dollar.

The peso is the now obsolete currency of Mexico. The peso was the first currency in the world to use the "$" sign, which the United States dollar later adopted for its own use. The Peso experienced a stable trade until its economic collapse in 1982.


The first coins of the peso currency were 1 centavo pieces minted in 1863. Emperor Maximilian, ruler of the Second Mexican Empire from 1864-1867, minted the first coins with the legend "peso" on them. His portrait was on the obverse, with the legend "Maximiliano Emperador;" the reverse shows the imperial arms and the legends "Imperio Mexicano" and "1 Peso" and the date. They were struck from 1866 to 1867.

The New Mexican republic continued to strike the 8 reales piece, but also began minting coins denominated in centavos and pesos. In addition to copper 1 centavo coins, 0.903 silver content coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos and 1 peso were introduced between 1867 and 1869. Gold 1, 2½, 5, 10 and 20-peso coins were introduced in 1870. The obverses featured the Mexican 'eagle' and the legend "Republica Mexicana." The reverses of the larger coins showed a pair of scales; those of the smaller coins, the denomination. One-peso coins were made from 1869 to 1873, when 8 reales coins resumed production. In 1882, cupro-nickel 1, 2 and 5 centavos coins were issued but they were only minted for two years. The 1 peso was reintroduced in 1898, with the Phrygian, or liberty cap design being carried over from the 8 reales.

20th centuryEdit

A selection of old Mexican coinsIn 1905 a monetary reform was carried out in which the gold content of the peso was reduced by 49.36% and the silver coins were (with the exception of the 1 peso) reduced to token issues. Bronze 1 and 2 centavos, nickel 5 centavos, silver 10, 20 and 50 centavos and gold 5 and 10 pesos were issued.

In 1910, a new peso coin was issued, the famous "Caballito", considered one of the most beautiful of Mexican coins. The obverse had the Mexican official coat of arms and the legends "Estados Unidos Mexicanos" and "Un Peso." The reverse showed a woman riding a horse, her hand lifted high in exhortation, and the date. These were minted in 0.903 silver from 1910 to 1914.

Between 1917 and 1919, the gold coinage was expanded to include 2, 2½ and 20-peso coins. However, circulation issues of gold ceased in 1921. In 1918, the peso coin was debased, bringing it into line with new silver 10, 20 and 50 centavos coins. All were minted in .800 fineness to a standard of 14.5 g to the peso. The liberty cap design, already on the other silver coins, was applied to the peso. Another debasement in 1920 reduced the fineness to 0.720 with 12 g of silver to the peso. Bronze 10 and 20 centavos coins were introduced in 1919 and 1920, but coins of those denominations were also minted in silver until 1935 and 1943, respectively.

In 1947, a new issue of silver coins was struck, with the 50 centavos and 1 peso in 0.500 fineness and a new 5-peso coin in 0.900 fineness. A portrait of José María Morelos appeared on the 1 peso and this was to remain a feature of the 1-peso coin until its demise. The silver content of this series was 5.4 g to the peso. This was reduced to 4 g in 1950, when 0.300 fineness 25 and 50-centavo and 1-peso coins were minted alongside 0.720 fineness 5 pesos. A new portrait of Morelos appeared on the 1 peso, with Cuauhtemoc on the 50 centavos and Miguel Hidalgo on the 5 pesos. No reference was made to the silver content except on the 5 pesos.

In 1955, bronze 50 centavos were introduced, along with smaller 5-peso coins and a new 10-peso coin. In 1957, new 1-peso coins were issued in 0.100 silver. This series contained 2.6 g of silver per peso. A special 1 peso was minted in 1957 to commemorate Benito Juárez and the constitution of 1857. These were the last silver pesos. The 5-peso coin now weighed 18 grams and was still 0.720 silver; the 10-peso coin weighed 28 grams and was in 0.900 silver.

Between 1960 and 1971, a new coinage was introduced, consisting of brass 1 and 5 centavos, cupro-nickel 10, 25 and 50 centavos, 1, 5 and 10 pesos and silver 25 pesos (only issued 1972). In 1977, silver 100 pesos were issued for circulation. In 1980, smaller 5-peso coins were introduced alongside 20 pesos and (from 1982) 50 pesos in cupro-nickel. Between 1978 and 1982, the sizes of the coins for 20 centavos and above were reduced. Base metal 100, 200, 500 ,1000 and 5000-peso coins were introduced between 1984 and 1988.

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