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Costa Rica to roll out ‘big money’

June 19, 2009

The Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR) is preparing to unroll a new series of bills in the coming year, including the first-ever denominations in 20,000 and 50,000 colones.

The last time the bank issued new bills was in 1998 and officials stressed the need to keep pace with anti-counterfeiting measures and to make the money accessible to people with visual impairments.

“We want to improve the security of our money,” said Marvin Alvarado, director of the Treasury Department. “At this moment, we are not taking advantage of the technology that exists today in the production of currency. Right now, counterfeiters can reproduce (our money) with ease.”

The other reason, Alvarado said, is to make the bills more distinguishable from one another through differing markings and sizes, in order to prevent confusion.

The new ¢20,000 and ¢50,000 bills – about $35 and $88, respectively – will be introduced as soon as late March 2010, with the other bills following suit.

With many pulperías (corner stores) and taxis denying ¢10,000 bills and asking for smaller change, some wonder how often the larger denominations would even be used.

“We don´t expect a high circulation with the 20 and 50 thousand bills,” Alvarado said. “But there are certain sectors of the economy where these sizes are very important. A ¢50,000 bill is less than $100.”

BCCR officials are considering using the plastic material Nicaragua introduced in May (NT, May 29) to replace some of Costa Rica´s paper bills.

The bills will feature six important figures in Costa Rica history including former President José Figueres Ferrer, public education advocate Mauro Fernández and writer María Carvajal (Carmen Lyra). The other side will be decorated with nature scenes including rain forests, coral reefs and wetlands.

The existing currency will be phased out as the new currency is introduced next year. But for those tourists who unintentionally collect colones when they head home, Alvarado said not to worry. The old currency can be exchanged at the Central Bank “indefinitely.”

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