Historic Journey through Panama’s 1975 Proof Set In 1975, the Franklin Mint produced quite an interesting proof set for the government of Panama. The 9-coin series is not a new concept to the Franklin Mint, as they recently had minted the Bahama 9-piece set. The Panama Proof set differed, however, by having each coin individually encased in a plastic to protect them and prevent any toning. Three of the coins are crown-size or larger and are made from sterling silver, five coins are a copper-nickel clad copper, and one coin is copper plated zinc. In 1975, Panama’s Balboa equaled the US Dollar; that remains unchanged today! The reverse of each of these coins contains the country’s coat of arms below nine stars. The stars represent the nine provinces at the time. The new coat of arms holds ten stars, with the addition of the Panamá Oeste province in 2014. Below the stars is an eagle holding a banner with a Latin inscription that translates to: For the benefit of the world. The eagle itself represents sovereignty. Below that in the top-left quadrant displays a hung sword and rifle, which was originally intended to remind of the costly wars for independence against Spain and Colombia. This was later changed to say that Panama is prepared to defend its sovereignty. In the top-right quadrant are a shovel and spade, symbolizing the work done on the Panama Canal. In the bottom-left corner is a cornucopia with gold coins spilling out, symbolizing Panama’s resource wealth. In the bottom-right corner is a golden, winged wheel, symbolizing progress. In the center of the coat of arms is the Isthmus of Panama, symbolizing its independence. On each side of the coat of arms drape two Panamanian flags. The smallest coin is often referred to as the “Panama Pill”. Even though it is not the smallest denomination, the 2.5 Centésimos coin is 10mm and the smallest coin minted in 1975. The next three smallest coins at 11, 12, and 13mm consist of two Maundy coins and a gold coin from Swaziland. The Panama Pill honors Victoriano Lorenzo, a general who helped Panama gain independence from Colombia in the Thousand Day’s War (1899-1902). Lorenzo did not accept the peace agreement his ally, General Benjamín Herrera signed, and continued to resist. Herrera ordered Lorenzo’s arrest and he was eventually sentenced to death. Records show that he was the last person to be executed in Panama (May 15, 1903). In contrast to the smallest coin minted in 1975, the 20 Balboas coin is the second largest coin minted in 1975. The coin is only second to the 20 Pa’anga from Tonga. At 129.59g, it holds 3.8539oz ASW, making its silver value approximately $70 as of January 2020. The 20 Balboas honors Simón Bolívar, who led most of northern South America in the war of independence from Spain. Some historians claim that Bolívar’s campaigns took him further on horseback than Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hannibal combined. Bolívar ruled over “Gran Colombia” (Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia), from 1821 until 1830. Bolivia, named after Bolívar, is one of the only countries named after an actual person. The Centésimo is the smallest denomination is copper-plated zinc and honors Ubarragá Maniá Tigrí, also known as Urracá. Urracá was an Ngäbe Amerindian chieftain, and is the earliest recorded hero of Panama. He created alliances with neighboring tribes, who were previously enemies, and resisted the Spanish conquistadores from 1520 until his death in 1531. He was so successful in defeating the Spanish militaries that the famous Hernán Ponce de León was dispatched to reinforce the Spanish Army in Panama City. There’s a story of Spanish treachery, in which they pretended to parlay for peace in order to draw out Urracá. Once Urracá was away from his military protection, the Spanish captured him and put him on a ship to Spain. Urracá escaped and returned to his people to continue resisting the Spanish invasion. The 5 Centésimos coin honors Juan Carlos Finlay. Unlike the previously mentioned people honored in the Panama Proof Set, Finlay took no part in wars for independence. His father, however, fought alongside Simón Bolívar. Finlay pioneered research in yellow fever. As a native of Cuba, son of a physician, and survivor of both cholera and typhoid, Finlay seemed the perfect candidate to study yellow fever. Finlay hypothesized, and later proved, that mosquitos transmitted yellow fever. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize seven times for his efforts, but was never awarded it. The 10 Centésimos coin honors Manuel Amador Guerrero, the first president of Panama. Amador was actually born in Colombia, but in 1833, Panama belonged to Colombia. Even so, an exception was written into the Constitution of Panama to allow Amador to be president thanks to his help in brokering Panama’s independence. During Amador’s presidency, Panama adopted many traditions, such as the Gold Balboa which was put at equal exchange to the US Dollar, the national flag his son designed and his wife sewed, and the national anthem his wife’s brother helped write. In this time came the expansion of the education system, the national theater, national museum, and the disbanding of the army. This was one of the two times the army was disbanded in Panama, and there is currently no standing military, only a police force. The 25 Centésimos honors Justo Arosemena Quesada. Like Finlay, Arosemena’s father fought for Latin America’s independence from Spain. Arosemena was president of the convention that created the United States of Colombia in 1861 and created its constitution in 1863. Arosemena also negotiated the 1868 agreement to allow the United States of America to complete the Panama Canal. He was a big proponent for an independent Panama and in 1855, was elected to be federal state of Panama’s first president. Beyond being a politician, Arosemena was also a writer and lawyer. His writing directly contributed to the independence of Panama, as well as capturing Panamanian nationality. The 50 Centésimos honors Ferdinand de Lesseps. He is one of the only two non-natives of Latin America to be honored in this set. De Lesseps was a French diplomat and engineer who developed the Suez Canal. Because of his success in Egypt, he was selected to lead the work at the Panama Canal. De Lesseps led the construction project from 1882 until 1888, when the Panama Canal Company went bankrupt due to landslides, malaria, and yellow fever. Another interesting note is that de Lesseps presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States. The 5 Balboas silver coin honors Belisario Porras Barahona. Barahona was a journalist who joined the Colombian Liberty Party and was eventually exiled to Nicaragua and El Salvador. During the Thousand Day’s War, Barahona led the invasion of the Isthmus of Panama. Barahona fought alongside Lorenzo (on the Panama Pill) for Panamanian independence, but was exiled again after losing a battle near the future capital of Panama. Barahona spent a few years in exile and returned to be a diplomat and later the President of Panama. During his time as president, the Panama Canal was finished. Lastly, the 1 Balboa silver coin honors Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. In contrast to all of the others honored in this set, Balboa was a conquistador. He sailed to America in 1500 and established Santa María la Antigua del Darién (in present-day Colombia), which was the first European settlement on mainland America. Balboa is most known for being the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean from the New World. Interestingly, Balboa was not a career conquistador; in 1505, he settled in Hispaniola and tried his luck at farming and raising pigs. He failed at these efforts and sank into debt. To avoid his debtors, he stowed away on Fernández de Enciso’s ship, where he was discovered by the captain. Balboa’s life was spared due to his familiarity with the regions. Balboa eventually worked his way up to being the governor of Veragua in Panama. Balboa eventually lost favor in Veragua and was put to death by his successor. I hope you enjoyed reading this brief history of Panama as much as I enjoyed learning and writing about it! All individual coin photos credited to www.numista.com, copyrights to nalaberong, Ulmo, and Essor Prof.