Since 1896 the unit of currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colon. Before the colon, the currency was the peso. Nowadays, there are six denominations and seven types of coins in circulation. 

Origins and history

The first currency used in Costa Rica was the peso, first used in 1839 under the Head of State at that time, Braulio Carrillo, who authorised the issuance of 30,000 pesos in vouchers of 5 and 10 pesos so that public employees could receive their salaries. This is how the first stage of the history of the currency in the country started, triggered off by the need of a currency that could be used as an exchange or payment, given the scarcity of coins that existed in that time.

In 1858 the Costa Rican National Bank, the first one based in Costa Rica, was founded. In that moment notes of 1, 2, 10 and 20 pesos, of series A and B, were issued. The creation of this institution starts a second stage in issuing paper money, as banks began to require the existence of coins.

As for the colon, it arrived with the currency reform of 1896, when it was set out as legal tender. In addition, the Banking Act of 1900 allowed any bank with a capital of one million colones to issue banknotes.

With the arrival of 1914 the International Bank was created as a national issuing bank and in 1921 it was assigned as the only issuer. Therefore, the other private banks were removed the authority to issue banknotes. In 1936 it was renovated and changed its name to National Bank of Costa Rica, creating the Issuing Department.

In 1950 the Central Bank of Costa Rica was founded as the only authorised entity to issue currency, and in 1951 it started to issue using as a basis the formulas of the National Bank: “Central Bank of Costa Rica” “Provisional Series”.

Current Costa Rican colon coins and banknotes 


Banknotes currently circulating in Costa Rica come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 y 50,000.

Regarding coins, the current structure is made of seven denominations: 500, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 colon. When these coins are placed one on top of each other, they make a geometrical figure looking like a cone, as the coins have proportional diameters. 

The coins that make the cone have the distinctive coat of arms of Costa Rica in the obverse. In the reverse, the face value of the coin is highlighted. 

Interesting facts of the Costa Rican colon

  • The 1,000 banknote is made of polypropylene, a thin and resistant plastic, which has the best results in the least favourable conditions: when used to pay outdoors or in dirty environments.  
  • The 2,000 colon banknote is made of cotton and it is a little longer than the 1,000 note.
  • Banknotes are made in different sizes to ease recognition to visually impaired people. 
  • One of the security measures of the banknotes is that the Costa Rica map featured on them changes from purple to green when turning it. 
  • The currency is divided into 100 parts called cents.




Date of creation:



Central Bank of Costa Rica

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