San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hey Big Spender: Gov’t To Issue Larger Bills

New higher-denomination bills are on the menu for a currency overhaul scheduled to go into effect in 2010.
The printing of 20,000 and 50,000 colón bills is only part of a paper money overhaul that will also include an art redesign, a change in size and possibly change in material, from cotton paper to plastic, said Ricardo Rodríguez, treasury director for the Central Bank.
Rodríguez said the bank has decided to release the higher denomination bills to achieve a “more equal distribution” of money. Right now, 70% of cash circulating is in 10,000 colón bills.
In addition to including beefier nominations, Rodríguez said, the new series of bills will vary in length to make them recognizable to the blind.
The 1,000-colón bill will be 125-millimeters long, with the length increasing by 7mm in each denomination up to the 50,000 note, which, at 156mm, will be the longest of the current bills.
The width will not vary.
Rodríguez said the bank made the decision to issue variable-length bills after extensive studies and workshops with blind focus groups.
Mexico and Australia have similar currency systems.
Other design features have yet to be decided upon. Rodríguez said the art on the bills will incorporate the “natural riches” of Costa Rica, though details have yet to be worked out.
One adjustment under consideration would be to print the money on plastic rather than cotton fiber. Rodríguez said the plastic bills are twice as expensive, but they last four times as long.
Costa Rica would join other recent Latin America converts Mexico, Chile and Guatemala if it printed its money on plastic.
Final decisions on the design of the new bills will be made during the first half of 2008. The Central Bank will accept bids and award a contract for printing the money in the second half of the year.
Printing and shipping the money will take place in 2009, which means the Central Bank plans to start circulating the new bills in 2010.
Rodríguez said the bank will gradually remove the old money from circulation and replace it with the new bills, a process that typically takes between three and six months.

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