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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 49, December 6, 2009, Article 6

DENNIS TUCKER'S COSTA RICA REPORT: MUSEO NUMISMATICO IN SAN JOSE

Dennis Tucker submitted this report about a recent museum visit and numismatic literature acquisitions. Thanks! -Editor

I just got back from a (wonderful!) week-long vacation in Costa Rica. Wednesday morning and early afternoon, the day before I returned to the States, I visited the Museo Numismatico of the Banco Central de Costa Rica, in San Jose. I highly recommend the experience. I only wish I'd scheduled the visit earlier in my vacation, because by that time I was tired out from the beach, the clubs, walking around the city, etc.

Speaking for the rest of us I'm sure, as someone who fought the rat race of rush hour traffic all week (and spent this morning chopping ice off my driveway), we don't feel bad for you, but wish we could have joined you. Sounds great already, and we haven't even gotten to the numismatic part. -Editor

I spent an enjoyable two hours or so exploring the bank's numismatic exhibits, and if I'd had more energy I would have moved on to the Gold Museum (located in the same complex), to study its collections of pre-Columbian gold artifacts.

I learned a good deal about Costa Rican coins, paper money, and coffee tokens in particular, and I also picked up a few new-to-me Spanish numismatic words.

I bought seven books at the museum. The first six, in no particular order:

  • El Papel Moneda, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo
  • La Moneda en Costa Rica, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo
  • Gráfica en el Papel Moneda, 1858 - 1936, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo and Ileana Alvarado Venegas
  • La Casa de Moneda de Costa Rica, 1828 - 1949, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo
  • Resellos de Costa Rica: Costa Rican Counterstamps, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo
  • Monedas de Costa Rica: Reseña Histórica, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo

and saving the best for last, a beautiful hardcover coffee-table book: Del Real al Colón: Historia de la Moneda en Costa Rica, by Manuel Benito Chacón Hidalgo

Del-Real-al-Colon_cover Del-Real-al-Colon_slipcase

Del-Real-al-Colon_interior

If it seems like Manuel Chacón's name comes up with Bowers-esque frequency, it's with good reason: he's the museum's numismatic curator. His influence is apparent throughout the exhibits, which include a nice overview of several cases of Costa Rican coffee-plantation tokens. One book of his that I didn't buy was Boletos de Cafe de Costa Rica, coauthored with Elisa Carazo de Flores. It weighs in at a hefty 400-plus pages, and I already knew I'd have an overweight charge for my luggage going home. I'll get a copy some day, though, because somewhere in my collection I have some Castella plantation tokens that I acquired years ago.

In addition to the books, I bought a cased sterling-silver Cruz Plata (Silver Cross) commemorating the 150th anniversary of Costa Rica's Campaña Nacional (1856 - 1857) against U.S. adventurer/pirate William Walker and his private army.

An interesting sidebar at the Numismatic Museum was its "hands-on" table, with several trays of old coins, tokens, notes, etc., that visitors are welcome to pick up and examine! I wonder how many casual visitors know to pick up a silver cob or a 1700s piece of eight by its edge, rather than pinched between obverse and reverse.

I also found it fascinating to study the banknote engravings of the American Bank Note Company and other U.S. firms, incorporated into Costa Rica's paper currency. Beautiful pieces of artistry.

Again, I highly recommend a visit to the Banco Central's Museo Numismatico, for any collector who travels to San Jose. It's not a white-sand beach, a wild rainforest, or a packed nightclub, but for a numismatist with a couple hours to spare, it's a unique stop on the Costa Rican itinerary.

Many thanks for sharing your experience with us. Congrats on the new library acquisitions! -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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