Just a little over three years ago, the Central Reserve Bank of Peru started minting a series of one Nuevo Sol coins known as the “Wealth and Pride of Peru.” The first coin appeared around March of 2010 and since then we numismatics (coin collectors) have eagerly awaited the release of the new coins about every four months. So far, 12 of the 26 coins in the series have been revealed and are currently in circulation.
The coins in the series of collectable legal tender display different carvings that represent cultural highlights, typical Peruvian art, or cultural sites. Some of the sites are very well know, like in the case of the Machu Picchu Nuevo Sol, the sixth coin in the series, released in July 2011.
Other cultural sites and art work, like the Raimondi Stela, are not as famous, but nonetheless represent an important aspect of Peru’s rich history. In this brief article, let’s take a look at the coins that represent some of the cultural sites around Peru with the hopes that you can visit them one day.
The Raimondi Stela coin was put into circulation in December of 2010. The front side of the coin reflects the artistic style of the Chavin culture in the form of a two-meter tall sacred granite monolith designed with the contour rivalry technique that once adorned the ceremonial center of Chavin de Huantar.
When the coin is viewed one way, it shows an important Chavin god, the Dios de los Báculos, with its enormous head and the teeth of a feline carrying snakes. When turned upside down, many smiling, fanged faces appear with a huge reptile in the middle.
Today, this important piece of Chavin culture is exhibited at the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History in Lima.
The seventh coin in the Wealth and Pride series, fittingly enough, represents a location that has often been associated with the famous legend of “El Dorado.” The coin shows the “Gran Pajaten,” an archaeological complex in the northern Amazonian region of Peru.
This historic site is located in the Andean cloud forest in a very inaccessible area. The Gran Pajaten is at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level and it is part of the Abiseo River National Park. The complex is believed to have been built around 200 B.C. by the Chachapoyas civilization.
The Abiseo River National Park, including the archeological complex Gran Pajaten, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, and Cultural Site in 1992.
Unfortunately, in order to protect the fragile ruins and endangered environment, the archaeological and the national park are currently not open to visitors without permits from Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture and National Institute of Culture.
In July of 2012 the ninth coin in the series was put into circulation. The coin features the colonial Fortress of Real Felipe in Callao. The fort was built to defend the Peruvian coast and Lima’s gateway to the world, the port of Callao. Today the fortress houses the Military History Museum.
This fort is an important part of the colonial history of the country because at the beginning of the 17th Century, Lima was the economic center of the Spanish colonies in South America. The wealth attracted pirate like Sir Francis Drake, who attacked Lima’s port Callao in 1579.
After a devastating earthquake and tsunami destroyed Lima’s city wall, work on a huge fortress began in 1747 to defend the harbor of Callao. Once it was completed in 1774, the fortress was the biggest and most impressive of all fortresses the Spanish erected overseas.
Since 1984 the fortress houses the Military History Museum. Inside its walls, hallways and towers are a piece of Peru’s history.
The most recent coin in the series was released last month and represents the Inca Temple of Huaytara. This temple can be found in the central-eastern region of Huancavelica, which is about half way between Lima and Cusco. It was built in the early 15th Century by the Inca Pachacutec and during the colonial times was converted into a Catholic church.
The temple was used as a palace for Inca royalty, religious ceremonies and the worship of Inca gods. It is most known for its baths, which are also part of the archaeological complex of Huaytara. In Incan times, stone channels transported thermal water from the mountains to the building.
Today the Church of San John of Huaytara can be found where the temple once stood. You can still see characteristics of the Inca architecture like the trapezoidal doorways.
The Wealth and Pride of Peru coin series will continue for the next three years, along the way teaching us about this country’s history. No one knows exactly which one of Peru’s many sites will appear on the coins, but what we numismatics hope is that these coins will collect value over time. Likewise, we travelers hope to visit all of the legendary sites on the famous coins.