Did You Know That the “Arias Issue” of Panamanian Banknotes Circulated for About One Week?

Included in Session C – World Paper Money Part I of our upcoming January 2023 NYINC Auction are rare, attractive Panamanian banknotes (and specimen notes) issued over the course of a week in early October 1941. The exceedingly short circulating life of the “Arias Issue” was a result of World War II-era geopolitical concerns, a story that, combined with the notes’ rarity, makes them very popular with world paper money collectors.

Before being deposed in a coup organized by the Allies because of his sympathy for the Axis powers, Panamanian President Arnulfo Arias authorized official and private banks to issue paper money. Only one institution, the Banco Central Emisión de la República de Panamá, got around to issuing notes before Arias was removed from office on October 9 and sent into exile. 

Over that week in early October 1941, the Banco Central Emisión de la Republica de Panama issued about three million Balboas in 1-, 5-, 10-, and 20-Balboa notes (produced by the Hamilton Bank Note Company of New York) before Arias was overthrown. The succeeding regime withdrew the “Arias Issue” notes from circulation and destroyed them, resulting in a small, sought-after population of surviving notes with a back story almost as colorful as the notes themselves.

Interestingly, Arias would return to power, and be deposed, two more times over the course of his life and some of his followers returned to power after the 1989 U.S. invasion, naming their political party after him in 1990. Arias’ widow was elected president in 1999. 

The Ellicott Collection of Panamanian Paper Money, featured in World Paper Money Part I of our January 2023 NYINC Auction, includes a number of Arias Issue notes, including a variety of Specimen notes. Also offered in the same session is the Richard Rosenman Collection of Venezuelan Paper Money. World Paper Money Part I will take place on January 14, 2023. To view lots and bid, visit

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