Balboa is one of the official currencies of Panama. It is subdivided into 100 centesimos. It is PAB under international currencies code and is known by the symbol B. The other official currency is the United States dollar.
Upon gaining independence from Columbia in 1904, the balboa replaced Columbian peso as the country’s currency. Silver coins of 2 ½, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centesimos were introduced. In 1907, a ½ cupro-nickel coin and a 2 ½-centesimo coin were introduced. In 1929, 5 centesimos coins were also made into cupro-nickel composition. In 1930, balboa coins of 1/10, ¼, as well as ½ denominations were issued, followed by the 1 balboa coin in 1931. The sizes and composition of the balboa coins were identical with the corresponding US coins. Years after, in 1935, 1 centesimo coins were minted in bronze, followed by bronze 1 ¼ centesimos in 1940.
In the year 1966, Panama altered the constitution of the currency’s silver coins. The 1/10 and the ¼ balboa were reintroduced as copper coins plated with cupro-nickel. In 1947, 1 balboa cupro-nickel-clad-copper coins were minted. In 1973, ½ balboa coins of the same composition were introduced. Since 1982, editions of the 1 balboa coins were made without reducing size.
Currently, 1 and 5 centesimos, as well as the 1/10, ½, and 1/4 coins all have the dimensions, weight, and compositions of the following US coins: half-dollar, quarter, dime, nickel, and cent. Panama commemorative coins of the following denominations – 5, 10, 20, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200 and 500 balboas – were minted from time to time to celebrate important milestones in Panama’s history.
The relatively small size of the early mints of centesimos and balboas made it a very essential part of the collection of numismatists. They are referred to as Panama Pills, while others call them Panama Pearls.
Banknotes of the Panamanian balboas were printed under the rule of the then President Arnulfo Arias. However, the banknotes were recalled several days later, seven days to be exact, giving rise to a pun of The Seven Day Dollar, when referring to the banknotes. The recalled banknotes were burned seven days after. This incident made the Panamanian balboa banknotes to be of very high value to collectors. The few surviving copies of it were the only banknotes of the balboa which were left. Balboas are not released again as banknotes because US dollar banknotes have circulated since then.
The Panamanian balboa enjoys a strong exchange rate of 1 balboa to 1 US dollar. The balboa, ever since it was first legally used, has always been circulated along with the US dollar.