“Alegoria”, The Beautiful Work Of Aleardo Villa: 5 Colones (Costa Rica, 1986)-Article

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

This colorful Costa Rican banknote represents the 1st denomination of the Colón (Series 1968, Issue 1986). The Colón is Costa Rica's long serving currency, which replaced the Peso in 1896. It derives it's name from Cristóbal Colón, the Spanish version of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). Variants of this 5 Colones banknote were issued between 1968-1992.

Notably Costa Rican banknotes of this era were produced by world renown printer De La Rue, London. This note along with other older Colón banknotes, were officially retired on 1 September 2011. Making way for 2012 currency reform, with it's newer banknotes. Although it should be noted by then, this denomination held little value, due to inflation.

Current issue Colón banknotes are made of polymer and feature bright colors. These brightly color polymer notes feature national heroes and native wildlife. To pay homage this note will be reviewed reverse first.


The reverse features Aleardo Villa's (1865-1906) famous 1897 mural “Alegoria”. This full color painting covers the near entirety of the reverse. This reproduction is considered to be amongst the most beautiful in the world. The original mural is located at the ceiling of the National Théâtre of Costa Rica.

There is a title on the reproduction's lower left, it reads "Alegoria Teatro Nacional. J . Villa 1897". Confirming the beforementioned, with the exception of "J.Villa". Which should be "A. Villa", for Aleardo Villa instead. We're uncertain of why Aleardo Villa, is referred to as "J.Villa".

The remainder of the reverse is taken up by a decorative frame. The header's Spanish text translates to "Central Bank of Costa Rica", the note's issuing body. The footer below, translates to "Five Colones", "Colones" being the Spanish plural of Colón. As supported by the number "5"s, on the upper left and right corners.

Each number "5" rests on a decorative "sinking" pattern. Made of shrinking rows of circular chains. Above and behind each pattern is an illustration of a coffee plant branch. While below hangs a "ribbon" bearing coffee plant flowers and fruits. The footer art uses a spiral version of the pattern, bearing only coffee fruits. Further below is the note's printer, "Thomas De La Rue & Company, Limited".


To the right of President Castro is the Costa Rican national flower, Guaria Morada. An interesting species of pink orchid, that often grows flowers in clusters of 4s and 5s.

Just as the reverse, the observe's header translates to "Central Bank of Costa Rica". Below the header is some additional text. The first referring to Costa Rica's national capital, San Juan. Followed by the note's issue date, "2 de abril de 1986", translated as 2 April 1986. The last is a refence to the note being issued the authority of directive number 3.

The footer states the note value "Five Colones", repeated on the upper left and lower right corners. Above the footer are the signatures of the central bank's "Executive President" and Governor. In true De La Rue fashion the remainder of the note features numerous guilloché patterns and duel serial numbers. The serial number is printed in easily recognizable red ink. It reads "D54666856", located on the lower left and near the upper right corner.

Unlike most De La Rue printed notes of the period. The notes underprint is relatively sparse and only featured on the observe. Rather than other De La Rue designs such as the Peruvian Inti and South Vietnamese Dong. Which feature outlines of wildlife and cultural, within their underprint.

An Allegory Of Coffee And Bananas

Cheerful Costa Rican farmers preparing their goods for export.
Cheerful Costa Rican farmers preparing their goods for export.

While commonly known as the "Allegory of Coffee and Bananas". This famous mural's official name is the "Allegory of Commerce and Agriculture of Costa Rica". Representing the social propensity of the Liberal State-era (1870-1940), in the form of art. In which, Costa Rica began to rapidly gain international recognition for it's quality agricultural exports.

This mural is not only considered Italian painter Aleardo Villa's first great work, but arguably his greatest. Commissioned by the government of President Rafael Yglesias Castro, as part of the National Théâtre of Costa Rica. The painting was meant to inspire the Costa Rican people toward a brighter future.

At the time of the mural painting, Costa Rica was the first nation to export bananas. In addition, to being the first Latin American nation to built a railroad to the Atlantic Ocean. Allowing Costa Rican a considerable advantage, when competing against it's coffee producing neighbors.

The right side of the mural features a group of cheerful woman, harvesting coffee beans. A man (pink shirt) can be seen posing with a large bundle bananas. While in the background a pair of bulls are readied to carry the goods to the port. To be sent off to distant nations, bring wealth to the nation.

The left side depicts the porters preparing to load the goods. Seen as large marked as "Cafe De C. Rica", representing a large order of coffee. The groups of men overseeing the workers, near the (then modern) light post are presumed to be the merchants. Who purchased the coffee, most likely to be sold in Europe.

The ships in the background are of particular interest, being a mix of old and new. The masts of sail boats can be seen along the stacks of newer steam-powered ships. The colorful flags of France and the Netherlands, can be seen standing out amongst the blue sky.

Costa Rican porters hard at work, loading coffee for export.
Costa Rican porters hard at work, loading coffee for export.

Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 155 x 67 mm or 6.10 x 2.64 in, similar to a US Dollar.

  • Standard size protective sleeves can be used to preserve this note.

  • This note was released intermittently during it's 24 year long circulation.

  • Some particular years saw multiple issue dates, such as 1978 and 1979.

  • Variants of this note post-1976 lack a watermark and security strip.

  • Pre-1973 notes reference Aleardo Villa as "T. Villa, rather than "J. Villa".

  • San Juan was the first Latin American city to have electricity.

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