Coins that are about the same size as the United States half dollar can sometimes be found in the rolls of coins that we obtain from our local banks and credit unions.
When I first saw the edge of this coin as it fell out of a roll, I suspected that it might be a Kennedy half that was composed of silver. The edge of the coin had that silvery whiteness to it that still causes the heart of this seasoned roll searcher to skip a beat! I was pleasantly surprised as I realized that the coin was a 1/2 Balboa in Mint State condition from the Republic of Panama!
Dated 1962, these coins are made of silver and they are of the same fineness and weight as United States half dollars minted during the same period. A close look at the coin indicates the fineness on the left, LEY 0.900 and the weight on the right, 12.50 GR. The connotation of the word “LEY” is “LAW” and the legend means that the coin is .900 pure silver by law. “GR.” is an abbreviation for grams, and the legend means that the coin weighs 12.50 grams.
The legend along the top says “MEDIO BALBOA” with a diamond-shaped divider on either side of the legend and between the two words “MEDIO<>BALBOA” which means “ONE-HALF BALBOA”. Seen on the obverse is the bust of Vasco Nunez de Balboa. Balboa is the Spanish explorer who settled in Panama and is credited with having discovered the Pacific Ocean. Named for him, the “BALBOA” has become Panama’s unit of currency. One can see that Balboa is wearing what is known as a marion helmet as well as corselet breast armour. Partial wreaths of oak leaves and laurel leaves can be seen to ther right and left of the bust, respectively. The obverse design was originally created by William Clark Noble of Newport, Rhode Island.
The reverse of the coin depicts the Coat of Arms of Panama.
Please keep in mind that the description of the Coat Of Arms is from the perspective of the Coat of Arms itself as if it were looking out at you. That means when the description says, about the eagle, “the head turned towards the left”, the eagle from our perspective looking down at the coin looks as though it is looking towards the right. Of course the official description also includes colors that are not visible on the coin.
The official description of the heraldic design is as follows:
“It rests on a green field, symbol of the vegetation; it is of pointed form and it is intervened as far as the division. The center shows the Isthmus of Panama with its seas and sky, in which the moon begins to rise above the waves and the sun begins to hide behind the mountain, marking thereby the solemn hour of the declaration of the independence of Panama. The head is divided in two quarters: in the one of the right hand, in the silver field, a sword and a gun are hung meant as abandonment for always to the civil wars, causes of our ruin; in the one of the left-hand side, and on field of gules, a crossed shovel and a grub hoe are shown shining, to symbolize the work ”
“The end of the coat of arms also is divided in two quarters: the one of the right-hand side, in blue field, shows a cornucopia, emblem of the wealth; and the one of the left-hand side, in field of silver, the winged wheel, symbol of the progress. Behind the shield and covering it with his opened wings, is the eagle, emblem of the sovereignty, the head turned towards the left, and takes in the tip a silver tape, which hangs from right to left. On the tape the following motto is printed “Pro Mundi Beneficio ”
“On the eagle, in arc form, nine gold stars go in representation of the provinces in which the Republic is divided. Like decorative accessories, to each side of the coat of arms two gathered national flags go on the other hand below”
It is interesting to note that these coins were minted at the Philadelphia Mint, in The United States.