National archives acquires a collection of historic coffee tokens

The Archivo Nacional reported Thursday that it had received a collection of  boletos de café from Jorge Rivera Murillo, who was president of the Asociación Numismática Costarricense.

The privately created coins were used as temporary payment to those picking coffee on various fincas, mostly in the 19th and last century.

Rivera assembled a loose-leaf book that contains a number of these boletos. Just like currency, various colors and shapes represented different values, ranging from one cajuala or basket upwards. Depending on the circumstances, the coffee pickers could exchange the tokens for money or just spend them at local businesses.

Manuel B. Chacón H., the curator of the money museum at the Museos de Banco Central notes on the bank’s Web site that such tokens were not unique to Costa Rica. He notes that when coffee production took off in the 1840s, the central government was unable to keep up with the demand for coins, so coffee producers created their own.

Although most of the collectibles are made of metal, coffee producers created the boletos from all sorts of material, even cardboard, he noted. They also sometimes represented the value of currency.

Some expats collect these or give them as gifts. There is a wide selection on various online shopping sites, and the value seems to be related to the owner of the finca orcafetal and the design of the boleto.  They range from $10 to $25 on some sites.

However, some can be quite rare.

The Archivo Nacional in Zapote announced the acquisition of the collection of boletos along with a series of other historical items, including a collection of buttons worn by sports teams and the papers of well-known figures.

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