Costa Rica - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Costa Rica, a country in Central America bordered by Nicaragua, Panama, Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea has a total land area of 19,653 square miles and a population of around 4.3 million. Costa Rica is the crown jewel amongst the travelers for a tropical getaway. With its impressive extremes in relief, various climate zones and scintillating culture Costa Rica pleases all. Costa Rica used to be known principally as a producer of bananas, coffee, and beef but recently electronics, pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism are the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy. High levels of education among its residents is an added bonus.

Travel Resources:

The best time to visit weather-wise is in December and January, when everything is still verdant from the rains, but the rain itself is absent. Ecotourism is the biggest draw – Monteverde Biological Reserve, Arenal Volcano, Tortuguero National Park and Manuel Antonia National Park are the important parks tourists descend upon to observe wildlife. Beaches and water sports are another aspect of Costa Rica.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription

Frommer’s Costa Rica
978-0470626207$152011 Edition. Great illustrations and free pocket map. Best guide for first-timers to the country.
National Geographic Traveler: Costa Rica978-1426203879$16Great reference to what is there in terms of flora, fauna, and adventure – ideal when you are in a tour group or just want to read about the country. Frommer’s is a better book to plan your own trip.
Costa Rica Waterproof Travel Map978-0976373339$12Two-sided. Only street level map for the Central Valley. Maps of Arenal Volcano, Alajuela, Escazu, Heredia, Manual Antonio, Monteverde, Playa Jaco, Playa Tamarindo, Puerto Jimenez and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide978-0801473739$20Cornell University Press. 166 original color plates showing more than 820 species. Concise text for positive identification, range maps, and a visual guide to anatomical features.
AccommodationNAVaries
Real EstateNAVaries


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Costa Rica were a set of four stamps released in 1863 in the Coat of Arms theme. The set (Scott #1 to #4) catalogs for around $60 MNH or used. The stamps were reissued in 1881 with black or red surcharge overprints. That set is more expensive cataloging for around $300 MNH. Used copies are very rare but fake cancellations and counterfeits are known to exist in philatelic circles. Issues showing the two of the Presidents of Costa Rica during the period (General Prospero Fernandez and President Bernardo Soto Alfaro) along with a few different variations of the Coat of Arms design covered the stamp issues of Costa Rica till the turn of the century. Many of those stamps, especially the high values are valued in the tens of dollars.

Costa Rica released a set of ten stamps in January of 1901 in a variety of designs. The set (Scott #45 to #54) is very valuable at around $270 MNH and $15 used. The designs show Statue of Juan Santamaria, Juan Mora Fernandez, View of Port Limon, Braulio Carillo, National Theater, Jose M. Castro, Birris Bridge, Juan Rafael Mora, Jesus Jimenez, and Coat of Arms. Juan Santamaria is the Costan Rican national hero who is considered to have contributed decisively to their victory in the Second Battle of Rivas, Nicaragua against William Walker, the US filibuster in April, 1856. The statue pictured is of the one located in Alajuela, Costa Rica at the park bearing his name. Juan Mora Fernandez was Costa Rica’s first elected head of state in 1825. Port Limon is a major port in the Caribbean established in 1852 – coffee export to Europe from this port had to wait till the 1890s after US businessman Minor C. Keith built the railroad to the port.

Other issues of Costa Rica enjoying good philatelic interest include:
  1. A set of stamps released between 1923 and 1926 in the national history theme. The set (Scott #117 to #127) catalogs for around $40 MNH and $10 used. The designs show National Monument, harvesting coffee, banana growing, General Post Office, Columbus soliciting aid of Isabella, portrait of Christopher Columbus, Columbus at Cariari, Map of Costa Rica, and Manuel M. Gutierrez.
  2. A set of eight stamps released on May 8, 1941 in the National Stadium theme. The inaugural CCCF (Football confederation of Central America and the Caribbean) soccer championship was held here that year. The set (Scott #201 to #208) catalogs for around $30 MNH and $20 used. There is an error variety of the 5c green (201a) with flags omitted and that catalogs for around $150. This set was followed by another set on August 26, 1940 in the National University theme. That set (Scott #212 to #216) catalogs for around $10 MNH and $3 used.
  3. A set of six stamps released on January 9, 1984 in the Local Birds theme. The set (Scott #288 to #291) catalogs for around $8 MNH and $2 used. The birds featured are quetzal, red-legged honeycreeper (cyanerpes cyaneus), clay-colored thrush (turdus grayi), blue-crowned motmot (momotus momota), green violetear (colibri thalassinus), and the blue and white Swallow (notiochelidon cyanoleuca).
  4. A set of three stamps released on October 31, 1990 in the ‘Education, Democracy, and Peace’ theme. The set (Scott #427 to #429) catalogs for around $20 MNH and $10 used. The country is in the forefront in all three characteristics featured in this set. Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 95%, thanks to guaranteed public education per the constitution. Democracy and Peace were both achieved earlier compared to other Latin American nations mainly thanks to three-time President elect and revolution leader Jose Maria Hipolito Figueres Ferrer.  
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Costa Rica were Radiant 6-pointed star in 7mm circle counter-marked silver coins released in 1841. The counter-marks were on Mexican half Reals from the 1792 to 1808 time period. The coins are valuable and catalog in the $350 range for F. The first Republic era coins were silver coins denominated in Reals released in 1842. The design showed Radiant 6-pointed star in circle above branches in Obverse and Tobacco Plant and Value in Circle and Date in Reverse. Decimal coinage was introduced in 1864 in Centavos (100 centavos = 1 peso). Coinage reform in 1897 introduced Centimos (100 Centimos = 1 Colon). Gold coins are issued with low mintage and hence trade at a good premium over bullion value.

Numismatic items of Costa Rica include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upRecent Centimos in UNC start around $2. Silver UNCs from the 70s start around $20. Silver proofs from the 70s onward start around $50. Gold coins go well into the 100s and 1000s.
Paper Money$5 and upRecent UNCs starts around $5. Rare dates and commemorative UNCs from the 70s onward start around $30. High values and bundles start around $50. UNCs specimens, Rare Polymers, and High Value Bundles go well into the 100s.


Collectible Memorabilia:


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Art$10 and up19th century maps and photo prints start around $10. Authentic masks and signed prints go into the 100s.
Antiques$10 and upRecent wood carvings and curios start around $10. Pre-Columbian art pieces can go well into the 100s and 1000s.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

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