Cuba - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Cuba, an island nation in the Caribbean consisting of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos has a total land area of 42,427 square miles and a population of over 11.2 million. Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than some developed countries, and an average life expectancy of 77.64. In 2006, it was the only nation in the world which met the WWF's definition of sustainable development. Its terrain is mostly flat to rolling hills, with mountains to the southeast. The major industries of Cuba are tourism followed by sugar, petroleum, and tobacco.

Travel Resources:

December through April are considered tourist friendly. The major natural attractions of Cuba are the Vinales Valley, Las Terrazas, Zapata Swamp National Park, Baracoa, and Sierra Maestra. Additionally there are many museums and historical sights that are well worth a visit. Cuban cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisine. A typical meal includes rice and beans, accompanied by meat or fish, tubers, salad, and dessert.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Cuba Eyewitness Travel Guide978-0756661540$17The best travel guide on Cuba with detailed information on hotel and restaurant listings, itineraries, excellent photographs, and maps. Light on hotel and restaurant recommendations.
Frommer’s Cuba978-0470921739$152011 Edition. Detailed maps, reviews of hotels and restaurants, itineraries, walking tours, and trip planner.
Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground978-1423603672$20Presents a nostalgic look at Cuba just before Castro with excellent illustrations and reading mater.
Cuba Nelles Map978-3865742193$121:775,000 scale. Insets include Varadero, Camaguey, Santiago de Cuba, La Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. Ideal folded tourist map for driving the country.
Cuba Grounded Adapter Plug Kit – GUA and GUBB001FDC90U$15


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Cuba were issued in 1855 and show a portrait of Queen Isabella II of Spain – Cuba was a Spanish territory from 1492 when Christopher Columbus found and claimed the islands for the Kingdom of Spain to the Spanish-American War that ended in 1898. The set of four stamps (Scott #1 to #4) is rare and catalogs for around $1200 MNH and around $40 used. Surcharged varieties were released during the period from 1855 to 1856 and they are even more valuable – fetching upwards of $700 for MNH and about half that for used. Counterfeit surcharges exist. This issue was followed by a couple of sets, one showing the symbol of Spain (“Espana”) and another portraying the King of Spain at the time (King Amadeo). These sets are also fairly valuable. In 1874, Cuba released a set of five stamps in the “Espana” and “Coat of Arms” themes. The set (Scott #58 to #62) catalogs for around $240 MNH and $70 used. This was followed by a number of sets showing King Alfonso XII (1875 to 1885) and King Alfonso XIII (1886 to 1931). King Alfonso XII restored the monarchy after Queen Isabella and her husband were forced to leave Spain by the revolution of 1868. King Alfonso XIII was proclaimed King of Spain at his birth and his reign continued until 1931, when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed – he left Spain, but did not abdicate the throne. Cuba issued a set of five stamps in the “Issues of the Republic” theme in 1899. The set (Scott #227 to #231) catalogs for around $30 MNH and $2 for used. The designs include statue of Columbus, Royal Palms, symbol of Cuba, ocean liner, and cane field. Cuba was under US military rule following the Spanish-American War of 1898 until their formal independence in 1902.

Cuba issued a long set of ten stamps between 1914 and 1915 in the “Map of Cuba” theme. The set (Scott# 253 to #262)  is very expensive and catalogs for around $275 MNH and $30 for used. The 2c Red and 10c olive green varieties in the set were issued in 1915 while the rest were issued in 1914. The eight stamps in the 1914 set exist in imperforate pairs and that complete set catalogs as high as $1250.

Cuba issued a set of five stamps on April 23, 1933 to commemorate their War of Independence in which the US played a prominent part (Spanish-American war). The set (Scott #312 to #316) catalogs for around $35 MNH and $4 for used. The designs show The Mangos of Baragua, War Memorial, Battle of Mal Tiempo, Battle of Coliseo, and portraits of Maceo, Gomez, and Zayas. Although the main objective of the war was Cuban independence, the 10-week war was fought in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The result of the war was the Treaty of Paris that granted indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines along with temporary US control over Cuba.

Other issues of Cuba enjoying good philatelic interest include:
  1. A set of eight stamps released on December 15, 1948 to mark the Birth Centenary of Antonio Maceo Grajales.  The set (Scott #423 to #430) catalogs for around $25 MNH and $7 used. The designs show portrait of Maceo, Mausoleum at El Cacahual, East to West Invasion, Battle of Peralejo, Declaration of Baragua, and the Death of Maceo at Punta Brava. Maceo was the Lieutenant General (second to Maximo Gomez, the General in Chief) of the Cuban Liberator Army during the Cuban war of independence. Maceo is credited with using the tactics of guerrilla and open warfare successfully against the much stronger Spanish Army of more than a quarter of a million soldiers,
  2. A set twenty one stamps issued in 1953 to mark the centenary of birth of Jose Marti. The set (Scott #500 to #509, C79-C89) catalogs for around $50 MNH and $10 used. The designs show Court Martial, Martiano House in Havana, El Abra ranch in Isles of Pines, Symbols – “Marti the Poet”, Marti and Bolivar statue at Caracas, at desk in New York, house where the revolutionary party was formed, and the first issue of “Patria”. Jose Marti is a Cuban national hero, poet, journalist, and political theorist and is referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence”. He was a reticent participant in combat, although he died in combat on May 19, 1895.
  3. A long set of twenty six stamps released on October 15, 1964 showing various satellites and rockets to mark the 25th anniversary of the experimental Cuban postal rocket flight. The set (Scott #858 to #883) catalogs for around $50 MNH and $17 used. Interestingly, no stamps were issued depicting the serious events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.
  4. A set of six stamps released on November 7, 1967 in the Historic Architecture theme. The set (Scott #1297 to #1302) catalogs for around $10 MNH and $3 used. The designs show Castle of the Royal Forces in Havana, Iznaga Tower of Trinidad, Castle of Our Lady of the Angels at Cienfuegos, St. Francis de Paula Church in Havana, St. Francis Convent in Havana, and Castle del Morro at Santiago de Cuba.
  5. A set of ten stamps released on February 26, 1982 in the Exports theme. The set (Scott #2484 to #2493) catalogs for around $10 MNH and $4 used. The designs show sugar processing plant, fishing boat with lobster, canned fruits, agricultural machinery, nickel, rum, coffee, fresh fruit, tobacco, and cement. Cuba was historically the world’s most important sugar producer and exporter. Currently, the sugar industry is in decline and the mainstay now is nickel which accounts for 25% of total Cuban exports.
  6. A set of seven stamps released on July 15, 1991 in the Birds theme. The set (Scott #3328 to #3334) is extremely sought after and catalogs for around $100 MNH and around $35 for used. The designs show West Indian woodpecker (melanerpes superciliaris), Cuban solitaire (myadestes elisabeth), Cuban trogon (priotelus temnurus), Cuban grassquit/finch (tiaris canora), ivory-billed woodpecker (campephilus principalis), Cuban Amazon (amazona leucocephala), and bee hummingbird (mellisuga helenae). 
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Cuba were undated lattice counter marked silver coins issued in 1841 denominated in Reales. The counter-marks were Spanish Old Colonial Reals from the 1772 to 1788 period. The first issues are valued upwards of $60 for VF. Decimal coinage started in 1898 with the introduction o a silver peso with Arms in Obverse and a Bust in the reverse. The issue has low mintage (1000) and catalogs for around $3500 UNC. Republican era coinage started in 1915 with the introduction of Copper-Nickel Centavos. The design shows National Arms within Wreath in Obverse and Roman Denomination within Circle of Star and Date in Reverse. The first issues have high mintage but still catalogs upwards of $50 UNC. Gold coins were first issued in 1915 and then again starting in 1977.

Numismatic items of Cuba include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Gold Coins$200 and upGold Pesos from 1915 and 1916 starts around $200 in AU. Grades MS60 and above start at $400. Low mintage commemorative gold proofs go into the 1000s.
Other Coins$2 and upCommon UNCs from the 1980s onward start around $2.Commemorative silver proofs start around $30. Silver year sets start around $75. Rare Pattern Essais from the 1990s, Low Mintage Silver Proofs etc go into the 100s. Proofs with very low mintage (below 1000) go into the 1000s.
Paper Money$1 and upCommon UNCs from the 2000s starts around $1. Banknotes in XF from the 50s and 60s start around $10. UNCs from the period start around $20. Specimens from the 50s onwards, Recent UNC bundles, etc start around $60 and go into the $100 range. Bundles from the 50s onwards, Scarce Specimen Sets etc go well into the 100s.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Rums and cigars are the popular buys of Cuba.

ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Militaria$5 and upGuantanamo and other patches start around $5. Original revolution and other propaganda material start around $20. Military medals and WWII victory medals fetch into the 100s.
Tobacciana$3 and upCigar box labels, bands, ashtray, etc start around $3. Box labels start around $10 and go well into the 50s and 60s depending on rarity. Original boxes and tobacco tins can go into the 100s.
Art$10 and up Political, movie, and local scenes posters start around $10. Original works from well-known artists like Cundo Bermudez, Hector Cata Virgen de Regla, Anna Gladys, Roberto Estopinan, Jesse Rios, Javier Zamora, Sincecio Cuetara, Isolina Limonta, Jose Bencomo, Julio Antonio, Jose Omar Torres, Jose Eduardo Martin Yanes, Jose Mijares, Wilfredo Lam, Agustin Fernandez, Dionel Delgado, Luis Miguel Valdes, etc go well into the 100s and 1000s.
Antiques$10 and up19th century map prints start around $10. 18th century original maps go upwards of $100.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

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