Panama - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Panama, the southernmost country of Central America situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America bordered by Costa Rica, Colombia, Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean has a total land area of 29,157 square miles and a population of over 3.4 million. More than anything Panama is known for Panama Canal, the man-made wonder that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific. Panama is the second biggest economy of Latin America and third among the Central American countries. The significant contributor to the economy is the revenue from the Panama Canal tolls with commerce, tourism and banking being the other fillers. Its rainforests are home to a variety of flora and fauna, many being endemic to the area. It is considered as a good place to retire due to the economic incentives to foreign visitors and retirees.

Travel Resources: 

December through April is considered the best time to visit Panama. For those with a passion for nature, food, and fashion Panama is a perfect getaway. The major attractions are the Panama Canal, Metropolitan National Park, Chiriqui Highlands and the various national parks, beaches, and wildlife sanctuaries. Snorkeling and scuba diving are best enjoyed in Panama. Christmas is celebrated with big fanfare and the Christmas parade, as El desfile de Navidad, is a crowd puller.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Lonely Planet Panama Country Guide978-1741791549$15The best travel guide to Panama! Includes 69 maps and detailed introductory and practical travel information.
Panama Travel Map978-1553413585$131:300,000 Scale.
Panama Grounded Adapter Plug – GUAB001FD84WW$8
Other Travel NeedsNAVaries

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Panama were a set of three stamps released in 1878 in the Coat of Arms theme. The set (Scott #1 to #3) catalogs for around $120 mint and around $30 used. Panama was a department of the Republic of Colombia until 1903 when it gained Independence. This first issue with the ‘Panama’ inscribed was only valid for use domestically. A different design of the Coat of Arms theme was also issued in 1878 and that stamp (Scott #4) is very rare and catalogs for around $1500. Issues of the Republic of Colombia for use in the Department of Panama and issues with ‘Panama’ overprints/handstamps formed the stamps used in Panama during the period till 1905. Some of the sets are valuable while others can be had for a few dollars. Varieties from the period are a good collectible theme.

The first original issues of Panama were a set of nine stamps released between 1906 and 1907 showing Great Men and National Symbols. The set (Scott #185 to #193) catalogs for around $20 mint and around $8 used. The designs show National Flag, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Fernandez de Cordoba, Coat of Arms, Justo Arosemena, Manuel J. Hurtado, Jose de Obaldia, Tomas Herrera, and Jose de Fabrega.

Other issues of Panama enjoying good philatelic interest include:
  1. A set of twelve stamps released in November of 1921 showing Great Men, National Symbols, and Structures. The set (Scott #220 to #231) catalogs for around $90 mint and around $25 used. The designs show Arms of Panama City, Jose Vallarino, Land Gate, Simon Bolivar, Statue of Cervantes, Bolivar’s Tribute, Carlos de Ycaza, Municipal Building in 1821 and 1921, Statue of Balboa, Villa de Los Santos Church, Herrera, and Fabrega.
  2. A long set of seventeen stamps released on August 15, 1939 to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. The set (Scott #322 to #330 and C54 to C61) catalogs for around $35 mint and around $15 used. The designs show Gatun Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Allegory, Culebra Cut, Ferryboat, Aerial View of Canal, General William C. Gorgas, Dr. Manuel A. Guerrero, and Woodrow Wilson. The Panama Canal, one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The US controlled the Canal as well as the Canal Zone surrounding it until 1977. From 1979 to 199, it was under joint US – Panamanian administration. From 31 December 1999, Panama Canal Authority, an agency of the Panamanian Government took control of the administration. Tolls from the canal are a significant source of income and jobs.
  3. A set of six stamps and a souvenir sheet released on July 20, 1967 in the Birds theme. The set (Scott #478 to #478E and #478F) catalogs for around $30 MNH and around half that for used. The designs show New World anhinga, quetzals, turquoise-browed motmot, double-collared aracari, macaw, belted kingfisher, and hummingbird. Panama has the largest rainforest cover in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin and has an abundance of endemic species including birds.
  4. A set of seven stamps released on July 7, 1998 in the Tourism theme. The set (Scott #858 to #864) catalogs for around $8 MNH and around $5 used. The designs show Old center of town in Panama City, Soberania Park, Panama Canal, Panama Bay, Fort St. Jeronimo, Rafting on Chagres River, and Beach of Kuna Yana Region. Tourism contributes close to 10% to GDP and the country is considered a choice place to retire because of government initiatives that offer tax and price discounts to foreign guests.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coin of Panama was a Republic Decimal Coinage (100 Centesimos = 1 Balboa) two-and-half Centesimos Silver Coin released in 1904. The issue has a mintage of 400k and shows Uniformed bust in Obverse and National Arms in Reverse. The small coin is very popular among collectors and is referred to as the “Panama Pill” or the “Panama Pearl”. It catalogs for around $25 in UNC. Panama has released several gold coins over the years with very high face values starting with the 1.2067 troy ounce gold coin released in 1975 to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of Balboa. The design shows National Coat of Arms in Obverse and Kneeling armored figure in Reverse. Panama uses the US dollar as banknotes – Panamanian banknotes denominated in Balboas exist but are rare. They were issued in 1941 but were recalled 7 days later leading to the term“the seven day dollar”.

Numismatic items of Panama include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Bullion$10 and upRecent Mini Gold Coins starts around $10. Recent Commemorative Silver Bullion, Silver Proofs Sets, Recent Commemorative Gold Replicas, etc start around $35. Gold Bullion along with 50 and 100 piece bullion lots go well into the 100s.
Other Coins$1 and upCommon BU Centesimos start around $1. Early Silver Coinage from the 1900s, Large Silver Coins from the 1960s, etc start around $15. Rare Silver Proofs, Early Silver Coins in High Grades, Gold Proofs, etc go into the 100s.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Wood carvings, embroidered cloth items, masks, pottery and woven baskets are the souvenirs of the area.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Craft$10 and upSmall Tagua Carving Curios start around $10. Exotic Vintage Tagua carvings, Wounaan Indian Baskets, etc go into the 100s.
Antiques$10 and up19th century maps, silverware, etc start around $10. Kuna Indian Art Works start around $30. 18th century maps, Kuna Indian Urkuwala Figures, Kuna Mimi Nuchu Healing Figures, etc go into the 100s.
Art$10 and up19th century historical photos start around $10. Early 20th century large panoramic exposition photo prints start around $30. Signed works by Sheila Lichacz, Julio Zachrisson, Guillermo Trujillo, etc go into the 100s.
Miscellaneous Collectibles$1 and upVintage Postcards, Flags, etc start around $1. Embera Indian Basketry Art pieces start around $30.

Related Posts:
  1. Canal Zone.
Last Updated: 12/2015.

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