closeup on chilean pesoThe Chilean peso is the official form of currency in the South American country of Chile. It is a unit-based form of currency with the peso functioning as the currency’s smallest unit. Here is a brief history of the Chilean peso, followed by a description of its coins and banknotes.

A Brief History

The history of the Chilean peso is most easily divided into three time periods: the first peso (1817–1960), the Chilean escudo (1960–1975), and the second peso (1975–present). The first Chilean peso was introduced in 1817, having a value of 8 Spanish colonial reales, and an additional escudo having a value of 2 pesos. Then in 1851 the centavo (100 centavos equaling 1 peso) and décimo (10 décimos equaling 1 peso) were introduced into circulation, ending the use of reales and escudos. And in 1925, cóndores were introduced, with 1 cóndore equaling 10 pesos.

The Chilean escudo was introduced in 1960, replacing the old peso at a rate of 1 escudo equaling 1,000 pesos. This form of currency, however, was soon replaced by decree in 1975 with a new peso, 1 new peso equaling 1,000 escudos.This peso was divided into 100 centavos until 1984. Now the peso remains the currency’s smallest unit.

Banknotes

The first of the modern Chilean peso banknotes that were introduced in 1975 came in denominations of 5, 10, 50, and 100 pesos. Due to heavy inflation over the decades following, higher denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 pesos are now in circulation, with the smaller denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 pesos now being in circulation in coin form. Each denomination has a distinct size, with the 1,000 peso note being the smallest and each denomination being 7 millimeters longer in length than the denomination below it in value. Chilean peso banknotes feature prominent historical figures in Chile’s history on the obverses and various landscapes and native animals on the reverses. As of late, these banknotes have been redesigned to include a variety of security features to give the population more confidence in the currency.

Coins

Chilean peso coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 pesos, replacing the original 1, 5, 10, and 50 centavos and 1 peso denominations first introduced in 1975. Coins are made from a variety of metals including aluminum, copper, nickel, and zinc. The obverses feature prominent Chilean historical figures such as Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez and Bernardo O'Higgins, while the reverses feature a large embossing of the coin’s value.