Leper colony coins: Colombian leprosarium coinage


50 centavo, 1921: Colombian leper colonies

50 centavo, 1921: Colombian leper colonies

The coin is intended for circulation in the territory of the Colombian leper colonies Agua de Dios, Cano de Lord, and Contratación.


RH under the denomination — coin design by Roberto Hinestrosa.

REPUBLICA DE COLOMBIA: Republic of Colombia.

LAZARETO: leper hospital.

Stylized cross.

Bogota Mint (Colombia).

Mintage: 120.000.

  • Copper-nickel: 30 mm - 9.88 g
  • Reference price: 13.5$

LEPER COLONY COINS — WHERE & WHEN (coins catalog: by names & emitents)

Coins (tokens) of this type were minted during 1901-1951 by several issuers in America and Asia — Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Philippines... Each of them had a denomination specific to the location of the corresponding leprosarium (centavo, cent, sen, peso...). All these are not standard circulation coins.

LEPER COLONY COINS as coin name.
Leper colony coins — special coins, which were used in isolated communities of people with leprosy, next to banknotes for lepers. It is known that such a practice existed between 1901 and 1955.
At the end of the 19th century, scientists seriously focused on the study of leprosy, an infectious tropical disease caused by the mycobacteria of the same name (progressing with a predominant lesion of the skin and peripheral nervous system). Along with improving the methods of combating the disease, a decision was made to place patients in special treatment and prevention facilities — leprosariums. Their complete isolation made it possible to stop the spread of a terrible infection.
As part of the total isolation of lepers, since 1901, the issue of special money for lepers — coins, tokens, banknotes — began. These money, once they got to the settlement, no longer went beyond it — they were disposed of. There were rare exceptions: coins were secretly and illegally taken out of the leprosarium. In most cases, their condition was unsatisfactory, because for prevention, they were all regularly subjected to thorough cleaning (hard washing).
It is known about the coins of the leprosariums of the following countries: Colombia (most widespread among numismatists; Leper Colonies of Agua de Dios, Cano de Lord, and Contratación), Philippines (Culion leper colony), Venezuela (Maracaibo leper Colony), Panama (Palo Seco Leper Colony)... In addition, leprosy money (including banknotes) was issued by Japan, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Korea, Nigeria, Thailand...
As it turned out later, any things, including coins, with which leprosy patients came into contact, could not be a carrier of infection and did not pose any danger to healthy people. Therefore, the practice of issuing leprosarium coins stopped in 1951.
The name "Leper colony coins" speaks for itself: coins were intended for circulation only in the territory of leprosariums — special institutions for the treatment of leprosy patients.