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Name Origin Of Abc Peso Of Cuba

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Pillar of the Community
Hong Kong
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 Posted 10/18/2012  09:23 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add wonghinghi to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I got some information about the origin of the name of this peso but I don't know it is correct or not. Those who knows more than I, please correct me.

The design of the coin was created by Joaquin Martinez Saenz, who was the president of the ABC, a cuban political party that was responsible for the fall of cuban dictator Machado.

The Cuban liberty lady on the coin was used as an ABC symbol, also is called the ABC peso because it started in 1934, just months after Machado was forced out of power by the decisive forces of the ABC revolutionary movement.

(The above information was sent from a seller of eBay that I bought the same ABC peso years ago.)

I am pondering that this ABC party might not be a popular group because they acted no role in the Constitution of 1940 of Cuba.

Q. Can anyone know the full name of this political party or ABC? I can't find more about this ABC peso from Wikipadia. Please help if possible, thanks.

Last question, who knows the mint place of this coin, thanks?

Edited by wonghinghi
10/18/2012 09:31 am
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 Posted 10/18/2012  10:33 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A few notes about the Cuba ABC Peso:
  • They were struck by the US Mint in Philadelphia between 1934 and 1939 inclusive

  • They were initially meant to serve as backing for the paper money silver certificates issued by the Cuban Government in 1934; most were initially deposited in the National Treasury, but some coins also circulated

  • My references list Jaime Valls as the artist responsible for the coin's design

  • "ABC" is not an acronym for a longer name; the ABC Society derived its name from the three cells that its members were organized into: cells A, B and C

  • Dr. J. Martinez Saenz was the Cuban Secretary of the Treasury at the time of the coin's release and was responsible for the new coin, he suggested the coins be called "ABC Pesos" - a nod to the "secret" organization in which he was a leader

  • "Lady Liberty" is not an accurate description of the obverse design, the allegorical female figure is meant to symbolize the Cuban Republic, the Star is symbolic of a guiding light to lead the Republic " the great political and social renovation hoped for after the revolution..." (as described by Dr. Saenz)

  • The ABC organization was not a group looking to form a national government or be a formal political party, it came together to oppose Machado and gradually dissolved after he was removed from office

Hope that helps!

Edited by commems
10/18/2012 10:37 am
Pillar of the Community
Hong Kong
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 Posted 10/19/2012  09:11 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add wonghinghi to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you commems, your information is very detailed and I have a better understanding to the ABC Peso. It seemed ABC party acted a crucial role in overthrowing Machado so had her name given to the new peso. From your words, I can guess there would not be a good ending for Dr. Saenz (as he was removed from the office). Anyway, your kind heart is appreciated.
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 Posted 05/01/2013  12:45 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add yoandys2000 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The story behind the 1934-1939 Cuban One Peso Issue.

By Michael S. Turrini.

Dedication To

Michael Milan Stanley, Numismatist and Friend.

Pacific Coast Numismatic Society.

1986 Papers Contest April, 1986.


The provocative title is to entice the reader's numismatic horizons and to introduce a relatively unstudied area of world numismatics, which is geographically in close proximity to the United States.

The ABC Peso, the Cuban One Peso issue of 1934-1939, is a bonafide example of the old numismatic adage of the "story behind the coin". This coin has a story, much broader than could be written for this short numismatic paper, involving two Cuban dictators, two United States presidents, an American ambassador, the University of Havana, student unrest, revolution, nationalism, terrorism, and more.

The scope of this paper is limited to two objectives: to explain why this particular coin came to be called the ABC peso, and to summarize the numismatic knowledge known about the relatively unknown ABC peso.

ABC - The Name

It would be helpful to begin with a review if Cuban history. Cuba's turbulent history can be classed into four periods:

1. Spanish rule commencing with Columbus's discovery of the island in 1493, and

ending with the Spanish-American War of 1898, and a short occupation of the

United States.

2. The Platt Amendment Republic of 1902-1934, when Cuba was a virtual United States protectorate.

3. The Batista era of 1934-1959, a period of economic growth coupled with the dictatorial rule of Fulgenico Batista.

4. The Castro era since 1959.

As can be read from the above, much of Cuba's history has been under some form of domination. Until Castro, the United States; economically, politically, diplomatically, and culturally, had an extensive interest in Cuba, to the point of virtual domination.

This is important, for behind the ABC pesos, was a nationalistic movement for a free and fully independent Cuba.

The ABC peso achieved its odd name from a group titled the "ABC". This group was a clandestine, revolutionary protest group. Members were primarily from the University of Havana, and young professionals who used terror to combat the corrupt and dictatorial rule of Gerardo Machado, President of Cuba from 1925-1933.

ABC got its simple name from the three alphabetical cells its members belonged to; A, B, and C. The ABC was organized in December, 1931, and it soon won national acclaim for its ability to intimidate Machado and his gang of hired thugs. Some of the ABC leaders were Harvard graduates who undermined Machado's position through sabotage and terrorist actions. There are conflicting figures as to membership figures; one reference claims 30,000 to 40,000 members, and another reference states only 2,000 members belonged to the ABC.

ABC was composed of, what are referred to in Cuban history as, the "generation of 1930" young men, both students and professionals, who had the broad objective to reform Cuba, and to make "a just society in a politically and economically independent nation". Thus, they opposed American supervision of Cuban affairs.

To achieve these objectives and the overthrow of Machado, the ABC operated using underground secret tactics and collected machine guns, operated a secret radio for the taunting of the dictator, and even dropped a bomb on the National Palace. The ABC used violence, including political assassination. The ABC was one of the chaotic factors in the turmoil of the early 1930's revolt against Machado. As the revolt increased, and anarchy ravaged Cuba, both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt were pressured to intervene directly with force, which under the Platt Amendment, the United States could do. Neither chose that option; however, through the discreet pressure by the United States Ambassador, and the deteriorating conditions in Cuba, Machado was overthrown in August, 1933. Very shortly thereafter, Batista began his reign as dictator, and would rule with an iron hand until Castro overthrew him in 1959.

The fall of Machado involved much more than can be written here. But, with Machado's departure, the ABC basically ceased operation, having achieved its primary objective. The ABC, however, continued some political functionality well into the 1940's.

Many of the ABC members went on to prominent positions in succeeding governments.

Dr. J. Martinez Saenz, later President of the National Bank of Cuba, was one of these men. As Secretary of Treasury at the time, he was responsible for the introduction of a new peso. Aptly, he recommended that the new peso be called the ABC, and it was applied to it by popular consensus. The first ABC peso was issued in 1934.

Thus, from a secret revolutionary terrorist group, the name became identified with the Cuban peso of 1934-1939.

ABC PESO " The Coin

The ABC pesos, also called ABC dollars, or Liberty Type pesos, were minted in the years 1934-1939.This issue was the third Cuban peso type; first being the Souvenir peso of 1897, and the second being the Star peso type of 1915, 1916, 1932, 1933, and 1934. The basic specifications of the ABC peso were: .900 fine silver and .100 copper, weight 16.7295 grams, and 38.1mm in diameter. All were minted at the United States Philadelphia Mint. Refer to Appendix A for conflicting mintage quantities. There were no documented Proof coins minted. The reverse has the coat of arms of Cuba at the right side, the wording ".900M 26.7295G in small letters at the top, and "REPUBLICA DE CUBA" at the bottom. The obverse had "a definite symbolic value. The head on the obverse typified the Republic and the star of a reduced size illuminated the route to be taken by the nation in the great political and social revolution hoped for after the revolution, in the same way that a star guided the Three Wise men to Bethlehem."

Thomas Lismore (see note #1), who seems to have written the only articles and books on Cuban coinage, and who lived in Havana for many years, reported the above story as told to him by Dr. Saenz. Lismore argues to call the coin Liberty type peso, would be a misnomer. However, a 1970 listing from the Banco National de Cuba refers to Liberty, and classes

the ABC pesos "Tipo Especial", or "Special Type".

The legal basis for the ABC peso was to guarantee a reserve for the first issue of Cuban paper money in 1934, which were silver certificates, payable in silver pesos. Thus, the mintage quantity was set, to deposit in the National Treasury, silver dollars equal to that that of silver certificates to be placed in circulation. With millions of the earlier Star type pesos already in reserve, additional ABC pesos were minted in the millions to achieve parity with circulating paper money.

The consensus among references is that, as reserves, these pesos did not circulate. However, it has been reported that Cuban citizens saw the ABC pesos during daily transactions. References record that these pesos were stored until 1951. The Banco National de Cuba, founded in 1948, managed the reserve requirements to gold and foreign exchange. The Banco National de Cuba rendered the huge reserves of silver pesos unnecessary, and when the market price of silver rose in 1951, it seemed advantageous to sell the silver as bullion. At the request of Cuban numismatists, the bank officials put aside a bag of the pesos for each year. These coins, it would seem, would be the sole numismatic legacy. The rest of the coins were transferred to the docks to be shipped to the United States for melting, aboard the Cuban cruiser Patria. Yet, even though the Banco National de Cuba ordained strict instructions to retain a single bag for each date, all of the bags containing the 1937 peso were inadvertently loaded on the Patria. Thus, the 1937 issue became extremely rare. The story is told at dock-side that one bag of the 1937 coins broke while being loaded. Regardless of the efforts to save the scattered coins, some 1937 pesos escaped. It is believed that only 2 dozen pieces of the 1937 issue were saved. It is not clear how many pesos each bag contained, nor exactly how many bags of each date were actually saved. One reference as to bags saved uses the word "equal" and another states "one each". Lismore uses the adjective in one article on coins saved as "sizable number", but in another, he writes "about a thousand of each" year.

Since the ABC pesos were rarely circulated, and were eventually melted, one can conclude that the entire series is scarce.

Another interesting story is told that the interlacing numerals 3 and 4 in the date 1934 issue meant that "the Communists had influenced the design in their favor since figures 34 bore a fancied resemblance to the hammer and sickle. Needless to say, the design was the choice of Cuban artist Jaime Valis, who was not a Communist. The numerical style was changed, although in succeeding years.


Being a rare and foreign coin, this topic, coupled with Cuba's current relations with the United States, would not seem popular or interesting. But, the ABC pesos were found in the author's research to be more than a monetary reserve. With the coin's simple and symbolic design, the ABC peso reflected the dreams and hopes of the "generation of 1930, that after decades of doubt, domination, and dictators, Cuba would now become a free open society and full independent nation.

The ABC peso is more than an unknown rare coin, with a provocative story. In a much more important way, the ABC peso remains the only memorial to the foiled dreams and unfulfilled hopes of the "Cuban generation of 1930".

Note #1. While Mr. Lismore was very important in disseminating the information of the Cuban Numismatics, it should be noted that Mr. Roberto Pesant was also responsible for much of the in-depth research of the Cuban historical facts. Comment by member Rudy Valentin.




A - Lismore's The Coinage of Cuba: 1870 to Date.

B - Lismore's The Coinage of Cuba.

C - Harris's A Guide Book of Modern Latin American Coins.

D - Altz and Barton's Foreign Coins Struck at United States Mints and the Krause

World Coin Catalog.

E " Lismore's The ABC Dollars of Cuba.


Quantities minted in millions

1934 7 10 7 7 10

1935 12.5 12 12.5 12.5 12

1936 16 15 16 16 15

1937 11.5 13 11.5 11.5 13

1938 10.8 10.3 10.8 10.8 10

1939 7.2 9.7 9.2 9.2 9.7

NOTE: The author cannot offer an explanation for the substantial differences in mintages, as recorded in various references. The 1934 differing figures may be explained since two different types of pesos, Star and ABC, were minted in the same year, with 7,000,000 most likely being the ABC and 3,000,000 the Star type. For years 1935-1939, the only plausible reason might be differences in records between the Philadelphia Mint versus the Cuban Treasury. Thomas Lismore hints his figures, which do not agree, may refer to ABC pesos actually paid and received by the Banco National de Cuba. However, the Banc did not open until 1948, nine years after the last minting of the ABC pesos. Regardless of differing mintage figures, explanations as to the differences are mute since virtually all ABC pesos were melted in 1951
Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 05/01/2013  08:24 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add wonghinghi to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

It seems a very detailed explanation to this ABC peso. I will read it carefully. Thank you for sharing. Henry
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United States
178 Posts
 Posted 05/02/2013  02:13 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Airw0lf to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
ABC, which had been founded in Cuba
in 1931 to fight against the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, they were called the "ABCdarios" (Spellers),(no make too much sense in English) and the enemies of the party insisted that ABC stands referred to "Asociacion Blanca de Cuba" (White Association of Cuba)
Edited by Airw0lf
05/02/2013 02:16 am
Pillar of the Community
United Kingdom
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 Posted 03/02/2014  05:53 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Tom Goodheart to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry to reactivate an old thread, but I wondered what would be a reasonable price for an example like this?

Bit scratched, but details such as the star on the Phrygian cap seem clear ..

Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 03/02/2014  05:56 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Tom Goodheart to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
And the other side ...

And, just out of interest .. are there copies of these things around? I did wonder about 1937s as they are supposed to be scarce, but presumably an example like this is going to be the real thing?

Thanks! Tom.
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 Posted 02/17/2020  7:30 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add MK Ultra to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the informative article. However, Batista was in power from 1933 until 1941 when he lost the presidential election. There were two democratically elected presidents (Ramon Grau and Carlos Prio) Batista staged a coup d'etat on March 10, 1952 and he remained in power until 12/31/58.
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 Posted 02/24/2020  11:53 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Dorado to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@ MK Ultra

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