Ryan G. writes: I have a 1985 “medio balboa” from Panama in proof condition. It is listed in the World Coins book as KM 89. The mintage is listed as “UNAUTHORIZED”. Do you know if this coin is rare because of that label?
All modern Panama proofs, up to 1984, were struck by the Franklin Mint, a private minting company. They had a lucrative business where the FM paid Panama a substantial fee, in the million dollar range, for the privilege of creating “collector” coins and marketing them to collectors. Those impressive, giant 20 Balboas are an FM product. Few of these contrived issues ever saw the country of Panama.
When President Noreiga was kicked out of Panama, arrested, and brought to the U.S. the private deals collapsed or were rescinded by Panama. The 1985 proofs made by FM, with FM’s dies, were no longer sanctioned by the government of Panama so they are technically an “unauthorized” striking. I’m not sure too many people care. Contrived, unofficial issues, don’t often become valuable and tend to trade somewhere around their bullion value.
Historically, the United States Mint struck all regular issue coins for Panama. Noreiga, furious at the U.S., demanded the Panama dies from the Philadelphia Mint. They were handed over to his representative but somehow never made it back to Panama. (That is a very long and sordid story…). Not too long after the disappearance of the dies, coins such as the one, 5 and 10 centavos were suddenly being offered as “patterns”, struck in low content gold (about 10 carats fine). The soap opera continues…..