Obverse Design A ribbon with folds is shown. Three flat folds one above the other form rectangles for the legends. The other parts of the ribbon in between these rectangles have vertical lines close together. The top rectangle says "JUAN". The middle rectangle says "ARIAS". The bottom rectangle says "DAVID". The token has a dentured edge with an inside rim and a slightly raised outside rim.
Reverse Design The reverse has a large number "5" circled by 37 small dots. Legend curving along the top above the "5" says "VALE" which means "VALUE". Legend curving along the bottom below the "5" says "CENTAVOS" which means "CENTS". There is a small six-point star on the right and left sides of the circle, separating the upper and lower legends. There is a small dot, perhaps a die flaw, which is in the exact center of the token. The examples I have examined all have this little dot. The token has a dentured edge with an inside rim and a slightly raised outside rim.
Metal White metal; Rulau says copper-nickel; from examination I think it may be a silver alloy. Size and Shape Round, 24.5 mm in diameter; thin flan.
Dates Issued Around 1890; store where they were used was founded in 1886.
Issurer Juan Arias, who owned a general store named Bazar Chiricano in David and a plantation named "La Indiada" nearby. He was listed as a "General Merchant" in the city of David in the Commercial Directory of the American Republics (1897-1898).
Mintage Unknown.
Rarity Scarce. Manufacturer Unknown. Apparently the same manufacturer also made the Carlos Milligen tokens. Other Catalog Numbers Asociación Numismático's F-197 (photo of obverse only), Henkle's Chiriqui 41 (photo of stars reverse with 37 dots), Plumer page #6 and Rulau's Chq 21 (photo of stars reverse with 51 dots) (None of these catalogs distinguish between the two star varieties and the crosses varieties). Henao's HDA 188-2a (this variety).
Varieties Varieties of this token are many. I have found there to be three different reverse dies used. One variety (perhaps the first chronologically) has small Maltese crosses as the two dividers on the reverse. It has 48 small dots surrounding the "5". The other two die varieties have six-point stars as the dividers. One of the stars varieties has extra long denticles on the reverse, and 51 small dots surrounding the "5". The other has about equal denticles on the obverse and reverse, and 37 small dots surrounding the "5". All three die varieties are known with an "FT" counterstamp, and the star 51 dots variety is also known with a large center hole.
Variantes Existen dos variantes muy notorias del reverso de esta ficha. En una de ellas la leyenda está separada por cruces de Malta y en la otras se utilizan estrellas con este fin. La de las estrellas puede tener además 37 ó 51 puntos en el circulo que rodea el 5 central. Las gráfilas denteladas también varían en tamaño. Algunas de las fichas fueron reselladas hacia 1930 por Frank Tedman con FT en monograma.
Function Merchant token and/or plantation token.
Population Count Eight specimens in collector hands (of this exact variety) are known to me. Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on March 3, 2006 for $40.00 plus $2.50 shipping in condition AU/UNC.
  2. Auction sale on ebay on February 15, 2006 for $24.99 in condition F.
  3. Auction sale on ebay on January 27, 2005 for $150.00 plus $2.50 shipping in condition Proof-like UNC.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on November 2, 2003 for $24.37 plus $4.00 shipping in condition AU/UNC.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on May 25, 2003 for $13.00 plus $4.00 shipping in condition AU/UNC.
  6. Auction sale on ebay on March 24, 2002 for $31.55 plus $3.75 shipping.
  7. Auction sale on ebay on August 30, 2001 for $22.50 in condition AU/UNC.
Note: Some of the listings above could be resells of the same specimen.
Notes

Juan Arias (whose full name was Juan de Dios Arias Avila) was born March 8, 1856 in Panama City, Panama. His parents were Juan Fco Arias Perez (May 24, 1823 to about 1900) and Manuela Maria Avila. His brother was Tomas Arias, one of the founding fathers of Panama.

In 1885, at around the age of 28, Juan Arias left Panama City and moved to the city of David in the province of Chiriqui. In 1886 he founded a general store named Bazar Chiricano. He also became the owner of a very large property. This finca (plantation) was named "La Indiada". Juan Arias married Domitila Quintero Villareal (sister of General Manuel Quintero Villareal). She was born in Pese, province of Herrera on May 12, 1865 and died February 2, 1927 in David, Chiriqui. They had ten children.

According to family legends, a ship carrying a large cargo for Juan Arias from Europe was sunk in World War I. With this loss, Juan Arias was forced to sell most of his assets to pay off his creditors. It may be at this time he sold the finca or portions of it to Frank Tedman. One of my informants, Jose Domingo Arias (a descendent of Juan Arias), speculated that the finca was probably broken up since it was so large. Another report placed the sale to Frank Tedman in the 1930's (which would involve the finca passing through other hands first). It is known that Frank Tedman counterstamped and used all three different varieties of Juan Arias tokens. Juan Arias passed away shortly after his wife on July 3, 1928 in David, Chiriqui.

Ignacio Henao researched these tokens and also contacted a descendent of Juan Arias. He was told that Carlos Millingen married a half-sister of Juan Arias, so the two of them were brothers-in-law.

Speculation

Some Carlos Millingen tokens had the crosses counterstamped with a fleur-di-li. I wonder if this was done during World War I since the crosses resembled the insignia used by the German armed forces. Similarly, I wonder if the crosses variety of the Juan Arias token were issued prior to World War I and the stars varieties were issued during and after World War I.

Notas Históricas

Juan de Dios Arias Ávila (1856-1928) vivió hasta 1885 en la ciudad de Panamá y a partir de entonces en David, en la costa Pacifica del entonces departamento de Panamá, cerca de la frontera con Costa Rica. Era propietario de una gran finca llamada La Indiada en el distrito de Boquete, al norte de David, hacia el centro del istmo. Su nombre aparece en la lista de comerciantes de David del Commercial Directory of the American Republics de 1897-1898.