Obverse Design

The legend along the top says "VN DECIMO DE BALBOA" with little diamond-shaped separators between the words. The "V" is actually a Roman letter "U". This is the denomination and means "ONE TENTH OF A BALBOA". The word "DECIMO" is derived from the same root as "decimal" or "dime". The center of the coin has the bust of Vasco Nunez de Balboa wearing a morion helmet and corselet armor (typical equipment for a Spanish foot soldier of the time of Balboa). On one side of the bust are a laurel leaf wreath design and on the other an oak leaf wreath design. The coin has a smooth plain raised rim with no dentures or beads.

This obverse was designed by the sculptor William Clark Noble, a native of Newport, Rhode Island.

Reverse Design

The central design is the coat of arms of Panama. Panama's coat of arms is divided into two cantons at the top, two cantons at the bottom and a double wide canton in the center. The upper left canton is a crossed rifle and sword. It originally meant "Good bye forever to civil wars, cause of our ruin". In 1914 the meaning was changed to "Attitude of alertness in defense of our sovereignty." The upper right is a crossed hoe and shovel refering to the labor required to build the republic. The lower left is a cornucopia horn of plenty symbolizing richness and agriculture. The lower right has a wheel with wings symbolizing the speed of progress. The center canton shows land (the isthmus of Panama) between two oceans (the Atlantic and Pacific) with a sea level canal between the oceans. The sun is setting on the mountains in the west and the moon is rising over the waves in the east. This represents the solemn hour of Panama's declaration of independence from Columbia in 1903. An eagle with spread wings, wingtips going up, is standing on the shield which has the coat of arms. It holds a banner in its mouth which is draped along the upper edge of the shield. The banner has the latin motto "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" meaning "FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE WORLD" and referring to the Panama Canal. Above the eagle are nine stars representing the nine provinces of Panamá. On either side of the center shield are two draped flags, which end in four flag tips under the shield.

The legend along the top says "REPVBLICA DE PANAMA" which means "REPUBLIC OF PANAMA". On the left in two lines is the legend "LEY 0.900" which refers to the fact that the coin is 900/1000 fineness by law. On the right in two lines is the legend "GR. 2.50" which refers to the weight of the coin which is 2.50 grams. The bottom of the coin has the date in the center with a wreath design on either side. The coin has a smooth plain raised rim with no dentures or beads

This reverse was also designed by the sculptor William Clark Noble.

Edge Design The coin edge is reeded.
Metal Silver alloy (90% silver, 10% copper). Weight 2.50 grams. Size and Shape Round, 18 mm in diameter.
Dates Issued and Mintage
Date Issued Regular Mintage Proof Mintage
1930 500,000 20
1931 200,000 None.
1932 150,000 None.
1933 100,000 None.
1934 75,000 None.
1947 1,000,000 None.
Grading Link to Grading Page.
Mint United States Mint (at Philadelphia). Other Catalog Numbers Asociación Numismático's M-24, Contre Porras page 75, Grigore's #15, #18, #21, #25, #29 and #37, Krause's KM-10.1, Stickney's P-16.

The decimos of 1930 through 1996 use the same design on both sides, and generally speaking are therefore all very similar to one another. The different varieties were generated by different mints and sculpturs concept of the basic design.

The Noble design of 1930 to 1947 did generally speaking follow the same basic design as the Diez Centésimos of 1904 with Balboa on the obverse and the coat of arms of Panama on the reverse. However the changes were many and significant. The size was shrunk from 24mm to 18mm. The REPUBLICA DE PANAMA legend was moved from the obverse to the reverse, and the denomination moved from the reverse to the obverse (causing the confusion by a certain well-known catalog in determining which side is really the obverse). The denomination was changed from "Diez Centésimos de Balboa" (10 cents of Balboa) to "Un Decimo de Balboa" (one tenth Balboa). Balboa's portrait exchanged its soft, plumed hat for a Spanish morion helmet and different armor. The date moved from the obverse to the reverse. On the reverse the number of stars representing the provinces of Panama increased from seven to nine. The eagle's wings which were narrow and tips pointed up were replaced by wide wings whose tips point down.

Availability The Vn Decimo of 1930-1947 is common as a type. However, the great silver meltdown of the 1960's as well as thirty years of circulation took its toll on this series. The key date for this type is 1934, with 1933 not far behind. A true UNC is hard to find. There are a number of XF's and AU's out there being sold by ignorant or deceptive sellers as UNC. Please refer to the grading page for more information before making a purchase.
Notes The Vn Decimo of 1930-1947 was authorized initially by Decree No. 51 of 1930, and further coins were authorized by Decree No. 156 of September 20, 1932.