The balboa is the currency of Panama. Its ISO 4217 code is PAB. It is named in honor of the Spanish explorer/conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The balboa is subdivided into 100 centésimos.
The balboa replaced the Colombian peso in 1904 following the country’s independence. The balboa has been tied to the United States dollar (which is legal tender in Panama) at an exchange rate of 1:1 since its introduction and has always circulated alongside dollars.
In 1904, silver coins in denominations of 2½, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centésimos were introduced. These coins were weight related to the 25 gram 50 centésimos, making the 2½ centésimos coin 1¼ grams. Its small size led to it being known as the “Panama Pill” or “Panama Pearl”. In 1907, cupro-nickel ½ and 2½ centésimos coins were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel 5 centésimos in 1929. In 1930, coins for 1⁄10, ¼ and ½ balboa were introduced, followed by 1 balboa in 1931, which were identical in size and composition to the corresponding U.S. coins. In 1935, bronze 1 centésimo coins were introduced, with 1¼ centésimos pieces minted in 1940.
In 1966, Panama followed the U.S. in changing the composition of their silver coins, with cupro-nickel-clad-copper 1⁄10 and ¼ balboa and .400 fineness ½ balboa. 1 balboa coins were issued that year for the first time since 1947. In 1973, cupro-nickel-clad-copper ½ balboa were introduced. Further issues of the 1 balboa have been made since 1982 in cupro-nickel without reducing the size.
Modern 1 and 5 centésimos and 1⁄10, ¼ and ½ balboa coins are the same weight, dimensions and composition as the U.S. cent, nickel, dime, quarter and half-dollar, respectively.
In addition to the circulating issues, commemorative coins with denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200 and 500 balboas have been issued.