I found Cuban money. Is it illegal?

While I was at a bar a couple of weeks ago, I found a 1966 Cuban nickel (or $.05, I think they are centavos?) Is it illegal to posses Cuban money? Do I need to turn myself into the feds immediately and expect a severe penalty - such as an IRS audit or worse?:eek:

Seeing as you can buy foreign currency, including Cuban currency, from a number of places, take a look in google, I’d say that no it is not illegal to hold Cuban currency.

Whaddya know… In that case, anywone wanna buy a Cuban nickel?:wink:

I don’t know the logic, but no coin shop I’ve been to will deal in foreign coins.
Why this is I have no idea.
Well, maybe it has to do with knowing what price to use.
The main books only deal with US coins.
Perhaps they just need someone to step into the market with an authoritative price list (You become an authority by virtue of printing the list. At least that’s how Scott did it for stamps.)

Totally inappropriate addition for GQ, but what the heck.

I bought a Commemrative Cuban Coin commemorating the 1996 Cuban Boxing Team. It’s 1 oz of silver, and it was a NIGHTMARE to get my hands on. Almost everyone who even had Cuban coins would say “Nope I can’t get anything after the revolution.”

I finally found a guy who was selling some post-revolution Cuban Comemeratives on eBay and emailed him and said “I need THIS particular coin.” He was able to get it through some “grey channels” he had.

My uneducated hunch on this is that while there is SOME legality about having post-revolution cuban stuff (be it coins or cigars) it’s the kind of thing that you can still find on the gray to black market, and that nobody is breaking their necks trying to prevent. But getting this stuff “reliably” through normal channels is a different story.



Centavos is the Spanish word for cents and those coins are fractions of US dollars. They are the same dimensions and weight as their equivalent US coins but they carry different engravings. They are minted by the Cuban government and are only used in Cuba but they represent fractions of US dollars. The Cuban government also mints Cuban currency (Pesos).

Sailor, since the coin he found is dated from 1966 this most certainly is not convertible currency, just plain old Cuban money.

There are three kinds of currency in Cuba:

  1. Cuban pesos, this is the “traditional” Cuban currency. It’s used to pay salaries, buy at government stores, and it’s exchanged at about 20 pesos to 1 dollar.

  2. US Dollars. Until about August 1993 it was illegal to hold US dollars. After that date dollars became legal, and immediately became the currency of choice in the street. You can use dollars to buy anything in Cuba, however, you’re just as likely to get your change back in Cuban pesos.

  3. Pesos convertibles, this currency was introduced sometime in 1995(?), and is the Cuban version of the dollar. It is exchanged at the same rate as the dollar, however it is only valid in Cuba. If you buy something at a government establishment using dollars you will get your change back in “pesos convertibles”.

I overlooked the “1966” part. To expand on the “peso convertible” I would say that it is not really “the Cuban version of the dollar” but rather it is the US dollar although I realize this is a matter of judgment and opinion. There are no paper bills, only US dollar bills. American coins are also used and Cuba minted their quarters, dimes and nickles due to a shortage of of US coins. as four cuban quarters are exchangeable for one US dollar bill I would say those quarters represent a fraction of US currency. I guess it would be possible for the Cuban government to devalue those coins but the effect would be minimal because the bills are American bills which cannot be devalued.

Not sure if we’re talking about the same things here. The Peso Convertible and the Dollar are two distinct currencies, both in paper and coin. Here’s a website with some pictures of both. For the purposes of the Cuban government the PC and the $ are the same, however the PC has no standing outside Cuba.

I looked for the darn thing when I got home last night so I could post a good description, but I can’t remember where I put it at the moment.

It seems to me that it was much lighter than an American nickel. Almost as though is was made of aluminum? I can’t for the life of me remember what the engraving on it was though. I’ll make sure to find it tonight and see if that can help at all.

Thanks folks,

From your description this is what your coin looks like. I’m pretty sure it’s made of aluminum and light as feather.

That may be it bayonet1976. Like I said, I can’t remember for sure but I do remember thinking that it seemed awfully light…

I’ll find it tonight for sure.

Well, I looked all over for it. Either I lost it…

Or they came and got it :dubious:.

You make the call!

Thanks for all your help figuring out what it was at least… kinda dissappointing not to get a final answer though. It’s like there’s no closure.:wink:

Bayoney1976, you’re right, but I would argue that calling the PC and the USD distinct currencies is a technical distinction at best. The PC is directly equivalent to the USD and fractions thereof in value, and its primary use in my experience is to make change for dollars. I rather suspect that its minting is regulated fairly carefully to keep its value steady with the dollar, but Cuba’s three-tiered currency system (which replies primarily on foreign currency) could easily be an economic headache. Whether it is or not, and how it is managed, I do not know. I only have my experience to go on.

Further, to the best of my knowledge, the peso convertible exists only in fractions of whole US dollars - 5 centavos (cents), 10 centavos, 25 centavos. As I said above, it is used mostly for making change. I could be wrong about this. In any case, American change - quarters, dimes, nickels - seem to be either very scarce or carefully hoarded in Cuba, for whatever reason - I’ve never seen any.

Finally, while you can get pesos in exchange for dollars, a decent vendor should give you change in USDs and PCs if you pay in dollars. This is because the peso is frankly not worth much of anything, and not even the greatest patriot will argue that point. Better to have 5 dollars than 100 pesos, despite their equivalent value.

Oh, and Whatami, that nickel (probably one peso, I’m guessing) could be mine ;). I lost one a little ways back. The coin itself is probably a good indicator of Cuba’s financial state in the 60’s: made out of aluminum or something, weighs nothing, feels cheap, because it is. It’s got a star on the back, says “Patria o Muerte,” which translates more or less literally to “Homeland or Death.”

Cool find! And no, it’s not illegal. Spending American dollars in Cuba, however is. Chances are, you have nothing to worry about.

Well guess what I found!

I tried to snap a couple of pictures but had a hell of a time trying to get anything that was recognizeable.

The coin is from 1968 (not '66 as I had said), has the V inside of a star like the picture and says, “Patria Y Libertad” (Which is what? Homeland and Freedom?) and the year under the star.

On the flip side there is crest (like a shield) with some branches coming from the bottom up around the crest. On the top it says, “Republica de Cuba” and around the bottom “Cinco Centavos”

It looks to be the exact size and thickness of a US nickel, though it is made of aluminum or some other really light metal.

Thanks for the help guys, it’s much appreciated…