Wednesday, April 07, 2021

the worth of madero

"I have something to show you."

The text messages begin with that hook designed to whet my curiosity. I receive one every month or two. When I ask for more information, the "something to show you" always turns out to be something one of my local acquaintances wants to sell me.

Cameras. Computers. Televisions. Pistols. Drawings. A bag of German coins. A screen door.

I am not certain why they persist in asking because my answer is always no. Whatever is on offer is something I either already own or that I do not need.

But a text from a friend yesterday actually piqued my interest.

"I have a thousand peso note special edition

"Or shall I say collector s edition Id like to sell you??? 

"Would you like to buy it 4m me?"

I am not certain which part of the message caught my attention. We seldom see 1000-peso notes here. In the 12 years I have lived in this area of Mexico, I have encountered only one in the wild. I have seen far more around San Miguel de Allende on my periodic visits to the highlands. But it is difficult to pass one in the local economy because no can change them.

The only one I have held was from a Canadian tourist who tried using it to buy his breakfast at Rooster's. One of the waiters asked me to change it. I then used it as a prop in my History of Mexico lectures.

But there was that additional barb that caught me through the lip -- "collector's edition."

Periodically, Mexico produces commemorative editions of its bank notes for special events. In 2009 the Bank issued a 100-peso note to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and a 200-peso note to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of Mexican Independence. In 2017 the Bank issued the most-recent commemorative bill -- a 100-peso note honoring the centennial of the Mexican Constitution of 2017.

But I was not aware of a 1000-peso commemorative having been printed in recent history in Mexico. My friend attempted to bring the sale home with: "Be worth 10 or 20 times more in the future[.]"

When he showed me the note, I knew immediately what it was.

In August 2018, the Bank of Mexico started issuing a new series of its bank notes (goodbye and hello to our favorite nun). This was the 1000-note for that series.

The notes are in historical chronological order from the Pre-Hispanic foundation of Tenochtitlan on the 50-peso note to contemporary Mexico of Octavio Paz and Rosario Castellanos on the 2000-peso note. (The 20-peso note is currently -- and slowly -- being withdrawn from circulation.)

The 1000-peso note honors the Mexican Revolution. It is grayish-blue with portraits of Francisco I. Madero, Hermila Galindo, and Carmen Serdán on the front, and a jaguar on the reverse. And similar to the other smaller-denomination notes that increase in size with each denomination, it is just a bit longer than the 500-peso note.

Unlike the American banknotes that I grew up with that are all the same color and size, I have come to appreciate the ease of immediately identifying a Mexican note's denomination by both its color and physical size. That is why it will be nice when we see the back of the 20-peso note. It is still too easy to confuse one of them with the new 500-peso note. They are both blue and feature portraits of Benito Juarez.

I am afraid I greatly disappointed my Mexican friend. He was hoping to sell me the 1000-peso note for more than his face value. By the time he had arrived at my house, I had been to the bank where I purchased the two 1000-peso notes that the bank had in its teller drawers. (It is that rare here.)

When I told him the story behind the new series of notes and that the 1000-peso note he held was issued November of last year and was no more valuable than the millions that the Bank of Mexico will print for this series, he was disappointed. 

Disappointed, but not defeated. He told me he was going to keep the note for several years and he would then sell it for its increased collectible value.

I knew when I was defeated. Nothing good would come of extinguishing that modicum of hope that circumstances in the future can only improve -- despite all historical experience.

I am also practical enough to know that daily exigencies here will most likely conspire to put that note back into the stream of commerce before too long. And that will also be good.

But, if you would like to get in on the ground floor of purchasing a commemorative 1000-peso note that I have heard will increase in value ten or twenty times, I know who you should talk to.

Me. Remember, though, supplies are limited. I only have two.


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