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1 dollar
General information

Flag of the United States Panama Canal Zone

Used by

Palo Seco


1.00 dollars


1919 (ND)

Measurements and composition

4.3 g


38.1 mm




round with circular hole





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The 1 dollar coin is a token that was issued in 1919 at Palo Seco, an American leprosarium that was located in the Panama Canal Zone. Prior to being removed from circulation in 1952, the coin had a value equivalent to 1.00 dollars, making it the highest-denominated coin issued at the Palo Seco facility. It was used alongside similar 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent pieces.

Palo Seco used its own coins instead of standard United States coinage for fear that people could contract leprosy through items lepers had touched. It has since been proven that the disease cannot be transmitted through such means, so handling a coin from Palo Seco is not harmful to one's health.

The dollar coin is composed of aluminum and has a mass of 4.3 grams and a diameter of 38.1 millimeters. Like the Palo Seco coins denominated from 10 to 50 cents, the piece is round in shape and bears a circular hole in the center. Inscribed along the rims of the piece is the text "PALO SECO CANAL ZONE", which attributes the coin to the Palo Seco leprosarium in the Panama Canal Zone. The first two words ("PALO SECO") are written in a clockwise direction along the upper rim of the obverse, while the last two ("CANAL ZONE") are curved counterclockwise around the bottom periphery. Written on the reverse is the inscription "REDEEMABLE FOR ONE DOLLAR IN MERCHANDISE". The first four words ("REDEEMABLE FOR ONE DOLLAR") are printed above the hole on two lines separated between "FOR" and "ONE", with the initial line curved clockwise along the upper rim and the second line arched in the same direction along the curve of the first line. The final two words ("IN MERCHANDISE") are inscribed in a counterclockwise direction along the lower periphery of the piece. Printed horizontally above this text, just below the central hole, is the figure "100", which serves as a number equivalent for the "ONE DOLLAR" mentioned in the legend. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are plain and raised, and decorated with dentillated borders.

A total of 1,000 dollar coins of Palo Seco were minted. However, after being recalled from circulation in the leper colony, 867 were destroyed on November 28, 1955, for fear of contamination through their handling. Thus, 133 examples may still be extant, but only about 10 to 12 are known. At auction, specimens commonly fetch four-figure prices due to their rarity.

See also[]


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