Peru Currency Guide: The Peruvian Nuevo Sol

The current currency of Peru is the nuevo sol. The nuevo sol is divided into 100 centimos. The ISO 4217 code for the nuevo sol is ‘PEN’ and the currency is represented by ‘S/’ when written.

The nuevo sol is quite new, having been introduced into circulation only in 1991. The history of Peru, home to the oldest civilizations in South America, includes a variety of currencies.

Early History of Peruvian Currencies

The Incan Empire came to power in the 12th century. This culture didn’t use currency, but worked on a barter system where people traded goods. The culture was rich with gold and silver, but these metals were used only for decorative and religious purposes, not as currency.

The conquistadors who arrived from Spain valued the Inca’s gold and silver. The Incan ruler Atahualpa was battling Spanish colonialists and was captured. He offered the Spanish an estimated eight tons of gold and considerably more silver in exchange for his freedom. The Spanish executed Atahualpa anyway, but were impressed by the volume of precious metals available in the New World. The Spanish ultimately conquered the Incas and became the ruling power by the middle of the 16th century. They introduced the Spanish real.

Post-Independence Currencies

Spain remained the colonial power in Peru until early in the 19th century. The newly independent Peruvian Republic minted a Peruvian real, which was issued both in coin and paper money. A silver coin that was worth eight reales was called a peso. An escudo, a coin made of gold, was worth 16 silver reales. From 1836-1939, Peru was part of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation and the Bolivian peso was also widely circulated in Peru. Production of the Peruvian real stopped in 1856.

Peru replaced its real and the Bolivian peso with the sol in 1863. Its ISO 4217 code was ‘PEH.’ With the sol, Peru completed the decimalization of its currency. One sol was worth 10 reales and was divided into 10 dineros or 100 centavos. When it was introduced, one sol was worth 1.25 Bolivian pesos. It was pegged to the French franc, with one sol worth five francs. Peru delinked the sol from the franc in 1901 and pegged it to the British pound. In 1901, 10 soles equalled one British pound.

The sol remained pegged to the British pound until Peru left the gold standard in 1930. The sol’s official rate at this time was 2.5 soles to one U.S. dollar. By this time, the currency was known as a ‘sol de oro.’ However, extreme inflation devalued the sol de oro so greatly that it was replaced by the ‘inti’ in 1985.

When the inti was introduced, one inti was worth 1000 soles de oro. The inti’s ISO 4217 code was ‘PEI’ and it was represented by ‘I/’ when written. There were 100 centimos to an inti. One U.S. dollar was worth 11.65 inti. Peru was still experiencing political instability and the government was printing money, both of which lead to hyperinflation. By the end of 1990, one U.S. dollar was worth over a half million inti. A five million inti banknote was printed in 1991.

The Peruvian Nuevo Sol

The inti was taken out of circulation in July 1991 and replaced by the nuevo sol. One nuevo sol was worth one million intis. Since its introduction, the nuevo sol has been one of the more stable South American currencies. Its value has fluctuated between S/2.30 and S/3.65 to one U.S. dollar. Following the global economic crisis of 2008, the nuevo sol has generally stayed between S/2.60 and S/3.00 to one U.S. dollar.

Nuevo Sol Denominations Currently in Circulation

The following banknotes are currently circulated:
– 200
– 100
– 50
– 20
– 10

The following coins are currently circulated:
– S/5
– S/2
– S/1
– 50 centimos
– 20 centimos
– 10 centimos
– 5 centimos
– 1 centimo