So What’s The Deal On The Funny Money?

Hush! Mexican money is pretty, it’s colorful, it varies in sizes, it displays national heroes, and we like it a lot

Seems to us like Mexicans get overly persnikety about peso bills that are even a tad bit goofed up. What’s the deal with that? I mean, Gringos can pass off a hundred dollar bill that’s been totally torn through as long as it’s been attended to by a good Scotch tape job. Here, a peso note with a tiny little tear is not wanted anywhere. Is there a good reason for this?

peso note.jpgWell, there is a reason, not saying it’s a good one. But here’s the rundown:


When bills are broken and taped back together, they’re good, as long as all the parts are still attached. The tape must be clear, no duct tape or brown tape, or whatever other kind. The parts of the bill have to be from the same bill, if the bill is the same value but the parts are from different bills, it’s a goner. No frankestein bills allowed.

Written on: Bills with drawings, writing, or stamps on them are good, except when the drawing or message is either political, religious or commercial. So you can write your phone number on a bill, but no god loves you messages. These homilies devalue the bill.

Stained: Yes, bills with ink stains do keep their value. Blood, grease, oil and other stains as well, as long as it’s not to cover some religious, political or commercial writing or drawing. So blood money’s fine.

Dirty, Faded Or Colorless: Bills are accepted under these condition, because the longer they are in circulation the more they waste away, and we all understand that.

Incomplete: If a bill is missing a chunk of it, and said chunk is smaller than a 10 peso coin, it’s fine. If, however, it’s missing a larger portion, as long as it’s more than half, it could be fine as well, but you’d need to take it to a bank to be sure.

All of the above: If a bill has been abused in all of the above manners, and keeps its value under each circumstance, then it’s still good.

Now, that all being said, in reality you’re going to have a tough time passing bills with any of those frailties. You can argue all day about it, but nobody we know will take it. All you can do, if you were stupid or unobservant enough to take it in the first place, is take it to a bank and give that a shot. But even a lot of tellers are not in the know about the rules so you might have to do some teller shopping.

And while we’re on the subject of dinero, here’s the rundown on who’s on which of the peso notes:

For starters, the only paper bills are from 100 to 1,000 pesos. 20 and 50 peso notes are made of polymar now. That’s plastic to you. There is an exception in a 100 peso bill which is plastic but it’s rare and a commemoration bill, so there’s a low chance you’ll get a hold of one. Anyway, you don’t want to get stuck with money you can’t spend, and it does seem like the unsuspecting foreigner is always at the shitty end of the peso stick, so if you have any doubts, refuse a bill that has even a little tiny flaw in it.  Although, be careful here, because if you piss the store clerk off, you might end up with a kilo of coins. Your choice.

20 peso bill:

Blue, now plastic, with Benito Juarez on it, 26th president of Mexico, known for declaring the constitution and fighting for education. Benny Juárez lived in the most important times of Mexico, considered by many historians as the consolidation of the nation as a republic. Juarez marked a turning point in national history, being a first rate protagonist of this era. Would not advise you calling him Benny if you’re a foreigner, as Sr. Juarez is a national hero and almost worshipped by most of us.

 On the other side of this note is Monte Alban, a building in the state of Oaxaca. In some areas, the surface of the bill has a small touch-sensitive relief, especially if they are very new. The areas where to feel are: Legend of Bank of Mexico, the Law Reform, rotate is 45 degrees and it says 20 pesos and below the transparent part of the bird. There is supposed to be a 20 peso coin, but don’t take it, they’re too rare. Remember, precious foreign reader, you are always the one at the shitty end of the money stick. We’re trying to wise you up, but we are aware it’s an uphill battle.

50 peso bill:

Redish pink, plastic, the front has a painting of José María Morelos y Pavón, Mexican insurgent who struggled in the second phase of the Independence, there is also the banner of Morelos and a transparent butterfly. In the back is the aqueduct of Morelia located in the state of Michoacán, the symbol of the Bank of Mexico and the prehispanic symbol of Michoacán (That means: “The ones of the Earth of the fish”) Under the butterfly there is a small fragment from “Sentimientos de la Nación” a Mexican political text considered as one of the most important, but it must be seen under a magnifier.

100 pesos bill:

Yellow, paper, bearing Nezahualcóyotl, an aztec emperor who fought Cortez and died for his efforts, and on the back there is Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica Empire, where Neza died. This character was an architect and a poet, the tiny tiny words are one of his poems.

200 peso bill:

Green, paper, with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz on the front, a Spanish nun, who dressed as a young boy so she could go to school and learn how to read and write. She then became one of the most well known Mexican writers. On the back, the Panoayan hacienda, where she lived and in the background the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The tiny letters are also one of her texts, a very good one where she says that men blame everything on women pretty much. Could explain her wasting away in a convent.

500 peso bill:

Reddish brown, with Diego Rivera on the front and Frida Kahlo on the back. We all know who these two were and their sick love for each other.

1000 peso bill:

The one no one will probably take, so make sure you don’t take it or if you do, get rid of it fast or break it into smaller bills. Blueish purple, paper, with Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on the front, he was a Mexican Catholic priest and a leader of the Mexican War of Independence. There’s an overview of the city of Guanajuato on the back.

Now, we leave you, the frequent holder of the shitty end of the money stick with this cheery bit of news:

If the money you’re holding is determined by the Banco de México’s (Mexico’s treasury department), to be counterfeit you’re screwed. It’s like musical chairs, and the last one standing loses. They will take it from you and give you nothing in return.