The peso (originally established as the peso convertible) is the currency of Argentina. Its ISO 4217 code is ARS, and the symbol used locally for it is $ (to avoid confusion, Argentines frequently use U$D, US$, U$, U$S, or U$A to indicate U.S. dollars). It is divided into 100 centavos. The peso was also the name of several earlier currencies of Argentina. The exchange rate since the second half of 2009 has hovered around 3.80 pesos per United States dollar. The country's current account surplus has required periodic purchases of the latter currency on the part of the Central Bank by way of maintaining the peso relatively undervalued for export competitiveness.
Peso before 1826
The peso was a name often used for the silver Spanish 8 real coin. Following Independence, Argentina began issuing its own coins, denominated in reales, soles and escudos, including silver 8 real (or sol) coins still known as pesos. These coins, together with those from neighbouring countries, circulated until 1881.
Peso Fuerte, 1826–1881
In 1826, two paper money issues began, denominated in pesos. One, the peso fuerte ($F) (ISO 4217: ARF) was a convertible currency, with 17 pesos fuertes equal to one Spanish ounce (27.0643 g) of 0.916 fine gold. This was changed in 1864 when the rate dropped to 16 pesos fuertes per gold ounce. It was replaced by the peso moneda nacional at par in 1881.
Peso Moneda Corriente, 1826–1881
The peso moneda corriente ($m/c) was also introduced in 1826 but was an inconvertible currency. It started at par with the peso fuerte, but depreciated and was replaced in 1881 by the peso moneda nacional at a rate of 25 to 1.
Although the Argentine Confederation issued 1, 2 and 4 centavo coins in 1854, with 100 centavos = 1 peso = 8 reales, Argentina did not decimalize until 1881. The peso moneda nacional (m$n or $m/n) (ISO 4217: ARM) replaced the earlier currencies at the rate of 1 peso moneda nacional = 8 reales = 1 peso fuerte = 25 peso moneda corriente. Initially, one peso moneda nacional coin was made of silver and known as patacon. However, the 1890 economic crisis ensured that no further silver coins were issued. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Argentine peso was one of the most traded currencies in the world.
Peso Oro Sellado, 1881–1969
The peso oro sellado (ISO 4217: ARG) was a convertible paper currency equal to 1.4516 grams of fine gold.
Peso Ley, 1970–1983
The peso ley 18.188 (ISO 4217: ARL) (called simply the peso ley), replaced the previous currency at a rate of 1 peso ley = 100 pesos moneda nacional.
Peso Argentino, 1983–1985
The peso argentino ($a) (ISO 4217: ARP), replaced the previous currency at a rate of 1 peso argentino to 10,000 peso ley. The currency was born soon after the arrival of democracy. However, soon after it lost its purchasing power too after a number of devaluations which ended up with its substitution by a new currency called Austral in June 1985.
The austral (the symbol was an uppercase A with an extra horizontal line) (ISO 4217: ARA), replaced the peso argentino at a rate of 1 austral = 1000 pesos. During the period of circulation of the austral, Argentina suffered from hyperinflation. The last months of President Raul Alfonsín's period in office in 1989 saw prices move up constantly (200% in July alone), with a subsequent fall in the value of the currency. Emergency notes were issued (worth 10,000, 50,000 and 500,000 australes) and provincial administrations issued their own currency for the first time in decades. The value of the currency was stabilized soon after President Carlos Menem was elected.
Peso Convertible, 1992–present
The current peso (ISO 4217: ARS) replaced the austral at a rate of 1 peso = 10,000 australes. It was also referred to as peso convertible since the international exchange rate was fixed by the Central Bank at 1 peso = 1 U.S. dollar and for every peso convertible circulating, there was a U.S. dollar in the Central Bank's foreign currency reserves. The end result of this replacement was that one peso convertible would be worth 10,000,000,000,000 (1013) pesos moneda nacional. However, after the financial crisis of 2001, the fixed exchange rate system was abandoned.
Since January 2002, the exchange rate fluctuated, up to a peak of four pesos to one dollar (that is, a 75% devaluation). The exports boom then produced a massive inflow of dollars into the Argentine economy, which helped lower their price. On the other hand, the current administration has publicly acknowledged a strategy of keeping the exchange rate between 2.90 to 3.10 pesos per U.S. dollar, in order to maintain the competitiveness of exports and encourage import substitution by local industries. When necessary, the Central Bank emits pesos and buys dollars in the free market (sometimes large amounts, in the order of 10 to 100 million USD per day) to keep the dollar price from dropping, and had amassed over 27,000 million USD in reserves before the 9,810 million USD payment to the IMF in January 2006.
The effect of this may be compared to the neighboring Brazilian real, which was roughly par with the Argentine peso until the beginning of 2003, when both currencies were about three per U.S. dollar. The real started gaining in value more than the peso due to Brazil's slower buildup of dollar reserves, and as of December 29, 2009, a real is worth almost 2.2 pesos.
In 1992, 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo coins were introduced, followed by 1 peso in 1994. The 1 centavo coins were last minted in 2001 and they have been withdrawn from circulation.
Commemorating the National Constitutional Convention, 2- and 5-peso nickel coins were issued in 1994.
sd Some 2-peso coins were emitted in 1999 to commemorate the centennial of the birth of world-famous writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges; they had an image of Borges' face on one side, and a labyrinth and the Hebrew letter aleph on the other. In addition, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón, on September 18, 2002 a new 2-peso coin with her face was created. It was said that this coin would replace the old AR$2 banknote if inflation continued to be high. None of the 2-peso coins are currently in wide circulation. There also exist some 50- and 1-peso coins commemorating different events, including the death of José de San Martín (2001); the establishment of Mercosur (1998); the attainment of voting rights by women (1997); and Children's Rights (1996).
In 1992, banknotes were introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos. The 1 peso notes were replaced by a coin in 1994. Note that the pictures below are outdated, since they bear the "Convertibles de curso legal" (meaning their value was fixed to the same amount in US Dollars). New bills, printed since 2002, don't have this text. As most bills have been replaced, is rare to find them except in $50 and $100.
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