Obverse Design The legend "J. DEL C. MEJIA" curves along the top. The legend "PANAMA" curves along the bottom. The center is blank. Both of these legends use incuse lettering. The token has a smooth edge without a rim.
Reverse Design The legend "DEBO" ("I OWE") curves along the top. The legend "CENTAVOS" ("CENTS") curves along the bottom. The center has a large "5". The legends and number use incuse lettering. The token has a smooth edge without a rim.
Metal White metal, probably copper-nickel. Weight 3.1 grams. Size and Shape Round, 20.3 mm in diameter.
Dates Issued Unknown. Probably issued sometime between 1852 and 1885.
Issurer Jose del C. Mejia.
Mintage Unknown.
Rarity Rare. Manufacturer Unknown, but almost certainly the same one as CESARIO CELIS, and perhaps the same one as LUM, CHANG, LONG & CO. and other tokens. Other Catalog Numbers Asociación Numismático's F-188 (photo), Henao COM 284 (photo, however denomination not listed), Henkle's Panama #51, Plumer page #6, Rulau's Pma 12 (photo), Ulex #2241.
Varieties Comes in denominations of 2½ and 5 centavos; both denominations are the same size and have the same legends including "J. DEL C. MEJIA". The 5 centavos also comes in a second variety with the legend "JOSE DEL C. MEJIA".
Function Merchant token.
Population Count Four specimens of this token in collector hands are known to me. No recent sales.

So far I have been unable to find anything on Jose del C. Mejía, merchant in Panama in the late 19th century. I did find that one of the early conquistadors in Panama was Hernando Mejía de Guzman, and that the Mejía surname is relatively well-known in Panama.


This appears to be an early Panama City or vicinity token due to the incuse lettering and blank reverse. The similar A. GROSSO COLON Y CHAGRE may date from 1852 or 1853. That piece has no denomination. WING TAI LONG & CO. and DOMINGO VEGA have the "5" above "CENT VALE" similar to this token. CESARIO CELIS has the identical design, but has dashes next to "PANAMA". B.B. BRYAN has this same design but has a circle of incuse beads next to the edge. JOSE MONTEVERDE has has a beaded edge and also uses the cent sign. If these tokens were all by the same manufacturer using increasingly sophisticated designs, then this token would date from the same timeframe as WING TAI LONG and DOMINGO VEGA.

Other incuse tokens such as J. DE LA PENA & CO. and ANTONIO ZUBIETA have a simple reverse design without beads or cent sign like this one. There is also a two-sided example of a A. GROSSO COLON Y CHAGRE. So the manufacturer apparently was able to make double-sided tokens early on. They probably charged more for double-sided tokens, and merchants decided whether or not they wanted to pay the extra charges.

These incuse tokens are mostly from Colon and nearby towns, with only a few appearing to be from Panama City. If the manufacturer of these tokens was based in early Colon, they may have been wiped out by the Great Fire of 1885, the financial crisis following the collapse of the French Canal Company in 1889 or they may have simply closed down when the owner died, moved or retired.