1971 Un Peso: The Ultimate Collector‘s Guide to Mexico‘s Most Common Coin

The 1971 un peso is one of the most ubiquitous Mexican coins ever minted, with over 426 million produced in a single year. Despite its low monetary value today, this copper-nickel coin holds an important place in Mexican numismatic history. Its classic design featuring national hero José María Morelos and the iconic Mexican coat of arms makes it instantly recognizable and a must-have for any serious collector of world coins.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive deep into the 1971 un peso coin, exploring its rich history, distinctive design elements, and current value to collectors. Whether you‘re a seasoned numismatist or just starting your Mexican coin collection, you‘ll find everything you need to know to appreciate this common yet culturally significant piece of pocket change.

A Brief History of the Mexican Peso

To understand the 1971 un peso coin, it helps to know a bit about the origins and evolution of Mexico‘s peso currency. The story begins in the 16th century, when Mexico was still a Spanish colony known as New Spain. The silver Spanish dollar, also called the real or "piece of eight," circulated widely throughout the Americas and Southeast Asia, becoming the world‘s first global currency.

In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain but continued using the peso as its monetary unit, minting its own silver coins. The peso was divided into 8 reales until 1863, when it switched to a decimal system of 100 centavos to the peso. Silver coins were used until the 1920s, with banknotes issued by multiple banks.

The Banco de México began issuing coins and notes in 1925, bringing stability to the currency. Due to rising silver prices, the last .720 fine silver un peso coin was minted in 1947. From 1950-1969, a reduced silver alloy was used before switching entirely to a copper-nickel composition in 1970.

Severe inflation in the late 20th century led Mexico to revalue its currency in 1993, with 1000 old pesos equal to 1 new peso. The "nuevo peso" coins and notes are still used today. All un peso coins minted from 1970-1983, including the 1971 issue, are from the old currency system but still hold collectible value.

1971 Un Peso Coin Design

The 1971 un peso coin is a round disc measuring 28.98 mm in diameter and 1.77 mm thick, with a reeded edge. It weighs 9 grams and is composed of an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel, giving it a silver color. Over 426 million were struck by the Mexico City Mint, identifiable by the "M^o " mint mark.

Obverse

The obverse or front side of the coin features the national coat of arms of Mexico in the center. The iconic emblem depicts a golden eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, devouring a snake, surrounded by a wreath. According to legend, this was the divine sign shown to the Aztecs upon which to build their capital city of Tenochtitlan, where Mexico City now stands.

Above the eagle are the words "ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS" (United Mexican States), denoting the official name of the country. The coin‘s engravers chose to render the eagle design in a more naturalistic than heraldic style compared to earlier coinage.

Reverse

The reverse or back side of the 1971 un peso coin depicts a portrait bust of José María Teclo Morelos y Pavón, one of the most important leaders in Mexico‘s War of Independence against Spain. A priest turned revolutionary general, Morelos led successful campaigns across southern Mexico before his capture and execution in 1815. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the Mexican nation.

Morelos is shown in left profile wearing a clerical collar, symbolizing his role as a Catholic priest. To the right of his portrait is the "M^o " monogram of the Mexico City Mint, the oldest operating mint in the Americas, founded in 1535.

Below Morelos is engraved the date "1971," and to the left is the denomination "UN PESO" (one peso). This design was used on the one peso coin from 1970 to 1983, honoring the 150th anniversary of Mexico‘s independence when it debuted. The Morelos bust, mint mark, and legends are raised in relief on a flat field.

1971 Un Peso Coin Value and Rarity

The 1971 un peso is the most common coin in the 1970-1983 series, with a mintage over 426 million pieces. Despite its age, you can still find this coin in circulation in Mexico today, though it is now worth only 1/1000 of its face value due to the currency revaluation. In the U.S., the 1971 peso has almost no spending power.

However, the coin‘s copper-nickel composition gives it a bullion value above its face value. The 9 grams of 75% copper content is worth about 5 cents, while the 25% nickel is worth 2 cents, for a total metal value around 7 cents. Of course, you would need a massive quantity of these coins to profit from melting them down for scrap!

For collectors, the 1971 un peso is extremely affordable, as even pristine uncirculated examples routinely sell for less than $1 USD. According to the popular coin grading site NumisMedia, a specimen in the lowest collectible grade of Good-4 is valued at around 10 cents, while a choice uncirculated piece grades MS-63 is still only worth about 75 cents.

NGC Price Guide, the leading authority on coin values in the U.S., reports that the highest grade 1971 un peso they have certified is a single coin in MS-67, which would likely retail for $100-200 or more to specialists. PCGS CoinFacts does not even provide an estimated value for the 1971 peso in any grade, further underscoring its status as a common, low-value coin.

But just because the 1971 peso is inexpensive doesn‘t mean it‘s not desirable to collectors. Its attractive, classic design and place in Mexican history make it a popular coin to collect by date, with many hobbyists assembling sets of the entire 1970-1983 series. A complete set in uncirculated condition can be acquired for $20-50, an affordable way to explore the beauty and diversity of modern Mexican coinage.

Grading and Authenticating the 1971 Un Peso Coin

As with any coin, the grade or condition of a 1971 un peso directly affects its collectible value. Since these coins are so common and inexpensive, it‘s rarely cost-effective to have them professionally graded by a third-party service like PCGS or NGC. Instead, collectors grade them using the internationally accepted Sheldon scale, which ranges from Poor-1 to Perfect Uncirculated MS-70.

Here‘s a quick breakdown of the different grades you‘re likely to encounter for a 1971 un peso:

  • Poor (P-1, Fair-2, AG-3): Heavily worn, date barely readable, design outlines visible
  • Good (G-4, G-6): Heavily worn, major details visible but flat, all lettering readable
  • Very Good (VG-8, VG-10): Moderately worn, some details clear but lacking
  • Fine (F-12, F-15): Light even wear, most details sharp, moderate luster may remain
  • Very Fine (VF-20, VF-30): Lightly worn on high points, full details, slight luster
  • Extremely Fine (XF-40, AU-50): Slight friction on high points, nearly full luster
  • Uncirculated (MS-60 to MS-70): No wear, original luster, minor marks (60) to flawless (70) surfaces

To grade your own 1971 un peso, you‘ll need a jeweler‘s loupe or magnifying glass of at least 5x power and a bright light source. First, determine if the coin is uncirculated by checking for luster (reflectivity in the metal) and lack of wear on the high points like the eagle‘s breast and Morelos‘ cheekbone. Then look for contact marks, dings, and scratches on the surfaces to assign a numerical grade.

While the vast majority of 1971 pesos are genuine, counterfeit pieces may exist to deceive collectors. Always be wary of coins that seem underweight, have the wrong size or color, or show signs of casting like seams or pitted surfaces. You can confirm a suspect piece by testing it with a strong magnet, as the copper-nickel alloy will not be noticeably magnetic, while common fakes made of steel will stick to the magnet.

How to Buy or Sell a 1971 Un Peso Coin

If you‘re looking to add a 1971 un peso to your collection, you have many options. Local coin shops and shows are great places to find Mexican coins, often at a discount to online sellers. However, the internet has revolutionized coin collecting by connecting buyers and sellers across the globe, with several reputable marketplaces to explore.

eBay is the biggest online platform for buying and selling coins, with thousands of Mexican peso listings at any given time. You can easily compare prices and grade to find the best deal, but be sure to check the seller‘s feedback rating and return policy before bidding or buying. Some dealers also list un pesos on Amazon and Etsy.

For a more curated selection, try a specialty world coin retailer like Coin World or Ma Shops. These sites vet their sellers and often provide more detailed descriptions and images than you‘ll find on eBay. You can also buy directly from other collectors on forums like Coin Talk or Collectors Universe, but be aware of the risks of dealing with unknown individuals.

When buying online, always use a credit card or secure payment system like PayPal to protect yourself from fraud. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, as counterfeit and altered coins are a real problem in the online marketplace. If you‘re unsure about a coin‘s authenticity or grade, ask for additional photos or even a short video to get a better sense of its condition.

If you have 1971 un pesos to sell, your best bet is probably eBay or a similar online marketplace, as most coin dealers won‘t be interested in such a common, low-value piece. You can list your coins as an auction or fixed price sale, but be sure to describe them accurately and include clear, well-lit photos of both sides. Uncirculated coins can be sent raw in a flip or holder, while circulated pieces are best mailed in a paper envelope to save on shipping costs.

Frequently Asked Questions About the 1971 Un Peso Coin

Q: How much silver is in a 1971 un peso coin?
A: None, the coin is made of a copper-nickel alloy with no precious metal content.

Q: What is the rarest un peso coin?
A: The 1957 un peso struck in 90% silver is considered the rarest with a mintage of about 98,000 pieces.

Q: Is the 1971 un peso still legal tender in Mexico?
A: Yes, but its face value is only 1/1000 of a modern peso, so it has virtually no spending power.

Q: Why is José María Morelos on the 1971 peso?
A: Morelos was a hero of the Mexican War of Independence and is considered one of the nation‘s founding fathers. His portrait on the coin honors his legacy.

Q: Are there any known errors or varieties of the 1971 un peso?
A: None have been documented by major coin grading services, likely due to the extremely large mintage and low collector interest in the issue.

Conclusion

The 1971 un peso may not be a rare or valuable coin in the traditional sense, but it remains an important and interesting piece of Mexican history. Its classic design featuring the national coat of arms and portrait of independence hero José María Morelos makes it instantly recognizable and culturally significant. While you won‘t get rich collecting these coins, their low cost and easy availability make them perfect for beginning collectors or anyone curious about world coinage.

Whether you‘re drawn to the 1971 un peso for its historical value, artistic merit, or simply as a memento of a trip to Mexico, this humble copper-nickel coin is sure to bring a smile to your face every time you hold it in your hand. As the old saying goes, "un peso saved is un peso earned!" So why not start your own collection of these fascinating pieces of pocket change today?

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