While the names of many South American coin denominations are often the same—centavos and pesos appear with great regularity—the designs on the coins themselves tell unique stories about the births of these great nations.
For example, 5-, 10-, and 20-centavos coins from 1950s Argentina teach us of San Martin’s role in liberating nearby Peru from Spanish rule. Venezuela honors an even more famous contemporary of Martin’s, Simon Bolivar, on everything from 19th-century centavos to aptly named bolivars.
Brazilian coins such as the reis take a different tack. Those from the turn of the 20th century in 40, 100, and 500 denominations feature the Southern Cross constellation on their obverse, a nod to the importance of navigation, which brought Portuguese explorers to South America in the first place.