During the start of 20th-century leprosy was regarded as a curse that doomed a person’s life. This happened due to the lack of knowledge and medical development during that period. Nearly 15 to 30 million people were afflicted with leprosy. History provides evidence that people with this disease were shunned by the society, forced to leave the families and live apart forming their own colonies.
It was a common practice in many countries during the first half of the previous century, to forcibly confine people with leprosy to a special institution. Due to the popular belief that Leprosy was contagious, some countries issued special coins, tokens and paper money which were a legal tender for these colonies, also known as ‘leper colonies’, to prevent contamination.
Between 1900 to 1930 CE, Colombia made a special coin for leprosy. It was an attempt to stop the spread of leprosy in the unaffected population. The leper money was issued in 1901 by the Colombian president Jose Manuel Marroquin. The denominations were 1, 2, 2 1/2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centavos or cent. The above-shown coin is the copper-nickel 2 Centavos or cent of Colombia issued in 1921.
The 50 Cent of Colombia was the last issue of this special money; it was issued by President Miguel Abadia Mendez.
The countries like Philippines, Japan and Panama all issued this type of money in an attempt to prevent leprosy form spreading.
What they did in their false belief of preventing this disease was to treat these people like cattle. These coins are the reminder that people with leprosy were denied their freedom and common human dignity.