The 5 centavo coin was issued sporadically from 1915 to 1961, in fact the coins were issued in only 7 different years during this time period.
This limited production run should not be confused with rarity though. Cuba, being an island nation, only produces coinage to meet need. Since most island nations have small economic and population growth the demand for coinage is low. The only issue with this is that coins tend to circulate for such a long period it does become a challenge to find specimens in a condition of uncirculated or almost uncirculated.
The obverse design features a Star with the Roman numeral “V” in the center, the single prominent star is representative of Cuba's independence while the “V” represents the denomination. On the outer periphery are the words “PATRIA Y LIBETRAD” or “Homeland and Liberty”. Also on the outer periphery (separated by dots) are the year of issue, coin weight (5.0 G), and the nickel fineness (.250) with the exception of 1943 brass issues which displayed a weight of ” 4.6 G” and a zinc fineness (.300).
The reverse design features Cuba's National Coat of Arms. The coat of arms consists of a shield divided into three sections. The lower left section of stripes represents the different states during colonial times. The palm tree in the lower right section displays Cuba's national tree. The upper section is a depiction of two rock masses separated by water with a key in between to represent that Cuba is the “Key” point of access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Americas. Behind the shield are a bundle of rods with a Phrygian Cap or liberty cap. The bottom of the bound rods are flanked by a laurel branch at its left representing strength, and an oak branch at its right representing victory.
In 1943 the composition was changed from copper/nickel to brass for just one year.
Type 1 – Copper-Nickel Composition 1915-1961
Type 2 – Brass Composition 1943
Over time, there were variations as to how the weight was designated on the reverse designs and more specifically to the acronym for grams for copper nickel versions giving us three major varieties for Type 1 coins:
Variety 1 – No period after “G” – 1916-1920 “5.0 G”
Variety 2 – Period after “G” – 1920 “5.0 G.”
Variety 3 – Acronym change to “GR” – 1943-1961 “5 GR”
General Market Notes
The key to the series is the 1920 (variety 2) issue in a condition of AU or higher.