Bulgarian Leva

The modern history of Bulgarian banknotes begins after the liberation of the Bulgarian state in 1878. Before that, various foreign coins were used in the economic turnover of the country – mostly Turkish, Russian, Romanian and Serbian silver coins.

The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), established in 1879, managed to impose the use of the leva on Bulgarian territory and the expulsion of foreign coins from monetary circulation until the end of 1886. This is done with the help of special laws to stop the use of Romanian, Serbian and Russian coins. The first coins of the Principality of Bulgaria were the copper ones of 2, 5 and 10 cents, minted in 1881. In 1882, silver Bulgarian coins of 1 and 2 BGN were minted, and then gold coins of 10, 20 and 100 BGN were minted.

In 1885, a law was passed that granted the BNB the right to issue banknotes in the country. According to the same law, all state institutions are obliged to accept Bulgarian banknotes. The first Bulgarian banknotes were gold-plated. The first Bulgarian banknotes of BGN 20 and BGN 50 were printed in the same year. In 1891, a law was passed allowing the BNB to also issue silver banknotes. In the years that followed, the gold standard was periodically canceled and restored, and the ratio in the silver standard changed. After the Balkan wars and the First World War, in early 1919 a law suspended the exchangeability of levs against gold and silver. The gold coating of the Bulgarian lev was restored by law in 1924, but the law revoked the right of the BNB to issue silver-coated banknotes. Bulgaria first printed its own banknotes in the 1930s. These are the BGN 5,000 banknotes, issued in 1924, and BGN 20, issued in 1925, printed at the State Printing Office in Sofia.

When the transition to a market economy began in Bulgaria after 1989, the newly adopted Law on the BNB restored the two-tier banking system, consisting of commercial banks and the central bank, and confirmed the monopoly right of the BNB to issue Bulgarian coins and banknotes. After the liberalization of prices and the subsequent inflation in the period 1991-1994, high-denomination banknotes were issued, including coins of 50, 100, 500 and even 10,000 BGN, as well as banknotes of 20, 50, 100 (two emissions), 200, 500, 1000 and 2000 BGN. The crisis at the end of 1996 led to a new period of very high inflation and in 1996 – 1997 BNB urgently put into circulation two issues of banknotes with a nominal value of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000, as well as a banknote with a nominal value of BGN 50,000.

In 1997, the currency board was introduced in the country and the exchange rate of the leva was fixed initially to the German mark and then to the euro. Thus, price stability was achieved, which made it possible in 1999 to carry out a leva denomination. New banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 BGN were put into circulation, as well as coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. In subsequent years, the BNB also issued a 100 BGN banknote and BGN 1 and BGN 2 exchange coins.

Since 2018, the BNB has been putting into circulation a new series of banknotes. The changes in the banknotes of the new series stem mainly from the introduction of new security features.

With their denominations, design and style, Bulgarian banknotes reflect the different periods in the development of the country, the state and changes in its political structure, economy, culture and various social spheres. Bulgarian coins and banknotes are part of the symbolism of statehood and in a unique way they preserve and transfer to future generations the historical and cultural memory of the nation.