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Monday, 3 February 2014

131) Banknotes of Romania: Leu (Lei) and Ban (Bani):



131) Banknotes of Romania: Leu (Lei) and Ban (Bani):

“Leo” (lion) or “Leu” in singular or “Lei” (symbolised with the pound symbol) in plural, is the currency of Romania (subdivided into 100 “bani”). The coins are denominated in “penny” (or “ban” singular) or money (“bani” in plural).

On 01.07.2005, Romania’s National currency, owing to hyperinflation was redenominated as 1 new leu (RON) being equivalent to 10000 old lei (ROL).

Historical development of Romanian currency:

In 1860, the Domnitor Alexandru Loan Cuza attempted to create a national Romanul (meaning “The Romanian”) and the Romanat, which was declined by the Ottoman Empire.

The first Romanian Leu (1867-1947):

In 1867, a bimetallic currency was adopted with the leu being equal to 5 gms of 83.5% silver or 0.29032 gms of gold. Under this scheme, the first Romanian coins were minted in 1870.

In 1889, Romania joined the Latin Monetary union (LMU) and adopted a gold standard. Silver coins were legal tender only upto 50 Lei. All taxes and customs duties were paid in gold and owing to small quantities of gold coins issued by Romania, gold coins of the LMU countries circulated freely in Romania.

(A brief about the Latin Monetary Union:

-      The Latin Monetary Union (A precursor to the European Union?):

On 23.12.1865, through a convention Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland and agreed to change their national currencies to a standard of 4.5 gms of silver or 0.290322 gms of gold (a ratio of 15.5 to 1) and make them freely interchangeable wef 01.08.1866. This led to facilitation of trade between the member countries, which freely accepted one another’s currency. Greece and Spain joined the Latin Monetary Union (LMU) in 1868, and Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and San Morino in 1889. In 1904, the Danish West Indies also was placed in the LMU standard without joining the Union. In 1912, Albania on becoming independent from the Ottoman Empire started accepting LMU coins as legal tender.

-      The Latin Monetary Union failed when it transpired that the Papal State Treasury began circulating debased papal coins (having less silver and gold content) to the profit of the Holy See, resulting in the eviction of the Papal States from the Monetary Union. Greece too was found to be using sub-standard coins. It also transpired that new discoveries and refining techniques increased the supply of silver, the fixed LMU exchange rate eventually overvaluing the silver in relation to gold.
  Also, the LMU failed to debar the printing of paper money based on the bimetallic currency which was exploited by France and Italy to their advantage. The fluctuations in silver and gold prices too caused several problems, leading to some member countries, as well as, unscrupulous persons taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities.

-      The LMU finally collapsed with the outbreak of World War I, although it continued to exist on paper till 1927.

-      Interestingly, in 1967, the last coins made according to the standards (i.e. diameter, weight and silver fineness) of the LMU were the Swiss half, one-franc and two-franc pieces).

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Romania left the gold standard and the Leu lost much of its value.

During World War II Romania allied with Nazi Germany and the Leu went into a tailspin after the War.

The Second Romanian Leu: 1947-1952:
A revaluation termed the “marea stabilizare” (or the “great stabilisation”) took place in August 1947, replacing the old leu at an exchange rate of 20000 old lei to 1 new leu.

The Third Romanian Leu (1952-2005):
In January 1952, a new Series replaced the earlier issues at the exchange rates ranging between 20 to 400 old lei for 1 new leu. The Romanian currency continued to free-fall, despite these measures and in January 2005 became the least valued currency in the World.

The Fourth Romanian Leu (2005- present):
On 01.07.2005, the leu was revalued at the rate of 10000 old Lei (ROL) for one new Leu (RON). The term denoting this revaluation was “denominare” similar to the English word “denomination”, thus signifying that this Series was not a conversion but a total reinvention of the currency.
Banknotes of the First Leu:
In 1877, Banknotes in the denomination of 5, 10, 20, 50,100 and 500 lei were issued.

In 1881, 20, 100 and 1000 lei Banknotes were issued by the “Banka Nationala a Romaniei” (National Bank of Romania) and the earlier Banknotes were overstamped with NBR stamp.

In 1914, 5 Lei Banknotes and in 1916, 500 Lei Banknotes were issued.

In 1917, 10, 20 and 50 Bani Banknotes were issued in Lasi during World War I by the Ministry of Finance as war money (known as the 1917-Series).

In 1920, two denominations viz, 1 Leu and 1 Lei were circulated (known as the 1920 Series).

Between 1934 and 1947, to cope with hyperinflation, denominations of 5000, 10000, 100000, 1000000 and 5000000 lei Banknotes were issued.

Banknotes of the Second Leu:
In 1947, the Ministry of Finance issued 20 Lei Banknotes, while Banka Nationala a Romaniei circulated 100, 500 and 1000 Lei Banknotes.

In 1949, the National Bank took over the entire production of paper currency.

Banknotes of the Third Leu:
In 1952, the Ministry of finance circulated 1, 3 and 5 Lei Banknotes, while the “Banca Republicii Populare Romane” issued 10, 25 and 100 Lei Banknotes (These Banknotes are called the 1952 Series).

In 1966, the “Banca Nationala a Republicii Socialiste Romania” took over all the production of paper money and all the earlier issues were withdrawn. The Bank issued Banknotes in the denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 Lei (These Banknotes are known as the 1966 Series).

In 1991, 500, 1000 and 5000 Lei were reintroduced (These Banknotes are known as the 1991 Series).

Between 1992 and 1994, Lei Banknotes in the denominations of  200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10000 were issued (This Series is known as the 1992 Series).

 Between 1996 and 2000, paper Banknotes in the denominations of 1000 Lei, 5000 Lei, 100000 Lei, 50000 Lei and 100000 Lei were issued (These banknotes are known as the 1996 Series – paper currency).

Between 1999 and 2003, polymer Banknotes in the denominations of 2000, 10000, 50000, 100000, 500000 and 1000000 Lei Banknotes were issued (These are known as the 1999 polymer Series).


The Front of a 2000 Lei (Doua Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 1999. A 500 Lei coin and this 2000 Lei Banknote was issued to celebrate the total solar eclipse on 11.08.1999. Both the 500 Lei coin and 2000 Lei Banknotes are Collector’s items now.  The size of this Banknote is 143 x 63 mm and its colour is blue, yellow & red.


The Back of a 2000 Lei (Doua Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 1999. This face also shows the Map of Romania.


The Front of a 10000 (Zeci Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2000. Seen on this side is a portrait of Nicolae Lorga and a Milkweed gentian(mullein-earth – Gentiana asclepiadaea). The size of this Banknote is 150 x 67 mm and its colour is green.

The Back of the 10000 (Zeci Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2000. This face also shows the Cathedral of Curtea de Arges.


The Front of a 50000 (Cincizeci Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2001. Seen on this side is a portrait of George Enescu and a Carnation (or Dianthus Dianthus). The size of this Banknote is 155 x 70 mm and its colour is violet.

The Back of the 50000 (Cincizeci Mll) Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2001. Also seen on this face is the Romanian Athenaeum.

The Front of the 100000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2001 shows a portrait of Nicolae Grigorescu and a Marshmallow(Althea officinalis).The size of this Banknote is 160 x 73 mm and its colour is orange and light red.
                        Portrait of Nicolae Grigorescu
The Back of the 100000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2001 shows a traditional house from Oltenia and a fragment/scene from  Nicolae Grigorescu’s painting “Rodica.

The Front of the 500000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2000 shows a portrait of aircraft maker Aurel Vlaicu (1882-1913). There is also an Edelweiss flower (Leontopodium alpinum). The size of this Banknote is 165 x 76 mm and its colour is yellow.
                      Portrait of Aurel Vlaicu
                                     A. Vlaicu II in flight
                      A.Vlaicu III in flight
The Back of the 500000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2000 shows a Vlaicu II Airplane design.

The Front of the 1000000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2003 shows the portrait of playwright Ion Luca Caragiale (1852-1912). There is also a sweet violet (Viola sororia).The size of this Banknote is 168 x 78 mm and its colour is blue.

The Back of the 1000000 Lei polymer Banknote issued in 2003, shows the old building of the National Theatre of Bucharest.

Banknotes of the Fourth Leu:

In 2005, polymer Banknotes in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Lei and in 2006 200 Lei Banknotes were circulated.

The designs of the 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Lei Banknotes are based on the earlier 10000, 50000, 100000, 500000 and 1000000 Lei Banknotes which they replaced.

On the Front all these Banknotes, there is a common theme which includes a flower native to Romania and the portrait of a cultural personality. Also, the Coat of Arms of Romania appears along with the name of the issuing Bank and NBR medallion/logo. These Banknotes were all circulated on 01.07.2005. The print quality of all these Banknotes is flat/relief polymer.

On the Back of all these Banknotes, is a building or a well-known monument. Also, on top is mentioned “BANCA NATIONALA A ROMANIEI” (or “National Bank of Romania” -NBR) The NBR logo is placed in the top right hand and bottom left corners. A text “Falsificarea Acestor Bilete Se Pedepseste Conform Legilor” (meaning “Forgery of this Banknote is punishable under the Law”) appears on the Banknote. The Serial number appears vertically on the left in black and on the right, horizontally in increasing fonts, in red.
The Front of the 1 Leu (or “Un Leu”) Banknote shows the portrait of historian Nicolae Lorga (1871-1940). There is a floral element representing the Milkweed gentian (mullein-earth – Gentiana asclepiadaea) and a heraldic symbol for Nicolae Lorga. The size of this Banknote is 120 mm x 62 mm and its colour is green.

(Nicolae Lorga (1871-1940): was a Romanian historian, politician, literary critic, memoirist, poet , playwright and co-founder of the Democratic Nationalist Party in 1910. He served as a member of Parliament, President of the Deputies Assembly &Senate, cabinet minister and as Prime Minister. He also held teaching positions at the Universities of Bucharest and Paris and was the founder of the “International Congress of Byzantine Studies” and the Institute of South East European Studies. He penned a large volume of scholarly works and is remembered chiefly as an Art Historian, philosopher of History, Medievalist, Byzantinist, Latinist and Slavist).

The Back of the 1 Leu (or “Un Leu”) Banknote shows the Episcopal Cathedral of Curtea de Arges. On this face, the old Eagle emblem of Romania is also printed. 
 (Episcopal Cathedral of Curtea de Arges: This is a Roman Orthodox Cathedral in Curtea de arges dedicated to St. Nicholas. The building resembles an elaborate mausoleum and was built in the Byzantine style with Moorish Arabesques. One tablet records that the founder was Prince Neagoe Basarab (1512-1521), another tablet mentions that Prince Loan Radu completed the work in 1526. A traditional legend has it that Prince Neagos Basarab while being held hostage in Constantinople, designed a splendid mosque for the Sultan and upon his release, built the Cathedral out of surplus materials).

The Front of the 5 Lei (or “Cinci Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of composer George Enescu (1881-1955). There is also a carnation (or Dianthus Dianthus) on this Face and a violin and musical notes. The size of this Banknote is 127 mm x 67 mm and its colour is purple. 
                      Portrait of George Enescu

(George Enescu (19.08.1881 – 04.05.1955): was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher. Many of his works were influenced by Romanian Folk music, his most popular compositions being the two “Romanian Rhapsodies. Having a deep interest in Oriental music, he worked with Uday Shankar in India and was also a personal friend of Ravi Shankar. Yehudi Menuhin was also associated with him. He performed at all the major Concert Halls in the World, including conducting  the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York).

The Back of the 5 Lei (or “Cinci Lei”) Banknote shows a Romanian Athenaeum. There is a piano and an excerpt from a score.

(Romanian Athenaeum: is a concert hall in the centre of Bucharest, opened in 1888. The ornate, domed, circular building is the city’s main concert hall and home of the “George Enescu Philharmonic” and “George Enescu annual International Festival”. Recognised as a symbol of Romanian culture, the concert hall building has been  placed on the list of the “Label of European Heritage sites”).

The Front of the 10 Lei (or “Zeci Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of painter Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907). There is also a marshmallow (Althea officinalis) and a brush and palette for painting. The size of this Banknote is 133 mm x 72 mm (similar to the size of the 20 Euro Banknotes) and its colour is pink/light red.

(Nicolae Grigorescu (15.05.1838 – 21.07.1907): He was one of the founders of modern Romanian painting and was also a writer. Some of his works included “Mihai scapand stindardul” (Michael the Brave saving the flag), “Tanara tiganca” (Young gypsy girl) among several others).

The Back of the 10 Lei (or “Zeci Lei”) Banknote shows a cottage/house from Oltenia and a fragment/scene from  Nicolae Grigorescu’s painting “Rodica
 The Front of the 50 Lei (or “Cincizeci Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of aircraft maker Aurel Vlaicu (1882-1913). There is also an Edelweiss flower (Leontopodium alpinum) and a stylised airplane propeller. The size of this Banknote is 140 mm x 77 mm (similar to the size of the 50 Euro Banknotes) and its colour is yellow.

(Aurel Vlaicu (19.11.1882-13.09.1913): was an Austro-Hungarian Romanian engineer, inventor, airplane constructor and a pioneering pilot. He and his brother built and first flew a glider in 1909. In 1909, he built the A.Vlaicu Nr. I aircraft which he flew for the first time in June 1910. He later built the A. Vlaicu Nr. II aircraft in December 1910 which he flew in April 1911. In June 1912, the A. Vlaicu Nr. II competed at the International Flight Week (Die Internationale Flugwoche in Wien) in Aspern-Vienna  and won several prizes against a field of 42 aviators including Roland Garros. In all he designed three airplanes. He died while attempting a flight across the Carpathian Mountains in his A. Vlaicu III aircraft).



The Back of the 50 Lei (or “Cincizeci Lei”) Banknote shows the head of a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). A Vlaicu II Airplane design and an outline of an engine section are also seen on this face. 

The Front of the 100 Lei (or “Una Suta Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of playwright Ion Luca Caragiale (1852-1912). There is also a sweet violet (Viola sororia) and two stylised theatrical masks. The size of this Banknote is 147 mm x 82 mm (similar to the size of the 50 Euro Banknotes) and its colour is blue. 
  Ion Luca Caragiale (13.02.1852- 09.06.1912): was a great Romanian playwright, short story writer, poet, theatre manager, political commemtator and journalist. He is considered to be one of the greatest Romanian playwrights and writers, humorist, satirist, a leading member of “Junimea”, (a literary society). His works covered Neoclassicism, Realism and Naturalism and built up a synthesis between foreign and local influences).

The Back of the 100 Lei (or “Una Suta Lei”) Banknote shows the old building of the National Theatre in Bucharest along with a statue of playwright Caragiale by Constantin Baraschi.

The Front of the 200 Lei (or “Duoa Sute Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of poet Lucian Blaga (1895-1961). There are also poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and an open book with poems, self portrait and the date 09.05.1895 and a pen-point. The size of this Banknote is 150 mm x 82 mm (similar to the size of the 50 Euro Banknotes) and its colour is orange/brown. 
 Lucian Blaga (09.05.1895 – 06.05.1961): was a Romanian Poet, philosopher and playwright. He was an important contributor to Romanian culture of the interbellum period). He refused to express his support to the Communist Government in 1948 and was dismissed from his teaching assignments at the University of Cluj. He was prohibited from publishing new books and was allowed to publish translations only. In 1956, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but the Romanian Communist Government opposed this nomination, because he was considered an idealist philosopher and his poems were forbidden until 1962).

The Back of the 200 Lei (or “Duoa Sute Lei”) Banknote shows a picture of the statue of the Hamangia Thinker” representing Neolithic Hamangia culture, along with a rainbow and a water-mill
                         The "Sitting woman" and the "Hamagian Thinker"
                                       The Hamagian Thinker
(Hamangia culture (5250 -4550 BC):  is a late Neolithic archaeological culture of Dobrojea (Romania and Bulgaria) between the Danube and the Black Sea and Muntenia in the South. It is named after the site of Baia-Hamangia discovered in 1952 along Lake Golovita. Painted vessels including pots and wide bowls with complex geometrical patterns based on spiral motifs are typical of this culture. Stylised pottery figurines known as “The Thinker” and “The sitting woman” both found in Cernavoda necropolis are considered to be masterpieces of Neolithic Art. The settlements consisted of rectangular houses having one or two rooms made of wattle and daub and even stone foundations, built along the coast, lakes river terraces and caves.)

The Front of the 500 Lei (or “Cinci Sute Lei”) Banknote shows the portrait of poet Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889). There are also flowers and Tilia flower(Tilia platyphyllos) and an inkwell and quill for writing.The size of this Banknote is 153 mm x 82 mm (similar to the size of the 50 Euro Banknotes) and its colour is predominantly blue.

(Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889): He was a Romantic poet, novelist and journalist regarded as Romania’s most famous and influential poet. He was a member of the “Junimea” literary society and editor of the newspaper “Timpul” (meaning “The Time”). His notable works included “Manuscripts” (a 46 volume, 14000 pages work), Luceafarul (The Vesper/The Evening Star), Oda in metru antic (Ode in Ancient meter), Five letters (Epistles/Satires) etc.).

The Back of the 500 Lei (or “Cinci Sute Lei”) Banknote the Central University Library building in Lasi, along with a an hourglass symbolising poetry and a page of the time.

Coins issued under this Series:

The obverse of all these coins shows the country of issue “Romania”, the year of issue “2005”, while the reverse shows the denomination of the coin in numerals along with the word “ban” (for 1 leu) and “bani” (for other denominations).

The 1 Ban coin is composed of brass-plated steel and has a diameter of 16.75 mm with a smooth edge and is yellow in colour.

The 5 money (or bani) coin is composed of copper-plated steel. Its diameter is 18.25 mm with a serrated edge and it is red in colour.

The 10 money (or bani) coin is composed of nickel plated steel and has a diameter of 20.5 mm. The edge has three sets of teeth and it is white in colour.

The 50 money (or bani) coin is composed of brass and has a diameter of 23.75 mm. The edge is engraved and the coin is pale yellow in colour.

Commemorative coins (recent issues):
50 bani coin commemorating Aurel Vlaicu (issued in 2010), 50 bani coin commemorating Mircea the Elder (issued in 2011) and 50 bani coin commemorating Neagoe (issued in 2012) etc.

The Coat of Arms or emblem of Romania:

 The present Coat of Arms of Romania was adopted on 10.09.1992. It shows a golden eagle holding a cross in its beak and a mace and a sword in its claws. It also consists of red, yellow and blue colours which are the colours of the National flag.
The golden eagle in the background is a symbol of courage, determination, the soaring towards great heights, power and grandeur. The eagle holds in its talons the insignia of sovereignty, a mace (a reminder of Michael the Brave – the first unifier of the Romanian territories) and a sword (a reminder of Stephen the Great, a ruler of Moldavia). On the eagle’s chest there is a quartered escutcheon with the symbols of the five historical Romanian provinces as well as two dolphins reminding of the country’s Black Sea coast.

The shield on which the Eagle is placed is azure, symbolising the sky.

Description:
The shield surmounting the eagle is divided in five fields, one each for the historical provinces of Romania with its traditional symbol:

1)   Golden Aquila (eagle) – for Muntenia. In the first quarter, Muntenia’s Coat of Arms is shown consisting of  an Aquila holding in its beak a golden Orthodox cross, accompanied by a golden sun on the right and a golden new moon on the left, displayed against an azure background.

2)   Aurochs (Bull) – for Moldavia (comprising of Moldova, Bucovina, Maramures and Basarabia). In the second quarter, Moldavia’s traditional Coat of Arms is shown, gules (red), with an Auroch’s head sable with a mullet (star) of or between its horns, a cinquefoil rose on the dexter (to the Right of the Coat-of Arms bearer)and a waning crescent on the sinister (to the left of the Coat of Arms bearer), both argent (silver).

3)   Lion & a bridge – Oltenia and Banat (Oltenia, Banat and Timoc). The third quarter features the traditional Coat of Arms of Banat & Oldenia, gules (red), over waves, a golden bridge with two arched openings (symbolising Roman emperor Trajan’s bridge over the Danube), wherefrom comes a golden lion holding a broadsword in its right forepaw.

4)   Black Aquila (eagle), seven castles, sun and moon – for Transylvania. The fourth quarter features the Coat of Arms of Transylvania, Maramures and Crisana, which is a shield parted by a narrow fesse, gules (red), in the chief, on azure, there is a black Aquila coming out of the fesse, accompanied by a golden sun on the dexter and a crescent argent on the sinister (symbolising the Szekelys. On the base, on or, there are seven cernellated towers, placed four and three (symbolising the Saxons).

5)   Dolphins – for Dobrogea (Black Sea). These are the lands adjacent to the Black sea shown in azure represented by two dolphins affront, head down.

National Bank of Romania (NBR):

On 17.04.1880, it was mooted to establish a National Bank was announced in the Official Gazette.


A few years later, the NBR was established having the exclusive privilege of issuing Banknotes owned by the Romanian Government and some provinces/private corporations/individuals.


During 1890-1892, the NBR helped the Romanian Government in the development of laws which established a monetary system change by giving up bimetallism in favour of monometallism gold.

During World War I, the NBR was actively involved in supporting the National economy. After the War ended in 1918, the Central Bank responded to challenges like post war economic crisis, restoring convertibility, monetary unification/stabilization etc.

Between 1900 and 1925 the Government has given up most of its holding in the NBR but still exercised national priorities, in coordination with the NBR.

During World War II, the NBR supported the Government in spending required for military effort and taking measures to curb inflation and shoring up its own currency.

In 1946, the Communist Regime undertook Nationalisation and reorganisation of the NBR.

In 1948, the NBR became the RPR Bank or “Banca Republicii Populare Romane” (Popular Bank of Republic of Romania).

By 1957, the Bank which was subordinated to the Ministry of Finance was now governed by a Council of Ministers.

In 1965, the Bank was redesignated as the Banca Nationala a Republicii Socialiste Romania (National Bank for the Socialist Republic of Romania).

In 1990, the Bank resumed its original title – National Bank of Romania (NBR).

Joining the European Union:
Romania is required to replace the current National currency with the Euro once Romania fulfils the Euro convergence criteria. These criteria are in place so the European Union does not collapse like the Latin Monetary Union did several decades earlier.

It was expected that Romania would comply with at least four major convergence criteria (HICP inflation rate, Budget deficit to GDP, Debt to GDP ratio & Long term interest rate) by 2013, but was not in a position to join the European Exchange Rate mechanism (ERM-II) before 2014, which is the fifth criterion. Any country joining the European Union is expected to be an ERM-II member for a minimum of two years, thus making 2015, the earliest year when Romania may qualify for Euro adoption, although some estimates place the year of joining at not before 2017 or even 2020.

Whenever this happens, Romania would also have to amend its own      laws which require that the Romanian Coat of Arms should be used in all coin designs of the country.

(The Banknotes shown above are from the collection of Ajit George except for the 50 Lei Banknote which is from the collection of Jayant Biswas. Banknotes scanned and Article researched & written by Rajeev Prasad)


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