Bulgarian lev

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Bulgarian lev
Български лев  (Bulgarian)
The First Bulgarian Banknote Frontside.png
The first Bulgarian banknote, 1885
ISO 4217
Plural levove, numeric: leva
Symbol лв. (lv.)
stotinkaст. (st.)
Nicknamekint [1]
Banknotes5, 10, 20, 50, 100 leva
Coins1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 st., 1 lev, 2 leva
Date of introduction4 June 1880 (1880-06-04)
User(s)Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
Flag of the IMRO.svg Independent Macedonia (briefly in 1944)
Flag of PR of Macedonia.svg  Democratic Federal Macedonia (1944–1945)
Central bank Bulgarian National Bank
Website www.bnb.bg
Mint Bulgarian Mint
Website www.mint.bg
Inflation 1.8% (2020)
Pegged with Euro (€) = 1.95583 leva
Since10 July 2020
Replaced by €, non cash2022/3
Replaced by €, cash1 January 2024
=BGN 1.95583 [2]
Band15.0% de jure; 0.0% de facto

The lev (Bulgarian : лев, plural: лева, левове / leva, [3] levove; ISO 4217 code: BGN; numeric code: 975) is the currency of Bulgaria. In old Bulgarian the word "lev" meant "lion", the word 'lion' in the modern language is lаv (IPA:  [ɫɤf] ; in Bulgarian: лъв). The lev is divided in 100 stotinki (стотинки, singular: stotinka, стотинка). Stotinka in Bulgarian means "a hundredth" and in fact is a translation of the French term "centime". Grammatically the word "stotinka" comes from the word "sto" (сто) - a hundred.


Since 1997, the lev has been in a currency board arrangement with initially the Deutsche Mark at a fixed rate of BGL 1000 to DEM 1. After the introduction of the euro and the redenomination of the lev in 1999, this has resulted in a fixed rate to the euro of BGN 1.95583 : EUR 1. Since 2020, the lev has been a part of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) and is scheduled to go with the change to the euro in 2024, which means that 2023 will be the final year for the Bulgarian lev.


The name of the currency means "lion", and is derived from the Dutch thaler (leeuwendaalder "lion thaler/dollar"). [4] [5] [6] The Dutch leeuwendaalder was imitated in several German and Italian cities. These coins circulated in Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova and gave their name to the respective currencies the Bulgarian lev, Romanian leu , and Moldovan leu . [7]

Dutch Thaler, depicting a lion, the origin of the Bulgarian "Lev" Loewentaler.jpg
Dutch Thaler, depicting a lion, the origin of the Bulgarian "Lev"


First lev (1881–1952)

The lev was introduced as Bulgaria's currency in 1881 with a value equal to the French franc. The gold standard was suspended between 1899 and 1906 and suspended again in 1912. Until 1916, Bulgaria's silver and gold coins were issued to the same specifications as those of the Latin Monetary Union. Banknotes issued until 1928 were backed by gold ("leva zlato" or "zlatni", "лева злато" or "златни") or silver ("leva srebro" or "srebarni", "лева сребро" or "сребърни").

In 1928, a new gold standard of 1 lev = 10.86956 mg gold was established.

During World War II, in 1940, the lev was pegged to the German Reichsmark at a rate of 32.75 leva = 1 Reichsmark. With the Soviet occupation in September 1944, the lev was pegged to the Soviet ruble at 15 leva = 1 ruble. A series of pegs to the U.S. dollar followed: 120 leva = 1 dollar in October 1945, 286.50 leva in December 1945 and 143.25 leva in March 1947. No coins were issued after 1943; only banknotes were issued until the currency reform of 1952.


1883, 50 stotinki (the hole seen was punched through the coin to enable its wearing as an ornament, and is not standard) Stotinki-1883.jpg
1883, 50 stotinki (the hole seen was punched through the coin to enable its wearing as an ornament, and is not standard)
1912 20 stotinki Bulgaria 20 stotinka.JPG
1912 20 stotinki
1884 5 leva BULGARIA -5 LEVA 1884 a - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg
1884 5 leva

Between 1881 and 1884, bronze 2, 5 and 20 stotinki, and silver 50 stotinki, 1, 2 and 5 leva were introduced, followed, in 1888, by cupro-nickel 2+12, 5, 10 and 20 stotinki. Gold 10 and 20 leva were issued in 1894. Bronze 1 stotinka were introduced in 1901.

Production of silver coins ceased in 1916, with zinc replacing cupro-nickel in the 5, 10 and 20 stotinki in 1917. In 1923, aluminum 1 and 2 leva coins were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel pieces in 1925. In 1930, cupro-nickel 5 and 10 leva and silver 20, 50 and 100 leva were introduced, with silver coins issued until 1937, in which year aluminium-bronze 50 stotinki were issued.

In 1940, cupro-nickel 20 and 50 leva were issued, followed, in 1941, by iron 1, 2, 5 and 10 leva. In 1943, nickel-clad-steel 5, 10 and 50 leva were struck. These were the last coins issued for this version of the lev.


500 Leva banknote of 1942, Tsar Boris III Banknotes of Bulgaria 500 Leva banknote of 1942, Boris III.jpg
500 Leva banknote of 1942, Tsar Boris III

In 1885, the Bulgarian National Bank introduced notes for 20 and 50 gold leva, followed in 1887 by 100 gold leva and, in 1890, by 5 and 10 gold leva notes. In 1899, 5, 10 and 50 silver leva notes were issued, followed by 100 and 500 silver leva in 1906 and 1907, respectively. 500 gold leva notes were also introduced in 1907.

In 1916, 1 and 2 silver leva and 1000 gold leva notes were introduced, followed by 2500 and 10,000 gold leva notes in 1919. In 1924, 5000 leva notes were issued, the first to lack a metal designation. In 1928, a new series of notes (dated 1922 and 1925) was introduced which gave the denominations solely in leva. Denominations introduced were 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 leva. These were followed in 1929 by 200 and 250 leva.

In 1930, coins up to 100 leva replaced notes, although 20-lev notes were issued between 1943 and 1950. Between 1943 and 1945, State Treasury Bills for 1000 and 5000 leva were issued.

Second lev (1952–1962)

In 1952, following wartime inflation, a new lev replaced the original lev at a rate of 1 "new" lev = 100 "old" leva. However the rate for banking accounts was different, ranging from 100:3 to 200:1. Prices for goods were replaced at a rate of 25:1. [8] The new lev was pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 6.8 leva = 1 dollar, falling to 9.52 leva on July 29, 1957.


In 1952, coins (dated 1951) were introduced in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10 and 25 stotinki, with the lower three denominations in brass and the higher three in cupro-nickel. Shortly after, cupro-nickel 20 stotinki coins dated 1952 were also issued, followed by 50 stotinki in 1959 and 1 lev in 1960 which replaced the 1 lev note (both also in cupro-nickel). All stotinki coins feature a head of wheat around denomination on the reverse and state emblem on the obverse, while the lev coin depicts an olive branch wreath around the denomination.


In 1952, state notes (dated 1951) [9] were issued in 1, 3 and 5 leva, together with notes of the National Bank for 10, 25, 50, 100 and 200 leva. 500-lev notes were printed but not issued. 1 lev notes were withdrawn after the introduction of a coin in 1960. 1, 3, and 5 leva depict the state emblem, while all denominations 10 leva and up depict Georgi Dimitrov, who had a postmortem cult of personality built up around him by that time period. The reverse side of 1 lev, 3 and 5 leva notes depict hands holding up the hammer and sickle, while higher denominations each depict workers at various trades.

Third lev (1962–1999)

In 1962, another redenomination took place at the rate of 10 to 1, setting the exchange rate at 1.17 leva = 1 U. S. dollar, with the tourist rate falling to 2 leva on February 1, 1964. The ISO 4217 code was BGL. After this, the lev remained fairly stable for almost three decades. However, like other Communist countries' currencies, it was not freely convertible for Western funds. Consequently, black market rates were five to ten times higher than the official rate. During the period, until 1989 the lev was backed by gold, and the banknotes have the text stating: "The bank note is backed by gold and all assets of the bank" (Bulgarian : "Банкнотата е обезпечена със злато и всички активи на банката").

After the fall of communism, Bulgaria experienced several episodes of drastic inflation and currency devaluation. In order to change this, in 1997, the lev was pegged to the Deutsche Mark, with 1,000 lev equal to 1 DM (one lev equal to 0.1 pfennig).

Since 1997, Bulgaria has been in a system of currency board, and all Bulgarian currency in circulation has been completely backed by the foreign exchange reserves of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB).


In 1962, aluminum-bronze 1, 2, and 5 stotinki, and nickel-brass 10, 20 and 50 stotinki and 1 lev were introduced. The coin series strongly resembles coinage from the Soviet Union during the same period, particularly in design and size.

The state emblem is depicted on the obverse of all coins, which went through several changes. The first change in 1962 with the introduction of the new coinage, and the second change in 1974, with the ribbons being the most noticeable change.

A number of commemorative 2 leva coins also circulated during this period, often released into circulation as they had relatively high production numbers and little collector's value. Higher denomination lev coins have also been introduced into circulation at an irregular basis with varying sizes and metallic compositions, including silver. Mostly due to an overstock of numismatic coins not getting sold to collectors. Similar occurrences to this can be seen with high denomination coins from East Germany and Poland during the same period.

Communist era coins
ImageDenominationDiameterWeightCompositionObverseReverseMinted Year
1 stotinka15.2 mm1 gBrassCoat of ArmsDenomination and date1962-90
2 stotinki18.1 mm2 g
5 stotinki22.35 mm3.1 g
10 stotinki17.1 mm1.8 gNickel-brass
20 stotinki21.2 mm2.9 g
50 stotinki23.3 mm4.2 g
1 lev24 mm4.8 g
Post-communist coins

In 1992, after the communist era, older coins were withdrawn and a new coinage was introduced in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 stotinki, 1, 2, 5 and 10 leva. All were struck in nickel-brass except for the cupro-nickel 10 leva. In 1997, nickel-brass 10, 20 and 50 leva were introduced.


In 1962, the National Bank issued notes for 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 leva. A second series, in the same denominations, was issued in 1974. 50 leva notes were introduced in 1990. Again, denominations 10 leva and up featured Georgi Dimitrov, 1, 2, and 5 featured the state emblem. After the fall of the communist regime, new notes were introduced for 20, 50, 100 and 200 leva. These were followed by 500 leva notes in 1993, 1000 and 2000 leva in 1994, 5000 and 10,000 leva in 1996 (re-released with new design and look in 1997), and 50,000 leva in 1997. Furthermore, two new banknotes of 20,000 and 100,000 leva were scheduled to be introduced in 1997 and 1998, but their production was canceled following the introduction of currency board in 1997. [10] [11]

Fourth lev (1999–present)

On 5 July 1999 the lev was redenominated at 1000:1 with 1 new lev equal to 1 Deutsche Mark. [12] The ISO 4217 currency code for the new Bulgarian lev is BGN. The lev is pegged at €1 = 1.95583 leva (previously DEM 1 = BGN 1, continuing the fixed exchange rate from the third lev).

Euro adoption

Since Bulgaria gained EU membership in 2007 various dates have been suggested as the expected end of the lev: towards the end of that year 1 January 2012 was a possible date; [13] however, the global financial crisis of 2008 and the Eurozone crisis cooled the initial enthusiasm for the euro. Nevertheless, in 2009 The Economist noted suggestions to accelerate Bulgaria's path to the euro, or even let it be adopted immediately, despite the EU institutions' unwillingness to deviate from a policy of euro adoption only after five Euro convergence criteria have been met. [14] In 2011 the Bulgarian finance minister Simeon Djankov acknowledged his earlier eagerness for Bulgaria to join the euro, but considered 2015 as a more likely date. [15] If Bulgaria follows the standard path to euro adoption, it would use the euro two years after joining the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM II) (a formality given the lev's peg to the euro). In late 2010, given Bulgaria's improving economy, analysts thought that Bulgaria would join the ERM II the following year. [16] However, the continued postponement of joining the mechanism has prevented Bulgaria meeting all five convergence criteria: its rebounding economy later met the four other criteria. [17]

On 10 July 2020, along with Croatia, Bulgaria joined the ERM II, which allows it to adopt the euro no earlier than two years after joining assuming the other convergence criteria are met.


In 1999, coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki were introduced. [18] A 1 lev coin replaced the 1 lev banknote 2002, and a 2 lev coin the 2 lev banknote in 2015.

Coins of the fourth lev (1999–present) [19]
ImageValueTechnical parametersDescriptionDate of
1 stotinka16 mm1.8gCuAlNiPlainValue, year, twelve stars as symbol of Europe.Country name, Madara Rider 1999
5 July 1999 [18] Current
2 stotinki18 mm2.5 g
5 stotinki20 mm3.5 g
10 stotinki18.5 mm3.0 gCuNiZnreeded1999
20 stotinki20.5 mm4.0 g
50 stotinki22.5 mm5.0 g
1 lev24.5 mm7.0 gBimetallic: copper-nickel center in brass ringAlternating smooth and reeded segmentsValue, year, graphical pattern of two crossing lines.Country name, saint Ivan Rilski 20022 September 2002 [20]
2 leva26.5 mm9.0 gBimetallic: nickel brass center in copper-nickel ringSegmented reedingCountry name, Paisius of Hilendar 20157 December 2015 [21]
These images are to scale at 2.5 pixels per millimetre. For table standards, see the coin specification table.
Commemorative coins

In 2004, 2005, and 2007 commemorative circulation issues were struck of the 50 stotinkas coin. [19] In 2018 a commemorative circulation issue of the 2 leva coin was issued. These coins are not found in general circulation.

Many commercial commemorative coins have also been minted.


In 1999, banknotes were introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 leva. 100 leva notes were added in 2003. The 1 and 2 lev notes were later replaced by coins of similar value and withdrawn from circulation.

Banknotes of the fourth leva (1999–present) [19]
ImageValueDimensionsDescriptionDate of
1 lev112 × 60 mm Ivan Rilski Rila Monastery Rampant lion19995 July 19991 January 2016 [22] Indefinitely
2 leva116 × 64 mm Paisiy Hilendarski Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya 1999
1 January 2021 [23]
5 leva121 × 67 mm Ivan Milev Paintings by Ivan MilevIvan Milev1999
10 leva126 × 70 mm Petar Beron Astronomical instrumentsPetar Beron1999
20 leva131 × 73 mm Stefan Stambolov Orlov most, Lavov most Stefan Stambolov1999
50 leva136 × 76 mm Pencho Slaveykov Poems by Pencho SlaveykovPencho Slaveykov1999
100 leva141 × 79 mm Aleko Konstantinov Aleko Konstantinov; his work "Bay Ganyo"Aleko Konstantinov2003
8 December 2003 [24]
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixel per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

Exchange rates

The fourth lev was pegged to the German mark at par from the start. With the replacement of the Deutsche Mark by the euro, the lev's peg effectively switched to the euro at the rate of 1.95583 leva = 1 euro (precisely equivalent to the German mark's fixed exchange rate to euro). This rate is unlikely to change before the lev's eventual retirement.

Current BGN exchange rates

See also


  1. The nickname for lev can be both kint (masc) and kinta (fem), inflected accordingly for plurals and numerical values (kinta, kinti); stotinka – which literally simply means hundredth (diminutive) – is usually shortened to stinka.
  2. Bank, European Central (10 July 2020). "Communiqué on Bulgaria".
  3. "Lev - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  4. Euro Exhibition - Opening Speech by Mugur Isărescu, NBR Governor, BNR.ro
  5. Numismatic issue - a set of three collector coins dedicated to 140 years since the establishment of military communications, BNR.ro
  6. Romanian New Leu, oanda.com
  7. "Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com.
  8. "Нула = Нищо. А Три Нули?". Euro2001.net. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  9. "BULGARIA 500 LEVA 1951". Banknotesinfo.com. 12 May 1952. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  10. Capital.bg. "Нова банкнота от 10 хил. лева влиза в употреба" [New banknote of 10 thousand leva enters in circulation.]. www.capital.bg (in Bulgarian). Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  11. "НОМИНАЛИТЕ НА ДЕМОКРАЦИЯТА" [The nominals of the democracy]. www.banker.bg (in Bulgarian). Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  12. "Prof. Dr. Ivan Angelov: Bulgaria needs a managed floating exchange rate" . Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  13. "Bulgaria's budget of reform". The Sofia Echo. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
  14. "The bill that could break up Europe". The Economist. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  15. "Bulgaria puts off Eurozone membership for 2015". Radio Bulgaria. 26 July 2011. Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  16. "The world in figures: Countries: Bulgaria". The Economist. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  17. "Convergence Report May 2012" (PDF). European Central Bank. 25 May 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  18. 1 2 National Bank of Bulgaria. Annual Report 1999. Available at: http://www.bnb.bg/bnbweb/groups/public/documents/bnb_publication/p_anualreports_1999_en.pdf
  19. 1 2 3 National Bank of Bulgaria. Available at: http://www.bnb.bg/NotesAndCoins/NACCoinsCurrency/index.htm
  20. National Bank of Bulgaria. Annual Report 2002. Available at: http://www.bnb.bg/bnbweb/groups/public/documents/bnb_publication/p_anualreports_2002_en.pdf
  21. National Bank of Bulgaria. Press release: Today BNB presented a new circulation coin of 2 levs nominal value, issue 2015. Available at: https://www.bnb.bg/PressOffice/POPressReleases/POPRDate/PR_20151126_2LV_EN
  22. Bulgarian national bank. Press release. Available at https://www.bnb.bg/PressOffice/POPressReleases/POPRDate/PR_20151212_EN
  23. Bulgarian national bank. Press release. Available at https://www.bnb.bg/PressOffice/POPressReleases/POPRDate/PR_20201229_EN
  24. National Bank of Bulgaria. Annual Report 2003. Available at: http://www.bnb.bg/bnbweb/groups/public/documents/bnb_publication/p_anualreports_2003_en.pdf

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