The Lithuanian litas (plural litai or litų) is the currency
of Lithuania. It is divided into 100 centų. The litas was first introduced in 1922 after World War I, when Lithuania declared independence and was reintroduced on June 25, 1993, following a period of currency exchange
from the ruble to the litas with the temporary talonas then in place. The name was modeled after the name of the country (similarly to Latvia and its lats).
From 1994 to 2002, the litas was pegged to the U.S. dollar
at the rate of 4 to 1. Currently the litas is pegged to the euro
at the rate of 3.4528 to 1. The euro was expected to replace the litas by January 1, 2010, but due to the current rate of inflation and the economic crisis, this date will be delayed for another four years until 1 January 2014.
In 1993, coins were introduced (dated 1991) in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centų, 1, 2 and 5 litai. The 1, 2 and 5 centai pieces were minted in aluminium, the 10, 20 and 50 centų in bronze and the litas coins were of cupro-nickel. In 1997, nickel-brass 10, 20 and 50 centų coins were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel 1 litas and bimetallic 2 and 5 litai in 1998. All have the obverse designs showing the coat of arms in the center and the name of the state "Lietuva" in capital letters.
The first coins were minted in the United Kingdom and arrived in Lithuania on October 31, 1990. Currently, all coins are minted in the state-owned enterprise "Lithuanian Mint", which started its operations in September 1992 and helped to cut the costs of introducing the litas.
Summary information about Lithuanian litas
- ISO 4217 Code:
- Currency sign:
- 1 centas, 2 centai, 5 centai, 10 centai, 20 centai, 50 centai, 1 litas, 2 litai, 5 litai
- 10 litai, 20 litai, 50 litai, 100 litai, 200 litai, 500 litai
- Central bank:
- Bank of Lithuania
The first litas was introduced on October 2, 1922, replacing the ostmark and ostruble, both of which had been issued by the occupying German forces during World War I. The ostmark was known as the auksinas in Lithuania.
The litas was established at a value of 10 litas = 1US dollar and was subdivided into 100 centų. In the face of world wide economic depression, the litas appeared to be quite a strong and stable currency, reflecting the negligible influence of the depression on the Lithuanian economy. One litas was covered by 0.150462 grams of gold stored by the Bank of Lithuania
in foreign countries. In March 1923, the circulation amounted to 39,412,984 litai, backed by 15,738,964 in actual gold and by 24,000,000 in high exchange securities. It was required that at least one third of the total circulation would be covered by gold and the rest by other assets. By 1938, 1 U.S. dollar was worth about 5.9 litai, falling to about 20 U.S. cents before its disappearance in 1941.
The litas was replaced by the Soviet ruble in April 1941 after Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, with 1 litas equal to 0.9 ruble, although the actual value of the litas was about 3-5 rubles. Such an exchange rate
provided great profits for the military and party officials. Trying to protect the value of the currency, people started to massively buy which, together with a downfall in production (following nationalization), caused material shortages. Withdrawals were then limited to 250 litų before the litas was completely abolished.
Coins were introduced in 1925 in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centų, 1, 2 and 5 litai, with the litas coins in silver. 10 litų coins were introduced in 1936. All these coins were designed by the sculptor Juozas Zikaras (1881–1944). The litas coins displayed Jonas Basanavičius and Vytautas the Great, which was replaced by a portrait of President Antanas Smetona.
In 1922, the Bank of Lithuania issued notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centai, 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 litų. In 1924, 500 and 1000 litų notes were added. Denominations below 5 litai were replaced by coins in 1925.
The litas became Lithuania's currency once more on June 25, 1993, when it replaced the temporary talonas currency at a rate of 1 litas to 100 talonas.
Officials started to prepare for the introduction of the litas even before independence was declared, it was thought to introduce the litas alongside the ruble even if Lithuania remained a part of the Soviet Union. In December 1989, artists were asked to submit sketches of possible coin and banknote designs. Also, a list of famous people was compiled in order to determine who should be featured.
The Bank of Lithuania was established on March 1, 1990. Ten days later Lithuania declared independence. At first the Lithuanian government negotiated in vain with François Charles Oberthur, a press located in France to print the banknotes. In November 1990 The Bank of Lithuania decided to work with the United States Banknote Corporation (now American Banknote Corporation). In late fall, 1991 the first shipments of litas banknotes and coins arrived in Lithuania.
In November 1991, the Currency Issue Law was passed and the Litas Committee was created. It had the power to fix the date for the litas to come into circulation, the terms for the withdrawal from circulation of the ruble, the exchange rate of the litas and other conditions. Officials waited for a while for the economy to stabilize to not to expose the young litas to inflation. About 80% of Lithuania's trade was with Russia and the government needed to find a way to smooth the transition from the ruble zone. Also, Lithuania needed to gather funds to form a stabilization fund.
On June 25, 1993, the litas was finally introduced at the rate of 1 litas to 100 talonas. 1 U.S. dollar was worth 4.5 litai and decreased to about 4.2 a couple of weeks later. Even the introduction of the litas was followed by a scandal. The government allowed the changing of unlimited amounts of talonas to the litas without having to show the source of the talonas. This allowed criminal groups to legalize their funds.
In July, circulation of the talonas was stopped and on August 1, 1993, the litas became the only legal tender. Following the reintroduction of the litas, there was an effort to weed out U.S. dollars from the market. The talonas was never really trusted by the people and the ruble was very unstable. Thus, people started using U.S. dollars as a stable currency. Another alternative was the German mark, but it was not available in larger quantities. A lot of shops printed prices in several different currencies, including dollars, and the economy was very "dollarised" as it was legal to make trades in foreign currencies.
The modern banknotes of Lithuania are denominated in litas. All banknotes are of the same size (135 mm x 65 mm) except for the 500 litų banknote. They bear signatures of Minister of Finance and of Chairperson of the Bank of Lithuania Board. 10, 20, and 50 litų banknotes have 4 releases.
The banknotes are not printed in Lithuania. At first they were printed by the United States Banknote Corporation, later by the UK-based Thomas De La Rue and Co., Ltd. and the Germany-based Giesecke & Devrient GmbH.
LTL banknotes pictures gallery
|10 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 10 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 135×65 mm and main colors are manatee, old lace, light slate gray and lavender mist. |
Obverse side of the 10 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of aviators Steponas Darius and Stasys Girénas.
Reverse side of the 10 Lithuanian litai is showing the monoplane "Lituanica" crossing the Atlantic from New York City to Kaunas, the Map outline of Europe and North America, the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the National coat of arms - Vytis (Knight on horseback).
|20 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 20 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 135×65 mm and main colors are pastel purple, gainsboro, lavender mist and rosy brown. |
Obverse side of the 20 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of Romantic poet Maironis (Jonas Maciulis).
Reverse side of the 20 Lithuanian litai is showing the Statue of Liberty and Vytautas Magnus War Museum in Kaunas.
|50 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 50 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 135×65 mm and main colors are cinereous, tan, pale silver, champagne and khaki. |
Obverse side of the 50 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of the national patriarch, scholar, statesman and signatory of Lithuania's Declaration of Independence of February 16, 1918, Dr. Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927. Sometimes he is nicknamed as "father of independence" as he was the chairman of Council of Lithuania when the declaration was signed.
Reverse side of the 50 Lithuanian litai is showing the Vilnius Cathedral and its belfry, Monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, Gediminas Castle and Hill of Three Crosses. All these objects are considered as the heart of Vilnius and are strong national symbols.
|100 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 100 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 135×65 mm and main colors are grullo, desert sand, ash grey and platinum. |
Obverse side of the 100 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of Simonas Daukantas (1793–1864), the initiator of the national rebirth movement, historian, who wrote the first history of Lithuania in the Lithuanian language.
Reverse side of the 100 Lithuanian litai is showing the Vilnius Old Town, which is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The focus is the architectural ensemble of Vilnius University with St. John's Church and its belfry.
|200 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 200 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 135×65 mm and main colors are pale aqua, feldgrau, ucla blue, honeydew and splashed white. |
Obverse side of the 200 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of Vydūnas (real name Vilhelmas Storosta, 1868–1953), a prominent Lithuanian philosopher, writer, poet, playwright, musician, pedagogue and culture educator. He was spreading idealistic philosophy and ideas of humanism through his works.
Reverse side of the 200 Lithuanian litai is showing the Klaipėda (Memel) lighthouse erected in 1796 and reconstructed in 1819. The lighthouse was 29.2 m high and its beams stretched up to 35 kilometers. The lighthouse was a symbol of the city and was popular among tourists. However, it has not survived and is not well known today.
|500 Lithuanian litai|
|Banknote of 500 Lithuanian litai has dimensions 147×70 mm and main colors are rose gold, ruddy pink, terra cotta, peach puff and snow. |
Obverse side of the 500 Lithuanian litai is showing the portrait of Vincas Kudirka (1858–1899), a Lithuanian writer, participant of the national rebirth movement and author of Tautiška giesmė, the national anthem.
Reverse side of the 500 Lithuanian litai is showing the background of a view of Lithuanian nature and the Bell of the Freedom with the inscription: "Thou shall ring through the centuries to the children of Lithuania: he who does not defend freedom is not worthy of it".
- About Bank of Lithuania:
- Bank of Lithuania
- List of currencies:
- Security and design features of LTL banknotes:
- LTL banknotes
- LTL currency on Wikipedia:
- Lithuanian litas
- Official Website of Bank of Lithuania:
- Commemorative coins:
- Commemorative Coins