The lev is the basic monetary unit of the Balkan country, Bulgaria. It is divided into 100 stotinki. A cent is referred to as stotinka. The lev is known as BGL under the ISO 4217. It can be written as Lv.
The history of the lev (leva in plural form) is chronicled into four periods. The first period spanned from 1881 to 1952; the second from 1952-1962; the third in 1962-1999; and the fourth from 1999 up to the present.
Lev was introduced as Bulgaria’s currency in 1881. The first lev coins were introduced from 1881 to 1884. Mints of 2, 5 and 20 stotinki which were made from bronze were circulated as well as silver 50 stotinki coins, along with 1, 2 and 5 leva coins which were also made from silver. In 1888, cupro-nickel coins were introduced with denominations of 2 ½, 5, 10 and 20 stotinki. In 1894, gold 10 and 20 leva were made into circulation. In 1901, bronze 1 stotinka was made.
The stotinki and leva coins went through a series of reforms, mostly concerning their compositions. Current stotinki coins in general circulation are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki. The 1, 2 and 5 sotinki are made from brass-plated steel while the 10, 20 and 50 stotinki are made from cupro-nickel alloy. All the stotinki coins bear the Madara horseman on their obverse side. In 2002, 1 lev coin which is of bimetallic composition replaced the 1 lev banknotes. The lev coin has St. Ivan Rilski on its obverse.
The lev banknotes also has its own history beginning when the first notes were introduced by the Bulgarian National Bank in 1885 with denominations of 20 and 50 gold leva. In 1887, 100 gold leva was introduced followed by 5 and 10 gold leva in 1890. Several successions followed with regards to denominational changes as well as composition changes. In 1952, 3 leva notes were circulated, considering the fact that 3 is rarely used as a currency value.
Also in that year 500 lea notes were printed, however, they were not issued into public circulation. The biggest leva banknote ever issued was 50 000 leva which was printed in 1997. Current banknotes in circulation are 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva. 20 leva banknotes are commonly dispensed by ATMs.
The lev enjoys a currency exchange rate of 1.42 lev against the US dollar.
The lev’s etymology originated from the archaic Bulgarian word for lion. Lev will be a secondary currency in Bulgaria beginning 2013. Bulgaria will adopt the Euro as its new currency for being a new member of the European Union (EU).