Quetzal is the currency of Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America. It is divided into 100 cents known as centavos in the Spanish language, or lenes in native Guatemalan. It is GTQ under the currency codes. It can be written as Q.
The Guatemalan quetzal was first used in 1925 during the regime of the then President Jose Maria Orellana. It replaced the peso which was the country’s official currency at that time. Coins with centavo denominations of 1, 5, and 10 were introduced as well as ¼ and ½, and the 1 quetzal coins. 2 centavo coins were introduced in 1932. 5-centavo coins and above were minted in 72% silver until 1965.
During those span of time, most of the 1 quetzal coins were dropped from circulation. However, in 1998 until 1999, ½ and 1 quetzal coins were made into circulation again. Currently, coins in general circulation are 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos coins, as well as 1 quetzal.
The issuance of Guatemalan Quetzal banknotes is the task of the country’s Central Bank. Denominations were 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 quetzales. In 1933, the Central Bank added ½ quetzal notes. When the Bank of Guatemala gained control of banknotes issuance in 1946, the first issues were overprints on the previous notes issued by the Central Bank.
In 1967, 50 quetzales notes were introduced. In 2007, a polymer banknote of 20 quetzales was introduced. Current denominations in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 quetzales. In years to come, 500 and 1000 bills would be seen in circulation pending the approval of the congress.
Until 1987, the quetzal enjoyed strong exchange rate with the US dollar, with 1 quetzal equally pegged to 1 US dollar. The exchange rate for every US dollar is pegged at 7.77 quetzales.
The quetzal got its name after the national bird of Guatemala, which has the same name. Going back to the ancient Mayan culture, the feathers of the quetzal were used as currency.
Quite interesting with the quetzal notes were the reverse images, most of which contain allegories of things like coffee in 50 quetzales and marimba in 200 quetzales. These things have important contribution to the country’s history of development. Another interesting fact about quetzal notes is the representation of every note in Mayan numerals at the top right corner of the notes obverse face.