Ethiopian Birr

The country of Ethiopia holds the Ethiopia birr as its official currency. A full history of the currency dates back to the year 1894. During the aforementioned year, the first currency of Ethiopia was called Menelik Talers. When the country was held captive by Italian forces, the currency was forcefully changed into the Italian lire until expulsion of these captors was achieved in the year 1942. In the year 1945, the Ethiopian birr was finally introduced. First, it was called the Ethiopian dollar; it was renamed birr in the late 1979.

The first Ethiopian birr was introduced with copper coins between the years 1894 and 1897. The denominations of such coins are as follows: 1/100 and 1/32 birr; the silver 1 ghersh, 1/8, ¼, ½ and 1 birr; and the gold ¼, ½, and 1 werk. By the year 1931, a new series of coins was produced and circulated. The coins that contained copper were the 1 and 5 metonnyas; nickel, on the other hand, was used in 10, 20, and 50 metonnyas.

In the year 1944, the second set of Ethiopian birr coins was introduced. There were the copper 1, 5, 10 and 25 santim, and the silver 50 santim. Issued in 1977, the second series consists of 1 santim in aluminum material; the brass made 5 and 10 santim; and the 25 and 50 santim made from cupronickel.

Aside from the Amharic legends, there are certain features that were inscribed in the Ehtiopian birr which made it stand out from other currencies. Early dated coins provided the feature of a crowned rampant lion holding a cross. Meanwhile, the later dated coins contained a roaring lion with a flowing mane.

As for the banknotes of Ethiopian birr, two sets of birr were also introduced – similar with the birr coins’ case. The first introduced birr, in the year 1915, was issued by the Bank of Abyssinia with the following denomination notes: 5, 10, 100 and 500 talari. The text on these notes were said to be in Amharic and French. Later, in the year 1929, the 50–talari note was circulated throughout the country. On the other hand, in the year 1932 the Bank of Ethiopia issued notes with denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 500 talari, as well. In 1933, a 2–talari note was made to honor an Imperial couple and by the end of 1934, almost 3.3 million talari notes circulated the entire Ethiopian country.

The second introduction of birr was made by the State Bank of Ethiopia in the year 1945. These notes were then denominated with the following: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 birr. In year 1966, the National Bank of Ethiopia reigned as the sole producer of all the birr note denominations except for the 500 birr.

In the current setting and time, Ethiopian birr is known to be the second most used currency in Africa with 88 million people using it. One US dollar is said to be equivalent to 16.73 birr.

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