The Info List - Litas

The Lithuanian litas
Lithuanian litas
(ISO currency code LTL, symbolized as Lt; plural litai (nominative) or litų (genitive)) was the currency of Lithuania, until 1 January 2015, when it was replaced by the euro. It was divided into 100 centų (genitive case; singular centas, nominative plural centai). The litas was first introduced on 2 October 1922 after World War I, when Lithuania
declared independence and was reintroduced on 25 June 1993, following a period of currency exchange from the ruble to the litas with the temporary talonas then in place.[1] The name was modeled after the name of the country (similar to Latvia
and its lats). From 1994 to 2002, the litas was pegged to the U.S. dollar
U.S. dollar
at the rate of 4 to 1. The litas was pegged to the euro at the rate of 3.4528 to 1 since 2002. The euro was expected to replace the litas by January 1, 2007, but persistent high inflation and the economic crisis delayed the switch. On 1 January 2015 the litas was switched to the euro at the rate of 3.4528 to 1.[2]


1 First litas, 1922–1941

1.1 History

1.1.1 Memelgebiet 1.1.2 Soviet occupation

1.2 Coins 1.3 Banknotes

2 Second litas, 1993–2015

2.1 History

2.1.1 Preparatory work 2.1.2 Gathering funds 2.1.3 Delayed introduction of the litas 2.1.4 Introduction of the litas 2.1.5 The litas and the euro

2.2 Coins 2.3 Banknotes

3 See also 4 Notes 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links

First litas, 1922–1941[edit] History[edit] The first litas was introduced on 2 October 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 litų
10 litų
= 1 US dollar and was subdivided into 100 centų. In the face of worldwide 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 litas, backed by 15,738,964 in actual gold and by 24,000,000 in high exchange securities.[3] 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
U.S. dollar
was worth about 5.9 litai,[4] falling to about 20 U.S. cents before its disappearance in 1941.[5] Memelgebiet[edit] In March 1939 Nazi Germany demanded that Lithuania
give up the Klaipėda Region
Klaipėda Region
(also known as the Memel Territory), which had been detached from Germany after World War I. The Lithuanian government complied, and on 23 March 1939 the area was annexed by Germany. On the same day the reichsmark replaced the litas as the official currency of the region, with 1 litas being exchanged for 40 pfennig. Until 20 May 1939 inhabitants of the Memelgebiet could exchange litas for reichsmarks.[6] Soviet occupation[edit] The litas was replaced by the Soviet ruble
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[7] before the litas was completely abolished. Coins[edit]

Interwar 10 litas coin, depicting Vytautas the Great

Coins were introduced in 1925 in denominations of 1 centas, 2 centai, 5 centai, 10, 20, 50 centų, and 1 litas, 2 litu, 5 litai, with the litas coins in silver. 10 litų
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
Jonas Basanavičius
and Vytautas the Great, which was replaced by a portrait of President Antanas Smetona. Banknotes[edit]

10 litas banknote (1922)

In 1922, the Bank of Lithuania
issued notes in denominations of 1 centas, 2 centu, 5 centai, 10, 20, 50 centų, and 1 litas, 2 litu, 5 litai, 10, 50, 100 litų. In 1924, 500 and 1000 litų notes were added. Denominations below 5 litai were replaced by coins in 1925.

10.09.1922 Issue

Image Denomination Obverse Reverse

[1] 1 centas

Coat of arms of Lithuania

[2] 5 centai

Coat of arms of Lithuania

[3] 20 centų

Coat of arms of Lithuania

[4] 50 centų

Coat of arms of Lithuania

[5] 1 litas

Coat of arms of Lithuania

[6] 5 litai

Coat of arms of Lithuania

16.11.1922 Issue

Image Denomination Obverse Reverse

[7] 1 centas

[8] 2 centu

[9] 5 centai

[10] 10 centų

[11] 20 centų Coat of arms of Lithuania

[12] 50 centų Coat of arms of Lithuania

[13] 1 litas Coat of arms of Lithuania

[14] 2 litu Coat of arms of Lithuania

[15] 5 litai Portrait of a woman at the spinning wheel Sower

[16] 10 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania, Timber rafting Two women

[17] 50 litų Arms of Kaunas, Vilnius
and Klaipėda, Grand Duke Gediminas Vilnius
Cathedral and its belfry

[18] 100 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great Two women

1924–1928 Issue

Image Denomination Obverse Reverse

[19] 10 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania Fieldwork

[20] 50 litų Dr. Jonas Basanavičius Vilnius

[21] 100 litų Lithuanian woman in traditional dress Bank of Lithuania

[22] 500 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania

[23] 1000 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania

1929–1930 "500 Years Vytautas the Great" Commemorative Issues

Image Denomination Obverse Reverse

[24] 5 litai Coat of arms of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great Battle of Grunwald

[25] 20 litų Coat of arms of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great, Vytautas' the Great Church Statue of Liberty, Klaipėda

1938 "20 Years of Independence" Commemorative Issue

Image Denomination Obverse Reverse

[26] 10 litų Antanas Smetona
Antanas Smetona
1st President of Lithuania The original 20 members of the Council of Lithuania
after signing the Act of Independence of Lithuania
or Act of February 16, 1918

Second litas, 1993–2015[edit] 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. History[edit] Preparatory work[edit] 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.[8] In December 1989, artists were asked to submit sketches of possible co in 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 1 March 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. Gathering funds[edit] At first, Lithuania
did not have gold or any other securities to back up the litas. Lithuania
needed to find about 200 million U.S. dollars to form the stabilization fund. First, it sought to recover its pre-war gold reserves (about 10 tons) from France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, etc. In the interwar period Lithuania
stored its gold reserve in foreign banks. After the occupation in 1940 those reserves were “nobody’s”: there was no Lithuania
and most Western countries condemned the occupation as illegal and did not recognize the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
as a successor. The Bank of England, for example, sold the reserves to the Soviets in 1967. However, in January 1992 it announced that this action was a “betrayal of the people of the Baltic states” and that it would return the originally deposited amount of gold, now worth about 90 million pounds sterling, to the three Baltic states. Lithuania
received 18.5 million pounds or 95,000 ounces of gold and remained a customer of the bank. Similarly, in March 1992 Lithuania
reclaimed gold from the Bank of France and later from the Bank of Sweden. In October 1992, the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
( Lithuania
joined this organization on April 29, 1992) granted the first loan of 23.05 million U.S. dollars[9] to create the stabilization fund. However, it is estimated that at the time of the introduction of the new currency, Lithuania
managed to gather only $120 million for the stabilization fund. For a brief while it was kept a secret so as not to further damage the reputation and trust in of the litas. Delayed introduction of the litas[edit] Lietuvos Rytas
Lietuvos Rytas
journalists investigated the production of the litas and found that for a while it was purposely held back. For example, 6 million litas designated to pay for printing the banknotes stayed in a zero interest bearing account for a year in a bank in Sweden. By 1992, the litas was ready for introduction, but the banknotes were of extremely low quality (one could easily counterfeit them with a simple color printer; especially the 10, 20, and 50 litų banknotes). Newly elected President Algirdas Brazauskas
Algirdas Brazauskas
dismissed the Chair of the Bank of Lithuania, Vilius Baldišis, for incompetence just two months before the introduction of the litas. Baldišis was later charged for negligence that cost Lithuania
$3,000,000. Some claim that the Russian secret services were behind the affair. Baldišis’ explanation was that he was trying to cut the costs of printing the banknotes and thus did not order better security features. Also, “U.S. Banknote Corporation” was accused of violation of the contract terms. But when the new issue of litas banknotes was redesigned, reprinted, and introduced in June 1993, it was found that the quality of the money was still too low and the banknotes would have to be redesigned further in the future. All these scandals and the small backup of gold reserve (about $120 million instead of $200 million) damaged the reputation of the litas. The newly appointed chair, Romualdas Visokavičius, moved things quickly and managed to win the trust of the public. However, in October he was asked to resign mostly because of his involvement with a private bank "Litimpex." Introduction of the litas[edit]

Official litas and U.S. dollar
U.S. dollar
exchange rate June 1993 – March 1994 according to statistics published by the Bank of Lithuania

On 25 June 1993, the litas was finally introduced at the rate of 1 litas to 100 talonas. 1 U.S. dollar
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 1 August 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 “dollarized” as it was legal to make trades in foreign currencies.

Early litas lacked necessary protection

Due to poor banknote quality (both talonas and early litas) it was easy to counterfeit them. Most shops were forced to acquire ultra violet lamps to check for forgeries. One group, for example, printed 500 talonas banknotes in Turkey. It is estimated that their notes totaled 140,000 litas.[10] From 1 April 1994 to 1 February 2002, the litas was pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of 4 to 1 (the litas was stable around 3.9 for half a year before the rate was fixed). The main reasons for this fixation was little trust in the emerging monetary system, fear of high fluctuations in currency exchange rates, desire to attract foreign investors, and International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
recommendations. The peg was renewable every year. For a while a peg was considered to a basket of currencies: the European Currency
Unit. At around this time Lithuania
also established a currency board. The litas and the euro[edit] On 2 February 2002 the litas was pegged to the euro at a rate of 3.4528 to 1 (1 LTL = 0.28962 EUR); this rate was not expected to change – and indeed did not – until the litas was completely replaced by the euro on 1 January 2015.[11] After the peg, Lithuania became a member of the Eurozone
de facto. The litas became part of the ERM II on 28 June 2004.[12] the EU's exchange rate mechanism. The design of Lithuanian euro coins
Lithuanian euro coins
had already been prepared. Lithuania
postponed its euro day several times, since the country did not meet the convergence criteria. High inflation—which reached 11% in October 2008, well above then acceptable limit of 4.2%[13]—contributed to Lithuania's failure to meet the criteria. In 2011, polls showed narrow opposition to the currency.[14] On 23 July 2014, the Council of the European Union
Council of the European Union
adopted a decision allowing Lithuania
to adopt the euro as its currency on 1 January 2015.[11] Litas and euro were both legal tender in Lithuania
until 16 January 2015.


Lithuanian litas
Lithuanian litas

Main article: Coins of the Lithuanian litas In 1993, coins were introduced (dated 1991) in denominations of 1 centas, 2, 5 centai, 10, 20, 50 centų, and 1 litas, 2, 5 litai. The 1 centas, 2, 5 centai pieces were minted in aluminium, the 10, 20, 50 centų in bronze and the litas coins were of cupro-nickel. In 1997, nickel-brass 10, 20, 50 centų coins were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel 1 litas, bimetallic 2 and 5 litai in 1998. All had 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
United Kingdom
and arrived in Lithuania
on 31 October 1990. Later, all coins were 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. Banknotes[edit] Main article: Banknotes of the Lithuanian litas In 1993, banknotes (dated 1991) were issued in denominations of 1 litas, 2, 5 litai, 10, 20, 50, 100 litų. Due to poor designs, these were found to be easily copied and a second series of notes was swiftly introduced in denominations of 1 litas, 2, 5 litai, 10, 20, 50 litų, with only the 100 litų notes of the first series remaining in circulation. 200 litų notes were introduced in 1997, followed by 500 litų in 2000.

Current LTL exchange rates






See also[edit]

Numismatics portal

Lithuanian euro coins Lithuanian grammar: Noun modification by numeral — usage of forms litas, litai, litų Economy of Lithuania


^ Linzmayer, Owen (2013). "Lithuania". The Banknote Book. San Francisco, CA.  ^ "Lithuanian government endorses euro introduction plan". en.15min.lt. 25 February 2013.  ^ Germany Deaf to Currency
Reform, New York Times, March 5, 1923, page 22 ^ Vidas Žigas (2002). "Nenukalto auksinio penkiasdešimtličio istorija". Mokslas ir Gyvenimas (in Lithuanian) (9). Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-01-13.  ^ Tom Walker & Anatol Lieven (1991-09-07). "Foreign ministers welcome Baltic states
Baltic states
but offer little financial help". The Times.  ^ "ALEX – Historische Österreichische Rechts- und Gesetzestext online – Suche". onb.ac.at.  ^ Romuald J. Misiunas and Rein Taagepera
Rein Taagepera
(1993). The Baltic States. University of California Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-520-08228-1.  ^ Peter Gumbel (1989-07-21). "Soviets Are at a Loss About Ethnic Unrest". The Wall Street Journal.  ^ Republic of Lithuania
Government (1993-02-03). "LIETUVOS RESPUBLIKOS VYRIAUSYBĖ POTVARKIS". Retrieved 2007-01-03.  ^ "Forged Coupons Printed in Turkey". BBC Monitoring Service:Former USSR. 1993-08-27.  ^ a b " Lithuania
to adopt euro on 1 January 2015" (PDF) (Press release). Council of the European Union. 2014-07-23. Retrieved 2014-10-20.  ^ " Lithuanian litas
Lithuanian litas
included in the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II)". ECB. Retrieved 22 December 2008.  ^ "SEB: no euro for Lithuania
before 2013". The Baltic Course. Retrieved 22 December 2008.  ^ "Lithuania's anti-euro camp outstrips supporters: poll". eubusiness.com. 


Alister Doyle (1992-03-09). " Lithuania
Is Likely to Peg Currency
to Dlr". Reuters.  Peter Rodgers (1992-01-23). " Baltic states
Baltic states
repaid #90m in bullion". The Independent.  Kurt Schuler; George Selgin & Joseph Sinkey, Jr. (1991-10-28). "Replacing the Ruble in Lithuania: Real Change versus Pseudoreform". Cato Policy Analysis (163). Archived from the original on 2006-12-11. Retrieved 2007-01-03. 

Further reading[edit]

Documentaries directed by Rimtautas Šilinis "Iš lito istorijos: Banknotai" (From History of the Litas: Banknotes (2004)) and "Iš lito istorijos: Monetos" (From History of the Litas: Coins (2002)) Bronė Vainauskienė, "Skandalingoji lito istorija" (Scandalous History of Litas (2003)) – collection of articles by Lietuvos Rytas journalist who spend 6 years investigating the history of the litas in the early years of independence. ISBN 9986-448-12-3

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lithuanian litas.

Bank of Lithuania
official website Lithuanian Coin Catalog Historical banknotes of Lithuania
(in English) (in German)

First litas

Preceded by: German Ostmark
German Ostmark
and German Ostruble a.k.a. Lithuanian auksinas Reason: independence (in 1918) Currency
of Lithuania 1922 – 1941 Succeeded by: Soviet ruble Reason: annexation

Second litas

Preceded by: Lithuanian talonas Reason: replacement of temporary currency Currency
of Lithuania 1993 – 2015 Succeeded by: Euro Reason: joining the eurozone Ratio: 1 euro = 3.4528 litai

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