The lek has been Albania’s one and only national currency since the 1920s, surviving a world war, fascism, and communism. Today Albania’s economy is enjoying strong growth thanks to liberalisation in the post-communist era.
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- Currency of Albania: Albanian lek (plural: lekë)
- Albania Currency Code: ALL
- ALL Symbol: L
- ALL Subunits: 1/100 qindarka (no longer in circulation)
- ALL Notes: 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 leke
- ALL Coins: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 leke
- Albania Central Bank: Bank of Albania
- Albania GDP (nominal): $14.520 billion
Albania, prior to the introduction of the lek in 1926, had no national currency. Coins of the ancient Illyrian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Bulgarian empires would have circulated throughout the region, and eventually the Ottoman piastre circulated until WWI. During and following the First World War, the country was occupied by European powers and the Franc Germinal circulated. Beginning in 1923 both Italian currency and the Greek drachma were used in parts of the country.
The lek’s name is derived from Leka, the Albanian shortened name for Alexander the Great. From 1926 to 1939 Albanian gold currency also circulated, worth 5 leke the gold currency was called franga.
In 1939 Italy, under the reign of Mussolini, invaded Albania and issued its own lek with Italian imagery. After the Second World War new socialist notes and coins were introduced. Notes and coins emblazoned with socialist imagery were issued by the communist government until the 1991 revolution.
|1 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Year, a pelican, and “Republika e Shqipërisë” (Republic of Albania in Albanian)||Plain edge|
|5 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Year, eagle from the Albanian flag, “Republika e Shqipërisë”||Plain edge|
|10 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Berat Castle (a 13th century castle overlooking the town of Berat), “Republika e Shqipërisë”||Serrated edge|
|20 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Liburni ship (the Liburnians were an ancient tribe in the region), “Republika e Shqipërisë”||Serrated edge|
|50 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Illyrian King Gentius, “Republika e Shqipërisë”||Serrated edge|
|100 leke||Value, crown made of branches||Portrait of Illyrian Queen Teuta, “Republika e Shqipërisë”||Serrated edge|
|100 leke||Purple||Fan S. Noli (Albanian writer, diplomat and founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church)||First Albanian Parliament building|
|200 leke||Orange||Naim Frasheri (Albanian poet and writer and key figure in the Albanian National Awakening)||Birthplace of Naim Frasheri|
|500 leke||Blue||Ismail Qemali (leader of the Albanian national movement)||Vlore independence building|
|1000 leke||Green||Pjeter Bogdani (earliest Albanian writer)||Church of Vau|
|2000 leke||Purple||King Gent (the last Illyrian King) three ancient coins||Amphitheatre in Butrinto near Saranda|
|5000 leke||Gold||Skanderbeg (Albanian nobleman who served the Republic of Venice, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Naples)||Kruje Castle (Center of Skanderbeg’s battle against the Ottoman Empire)|
The value of the lek compared to the USD fell dramatically between 1980 and 2000. In 1980 the lek traded at 9.49 ALL to 1 USD, 92.79 in 1995 after the end of communism, and 143.68 in 2000. Since the beginning of the new millennium the lek has recovered strongly to 103.34 in 2007, and around 125 today.
Albania has been transitioning from a communist economy since 1990. Tourism, agriculture, oil, cement, chemicals, hydro-electricity, textile production, and lumber are all important industries and the country is rich in natural resources. Exports have increased about 300% since 2008, but remittances still account for about 15% of GDP. Last year the country posted growth of 2.6% and GDP growth overall has remained solid compared to Western Europe.
The Bottom Line
The currencies of many empires have passed through Albania, but only one national currency has circulated: the Albanian lek.
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