The Turkish Lira is the official currency of Turkey and Northern Cyprus. One Turkish lira is equivalent to 100 kurus. As of writing, one Turkish lira is equivalent to 0.073 US dollars. The Turkish lira has suffered many devaluation processes in its long history, to the point where the Guinness Book of Records classified it as the world’s least valued currency twice: in 1995 and from 1999 to 2004.  

Scenic view of Istanbul | Source: Pixabay

Early Banknotes

The Turkish lira is the modern descendant of the Ottoman Lira. The Ottoman Lira is introduced in 1844. It is name comes from the word libra, the ancient Roman unit of weight for one troy pound of silver. The Ottoman lira was the main unit of currency while the former currency, the kurus, remained. The Ottoman lira remained in circulation until the end of 1927.  

Turkey 100 Kurush | 1876 | P-45 | Source: Banknote World Educational

The Republic of Turkey was established in 1922 and officially proclaimed in October 1923. In line with this newfound independence, the Turkish lira was introduced in 1926 and the Ottoman Empire lira was devalued in September 1928.  

Turkey 100 Livres | 1927 | P-123s | Source: Banknote World Educational

The Ministry of Finance was in charge of issuing banknotes from 1926 to 1930. The only series of notes issued by the Ministry of Finance was printed by Thomas De La Rue in England. These notes only had a watermark image of Mustafa Ataturk as its security feature. The reverse designs of the notes showcased different landmarks in Turkey. Smaller denominations featured the Citadel of Ankara while larger denominations featured Mustafa Ataturk Kemal.  

The Central Bank of Turkey (Turkiye Cumhuriyet Merkez Bankasi) took over issuing authority from the Ministry of Finance in 1930. It is currently the only issuing bank in Turkey.  

Turkey 100 Lira | 1938 | P-130 | Source: Banknote World Educational

The Turkish Lira

Turkish lira notes often featured Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the founding father of the Republic of Turkey. He was the first president of Turkey, serving in office from 1923 to 1938. His political and ideological leanings, known as Kemalism, have greatly shaped modern Turkey.  

The only series that does not feature Ataturk were the ones from 1940 to 1951. These notes featured Ismet Inonu, the second president of Turkey. Ismet Inonu succeeded after Ataturk died in November 1938. His administration ran from 1938 to 1950.  

Turkey 10 Lira | 1947 | P-147a | Source: Banknote World Educational

After Ismet Inonu stepped down from his presidency in 1950, the Turkish lira notes featured Ataturk again. Different portraits of Ataturk are present throughout different banknote series. Landmarks were also a constant feature on the back design of Turkish lira notes. However, there were two series that also featured other prominent Turks on the back design: the 1979-1997 series and the 2009 series.  

Turkey 1 Million Lira | L.1970 (2002 ND) | Source: Banknote World

Modern Series Of Banknotes

The largest denomination issued by the Central Bank was 20 million Turkish lirasi. 2001 is the year of introduction of the 20 million lira note. It is a green note from the Central Bank, Banknote Printer. Its front side featured a dove with an olive branch, the bank logo, Ataturk, and also a globe. Its reverse side featured the ancient city of Ephesus. It had a windowed security thread, a watermark of Ataturk, and dimensions of 162 mm x 76 mm. The note no longer circulates as of 2016.  

Turkey 50 Lira | 2009 | P-225a | Source: Banknote World Educational

Due to extreme hyperinflation, the Turkish lira once again revalues. When it is revalued in 2005, the Turkish lira was also renamed the new Turkish lira (yeni Turk lirasi). However, Turkey reverted the name of the currency to Turkish lira (Turk lirasi) in 2009, removing the adjective. This necessitated the issuance of new notes in addition to coins that did not have the adjective yeni. The new Turkish lira (yeni Turk lirasi) notes are also no longer in circulation as of 2020. 

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