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Today, the romanian currency [see Coins & Notes and Museum] is LEU (pl. LEI) and the fractional coin is BAN (pl. BANI) [100 ban(i)=1 leu].
Today's currency appeared in Romania upon a law issued on 22.04.1867 and was introduced in the romanian Banat between 1920-'21. Shortly after WWI, 1 leu = 0,290322 grams of fine gold [OR 0,32258 grams of gold with the title 900/1000]. In 1929, 1 US$ = 167,18 lei [9 mg. fine gold OR 10 mg. of gold with the title 900/1000]. In the XVII century, 1 ban = 1/200 golden ducat; at the beginning of XIX century, 1 ban = 1/120 from an old leu. For those interested in knowing more, please consult also our comment Excerpts on Romanian Monetary History.
The etymology of both these words -leu and ban- is controversial in the romanian scholar circles. If for the LEU the most common explanation is that the word has his roots in the dutch Leeuwendaalder minted in the XVII century [LEU means also "lion" in romanian language], for the BAN the problem is more confused.
During the XVI and XVII centuries, Europe's commercial powers intensified the trade with the Ottoman Empire; thus, a large quantity of coins originating also from today Benelux countries appeared on the turkish market, as well as in countries under its domination, including Tarile Romane [ie Moldova/Moldavia and Muntenia/Walachia/Tara Romaneasca]; the most frequent currency was the dutch Leeuwendaalder, a big silver coin weighting over 27 grams, which on one side had only the effigy of a lion on two feet in rampant position; therefore, it was called Leeuwendaalder [ie "lion thaler"]. Together with the Turkish currency aspru, this currency dominated the monetary market in Moldavia and Wallachia, being also known under the simple denomination of LEU [the word for lion in romanian language]. Although in use for only one century, being afterwards replaced by other currencies, the lion/leu remained in the consciousness of the romanian population and in was used as computation and measurement currency for goods and other currencies up to the second half of the XIX century, when the romanian national currency appeared.
As for the ban, according to some romanian scholars, during the XVI and XVII centuries, the romanian history also established another monetary denomination, namely the general denomination for the romanian money as BANI [ie the pl. from ban]. Besides leeuwendaalder and the turkish aspru, there were also Hungarian dinar(s), with half the value of one aspru, which were also named as ban [with the meaning of money]. Later, the turkish and the hungarian currencies became equal in value, and the population calls both currencies ban(i). Some documents from that time mention sales of goods against aspru-money and others speak only about money amounts. Thus, the general romanian denomination for monetary values and for prices goes back to three-four centuries. In our opinion, this explanation does not have a convincing etymological and historical background.
The first coins ever to be issued in Walachia/Tara Romaneasca were minted ~1365 by Vladislav Vlaicu I [ruled between 16.11.1364 and ~1377] and were made of silver. They were called ducat -the big ones existing in 3 different types; the dinar -the medium-sized ones; and the ban -the odd money existing in 2 different types. But from where did occurred this name in the XIV Century? This is a very important question because it is directly linked with the origin of the word ban [a ruler of a Banat] in romanian language.
Well, there exists enough historical proves to say that the name for ban and dinar was borrowed from a money in circulation in the XIII-XIV Century under several names: moneta banalis, or simply banalis or banovac [in croatian language], Denarius banalis, Denarius Zagrabiensis, Denarius Grichensis, Slavonski Banovac/slavonske banovce, etc. This currency was of very good quality and reputation reasons why it arrived to be imitated also in Srijem, Hungary and Transylvania. From Transylvania, the money was probably copied also at South of the Carpathian Mountains in Muntenia/Walachia/Tara Romaneasca. Furthermore, during the Medieval period existed even some "treaties" of "monetary unification" [between Moldavia and Walachia/Tara Romaneasca on one hand, and Poland or Hungary on the other hand], which stipulated to mint coins of the same shape and value in order to be recognized by the population of those countries and for stimulating and lightening trade.
The Croatian medieval registries mention a variety of currencies of current use but they indicate that the one named denarius banalis was most important. It was a currency coined in silver by the vice-roy/civil governor/ban and sometimes also by hercegs/dukes and was denominated officially denarius banalis or moneta banalis or simply banalis [banovac in the Croatian language; see picture]. This silver currency was coined for the first time ~1235 by ban Stjepan, from the family Guth-Keled/Guthkeled/Gutkeled. Until then, money was forged only by the Royal Hungarian Chamber which gave that right to mint for the first time to Stjepan, ban of whole Slavonia between 1248-1260. Its current name was banovac or banica [ie the ban's money in a rough translation; but also kuna, kunovina, marturina] and officially had been created for the Old Slavonia [Croatia to the N of Velika Kapela]. In 1256, ban Stjepan established the first mint of money in Pakrac [mentioned by the name "camera de Puchruch" (or Pukur) in king Bela IV's registers]. In 1260, the mint was displaced from Pakrac to Zagreb. In the mint of Zagreb the currencies of silver of the croatian rulers are coined uninterruptedly from year 1260 to 1384 [as denarius zagrabiensis]. This money was particularly appreciated due the purity of the silver in which he was coined, by the beauty of its engraving as much as by its quality in general. This time -between 1235 and 1384- was more than sufficient to leave its signs in the popular tradition; for example, in the South zone of the Croatia where the banica name is still used today to talk about to several small currencies of silver which they have circulated there. Nevertheless, the money also circulated in the neighboring regions and are found scattered throughout an ample territory from Romania passing by Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, the own Croatia, Bosnia and to between the Turks, like thus also in the regions of Slovenia and Stiria. With this currency it was possible to be bought in all the center of the Europe of that time, because was a convertible currency.
But the trace of this old currency are even to be found in modern times and not only in the romanian currency; for example, in the money issued under the independent state of Croatia between 1941-'45 [when 1 kuna = 100 banica].