The word złoty is a masculine form of the Polish adjective 'golden', which closely relates with its name to the Dutch guilder, whereas the grosz subunit was based on Austrian groschen. It was officially introduced to replace its predecessor, the Polish marka, on 28 February 1919 and began circulation in 1924. The only body permitted to manufacture or mint złoty coins is Mennica Polska, founded in Warsaw on 10 February 1766.
As a result of inflation in the early 1990s, the currency underwent redenomination. Thus, on 1 January 1995, 10,000 old złoty (PLZ) became one new złoty (PLN). Since then, the currency has been relatively stable, with an exchange rate fluctuating between 3 and 4 złoty for a United States dollar. Though Poland is a member of the European Union, nearly 60% of Poles are strongly against replacing the złoty with the euro.
Before the złoty
The predecessors of the złoty were the Polish mark (grzywna) and the kopa. The grzywna was a currency that was equivalent to approximately 210 g of silver, in the 11th century. It was in use until sometime in the 14th century, when it gave way to the Kraków grzywna (approximately 198 g of silver). At the same time, first as a complement to the grzywna, and then as the main currency, came the grosz and the kopa. Poland made the grosz as an imitation of the Prague groschen; the idea of the kopa came from the Czechs as well. A grzywna was worth 48 grosz; a kopa cost 60 grosz.
Kingdom of Poland and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
The złoty (golden) is a traditional Polish currency unit dating back to the late Middle Ages. Initially, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the name was used for all kinds of foreign gold coins used in Poland, most notably Venetian and Hungarian ducats, (however, in provinces Volyn & Galicia the name for them were the золотий (zolotiy) - golden). One złoty at the very beginning of their introduction cost 12–14 grosz; however, grosz had less and less silver as time passed. In 1496 the Sejm approved the creation of a national currency, the złoty, and its value was set at 30 grosz, a coin minted since 1347 and modelled on the Prague groschen, and a ducat (florin), whose value was 11⁄2 złoty. The 1:30 proportion stayed (1⁄2 of a kopa), but the grosz became cheaper and cheaper, because the proportion of silver in the coin alloy diminished over time. In the beginning of the 16th century, 1 złoty was worth 32 grosz; by the middle of the same century it was 50 grosz; by the reign of Sigismund III Vasa 1 złoty was worth 90 grosz while a ducat was worth 180 grosz.
The name złoty (sometimes referred to as the florin) was used for a number of different coins, including the 30-grosz coin called the polski złoty, the czerwony złoty (red złoty) and the złoty reński (the Rhine guilder), which were in circulation at the time. However, the value of the Polish złoty dropped over time relative to these foreign coins, and it became a silver coin, with the foreign ducats eventually circulating at approximately 5 złoty.
The matters were complicated by the extremely intricate system of coins, with denominations as low as 1⁄3 grosz and as high as 12,960 grosz fit into one coin. There were no usual decimal denominations we use today: the system used 4, 6, 8, 9 and 18 grosz, which are now most uncommon. Moreover, there was no central mint, and, apart from Warsaw mint, there were the Gdańsk, Elbląg and Kurland (Riga) separate mints which did not produce the same denomination coins with the same materials. For example, the szeląg had 1.3g of copper while minted in either Kraków or Warsaw, but the local Gdańsk and Elbląg mints made it using only 0.63g of copper. This facilitated forgeries and wrought havoc in the Polish monetary system.
Following the monetary reform carried out by King Stanisław II Augustus which aimed to simplify the system, the złoty became Poland's official currency and the exchange rate of 1 złoty to 30 copper grosz was confirmed. The king established the system which was based on the Cologne mark (233.855 g of pure silver). Each mark was divided into 10 Conventionsthaler of the Holy Roman Empire, and 1 thaler was worth 8 złoty (consequently, 1 złoty was worth 4 silver grosz). The system was in place until 1787. Two devaluations of the currency occurred in the years before the final partition of Poland.
After the third partition of Poland, the name złoty existed only in Austrian and Russian lands. Prussia had introduced the mark instead.
Coins of Poland after the monetary reform of 1526–1528 and up to 1795
On 8 June 1794 the decision of the Polish Supreme Council offered to make the new banknotes as well as the coins. 13 August 1794 was the date when the złoty banknotes were released to public. At the day there was more than 6.65 million złoty given out by the rebels. There were banknotes with the denomination of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 złoty (dated as of 8 June 1794), as well as 5 and 10 grosz, and 1 and 4 złoty coins (later banknotes, dated as of 13 August of the same year. Table)
However, it did not last for long: on 8 November, Warsaw was already held by Russia. Russians discarded all the banknotes and declared them invalid. Russian coins and banknotes replaced the Kościuszko banknotes, but the division on złoty and grosz stayed. This can be explained by the fact the Polish monetary system, even in the deep crisis, was better than the Russian stable one, as Poland used the silver standard for coins. That is why Mikhail Speransky offered to come to silver monometalism ("count on the silver ruble") in his work План финансов (Financial Plans, 1810) in Russia. He argued that: "... at the same time ... forbid any other account in Livonia and Poland, and this is the only way to unify the financial system of these provinces in the Russian system, and as well they will stop, at least, the damage that pulls back our finances for so long."
Duchy of Warsaw
The złoty remained in circulation after the Partitions of Poland and the Duchy of Warsaw issued coins denominated in grosz, złoty and talar (plurals talary and talarów), worth 6 złoty. Talar banknotes were also issued. In 1813, while Zamość was under siege, Zamość authorities issued 6 grosz and 2 złoty coins.
On 19 November O.S. (1 December N.S.) 1815, the law regarding the monetary system of Congress Poland (in Russia) was passed, according to which the złoty stayed, but there was a fixed ratio of the ruble to the złoty: 1 złoty was worth 30 silver grosz, while 1 grosz was worth 1⁄2 silver kopeck. From 1816, the złoty started being issued by the Warsaw mint, denominated in grosz and złoty in the Polish language, as well as the portrait of Alexander I and/or the Russian Empire's coat of arms:
25 (the so-called złoty pojedyńczy, single złoty) and 50 (złoty podwójny; double złoty) złoty out of gold (1817–34).
At the same time kopecks were permitted to be circulated in Congress Poland. In fact foreign coins circulated (of the Austrian Empire and Prussia), and the Polish złoty itself was effectively a foreign currency. The coins were as well used in the western part of the Russian Empire, legally from 1827 (decision of the State Council).
In 1828 the Polish mint was allowed to print banknotes of denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 złoty, on the condition of their guaranteed exchange for coins at the will of Saint Petersburg. That meant that there should have been silver coins that had the value of 1⁄7 of banknotes in circulation.
At the time of the November Uprising, the rebels released their own "rebellion money" – golden ducats and silver coins in the denomination of 2 and 5 złoty, with the revolutionary coat of arms, and the copper 3 and 10 grosz. The 1-złoty coin was as well released as a trial coin. The Polish bank, under the control of the rebels, having few precious metal resources in the reserves, released the 1 złoty banknote. They released the 5, 50 and 100 zł banknotes as well, all yellow. By August 1831 735 thousand złoty were released as banknotes. After the defeat of the uprising the decisions from 21 November (3 December) and 18 (30) December cancelled all the uprising monetary politics. All the coins were to be replaced by Russian coins, but it took a long time till the currency was circulating – only in 1838 was the usage of rebel money banned.
The last years of the first złoty of Congress Poland
At the same time the question arose about the future of the Polish złoty, as well as drastically limiting Polish banking autonomy. Russian finance minister Georg von Cancrin suggested to "value everything in rubles, not florins [złoty]".
There was a problem, however. The monetary system in the Russian Empire was still severely unbalanced. Banknotes, for example, cost much less to produce than their denomination. For that reason, the decision was taken to show both currencies on coins, which was a rather mild punishment for the November Uprising. From 1832 on the Petersburg and Warsaw mints decided to start minting new double-denominated coins. The exchange rate was 1 złoty to 15 kopecks.
Coins of Congress Poland nominated in złoty and rubles
Years of minting in Petersburg mint
Years of minting in Warsaw mint
1842 (trial coins)
1842 (trial coins)
3⁄4 rubles (75 kopecks)
In 1841 the main currency of Congress Poland became the Russian ruble.
From 1842, the Warsaw mint already issued regular-type Russian coins along with some coins denominated in both grosz and kopecks. At that time the złoty-to-ruble ratio changed again: 1 ruble was now worth only 2 złoty.
The Warsaw mint still issued three coin types: double currency coins (up to 1850), złoty and grosz (up to 1865), and the Russian Empire standard coins till 1865. From 1865 the Warsaw mint stopped making coins, and on 1 January 1868 the Warsaw mint was abolished.
The banknotes were changed much faster, as no Polish banknote was in circulation (at least officially). The Polish Bank started issuing Russian banknotes, denominated only in rubles and valid only in Congress Poland. At the same time the national credit banknotes, made in St. Petersburg, could be used everywhere in the Empire as usual Russian banknotes, as well in Poland.
Between 1835 and 1846, the Free City of Kraków also used a currency, the Kraków złoty, with the coins actually being made in Vienna. There were 5 and 10 grosz coins and 1 złoty coins. They were all the same: the obverse had the coat of arms and the writing: WOLNE MIASTO KRAKÓW ("Free City of Krakow"), the reverse had the nominal and the year of production.
Poland without the złoty
From 1850, the only currency issued for use in Congress Poland was the ruble consisting of Russian currency and notes of the Bank Polski. The monetary system of Congress Poland was unified with that of the Russian Empire following the failed January Uprising in 1863. However, the gold coins remained in use until the early 20th century, much like other gold coins of the era, most notably gold rubles (dubbed świnka, or "piggy") and sovereigns. Following the occupation of Congress Poland by Germany during World War I in 1917, the ruble was replaced by the marka (plurals marki and marek), a currency initially equivalent to the German Papiermark.
New Poland started releasing new currency – Polish marks, after the defeat of the German Empire and Austro-Hungary. The first banknotes had either Tadeusz Kościuszko (5, 10, 100, 1000 marks) or Queen Jadwiga (10 and 500 marks). 1 and 20 marks also circulated, but they showed nobody on the banknotes.
The Polish marka was extremely unstable because of the constant wars with its neighbours. Attempts to reduce the expenditures of Polish budget were vain – all the money gained went to conduct war with the USSR. To complicate the matters, those attempts did not please the elite, which ruled the country. The government's actions were not popular at all, so the taxes did not rise significantly, in order to avoid popular resentment. Even worse, the territories that made up Poland were rightly coined "the country of three parts", as each part of Poland developed differently during the 123 years after Stanisław II Augustus' abdication, with post-Prussian territories the best developed, and Austrian Galicia and Russian Kresy the worst.
The last attempt to save the Polish marka was made in 1921, when Jerzy Michalski made out his own plan to raise taxes and reduce expenditure. The Sejm accepted it, albeit with many amendments. Realisation of that plan did not succeed, and it had only short-term influence.
This disrupted the whole economy of Poland, and galloping inflation began. The 1⁄2 marek and 5,000 marek banknotes became worthless in two years. As hyperinflation progressed, Poland came to print 1, 5 and 10 million mark banknotes. However, they were quickly almost valueless. 10 million marks cost only US$1.073 in January 1924. Immediate action was needed. Władysław Grabski was invited to stop the pending hyperinflation. As a result, the second Polish złoty was created.
Grabski monetary reform
The złoty was reintroduced as Poland's currency by Grabski in 1924, following the hyperinflation and monetary chaos of the years following World War I. It replaced the marka at a rate of 1 złoty = 1,800,000 marek and was subdivided into 100 grosz, instead of 30 grosz, as it had been earlier. 1 złoty was worth 0.2903 grams of gold, and 1 US dollar cost 5.18 złoty. New coins had to be introduced, but were not immediately minted or in circulation. The temporary solution of the problem was ingenious. 500,000 marek banknote were cut in two, and on each side there were overstamps that showed they were 1 grosz "coins". Similarly 10,000,000 marek notes were divided and overprinted to make two "coins" each worth 5 grosz. This was an emergency measure to provide the population with a form of the new currency.
Transition to złoty
When the second złoty was created, it was pegged to the US dollar. The Sejm was weak in its financial control. Yet political parties demanded the government spend more money than had been projected in the budget.
The budget deficit ballooned and out-of-control inflation ensued. The government struggled to cut expenditures, and as a result often came into conflict with the Sejm. However, the government could not allow hyperinflation to reoccur. To achieve that, the government authorised issue of securities, which went along with the temporary "bilety zdawkowe" coins and złoty banknotes printed in 1919.
By the end of 1925 the Polish government was unable to redeem the released securities. The Polish economy was on the brink of collapse.
Despite the crisis, Grabski refused to accept foreign help, because he was concerned Poland would become dependent on the League of Nations. The Polish PM thought that after the złoty stabilised, foreign financiers would be persuaded to give credits and make investments on more favourable conditions than were recently on offer. However, deep-rooted lack of confidence in the Polish economy had made these expectations unrealisable. Grabski's government was forced to sell some of the country's property on unfavourable conditions, without any significant effects. Eventually, the złoty depreciated some 50% from its 1923 value and Grabski resigned as Prime Minister. However, renewed hyperinflation was averted.
Coins of II Rzeczpospolita (edge smooth in all coins)
Poland's economy weakened further to the point it was evident that the system could no longer function. The crisis climaxed in November 1925 leading to the Sanacja coup d'état.
In May 1926 a coup d'état was effected. It resulted in Józef Piłsudski becoming the authoritarian leader of Poland. Almost immediately the budget was stabilised. Tax incomes rose significantly, credits were received from the USA, and the Bank of Poland's policy came more strongly under the government's control. These developments prevented the Polish economy's further deterioration.
As had happened earlier in the case of both Austria and Hungary, a special monitoring commission arrived in Poland to analyse the economic situation. The commission was headed by Edwin W. Kemmerer, an American economist and "money doctor".
The złoty started to stabilise in 1926 (thanks chiefly to significant exports of coal), and was re-set on the dollar-złoty rate 50% higher than in 1924. Up to 1933 złoty was freely exchanged into gold and foreign currencies. Based on these developments, the government made the decision to adopt the gold standard for its currency.
In 1924–1925 the banks experienced large capital outflows, but by 1926 people were investing actively in the banks. The economic progress built on increased demand for and exports of coal slowed down because of an over-valued złoty during 1927. As a result, imports became relatively cheaper as compared to exports, resulting in a negative Balance of Trade. Again, Poland plunged into crisis. Economic growth was weak from 1926 to 1929. The main reason for that was the decline of industry, which was influenced by declining demand for Polish items. The crisis deepened with the Great Crisis of 1929–1932 and lasted until the mid-30s.
Polish złoty in 1930s
Poland entered another economic crisis, causing the government again to attempt reduction of its budget deficit by cutting public expenditure other than for military purposes. Despite cutting spending by a third, the deficit persisted. Tax income that should have been used to lead the country out of crisis was instead financing the debt burden. Money required to stimulate the economy was devoted by the government to creditors and foreign banks. Further spending cuts necessitated Poland importing less and exporting more. Import tariffs were increased again for foreign products, while subsidies were given to exporters.
In 1935 Piłsudski died, and the power passed to the generals. They were very disturbed by the crisis. Poland was still an agrarian country with 61% of the population involved in 1931. To reform the economy, the government was thinking about further intervention. As a result, between 1935 and 1939, Poland nationalised its major industries, initiating the changes the communists completed after 1945. Volumes of produced goods output from state-owned factories exceeded expectations. The result was instant - the economy stabilised, and fears of further złoty devaluation reduced while rapid growth was seen. However, World War II abruptly terminated all prosperity. With the Soviet invasion from the east the government had to flee the country. Already in emigration, the government released new banknotes of the denomination of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 złoty which were dated by 15 or 20 August 1939 and were mostly cyan, blue or blue-green (with the exception of 1, 2, 10 and 100 złoty). These were printed in the USA but never released.
Banknotes of the Polish government-in-exile, printed in 1939. Never introduced
Date of print
Denomination, the "Bank of Poland" inscription, date and place of issue
15 August 1939
Denomination, the "Bank of Poland" inscription, date and place of issue
Cities on top mean that some number of coins was minted in a specific city. Mass in grams, diameter in mm. 1 - From Latin: "Long live the rule of Republic". 2 - a) Coins from 1928(7.5 mln) have an error on milling: "SUPRMA..." b)Most of coins from 1932 were withdrawn and melted.
Denomination, Polish Coat of Arms, inscription: Rzeczpospolita Polska; year of minting
Bronze or silver
Bronze: 3.5; Silver: 4.15
Nicolaus Copernicus; denomination
Denomination, Polish Coat of Arms(squared), inscription: Rzeczpospolita Polska; year of minting
When German invaders established the General Government, they withdrew the 100 złoty banknotes from 1932 and 1934 and 500 złoty banknotes from 1919. The banknotes had to be accounted on the deposits of the people who gave them to the bank.
The 100 złoty banknotes were overstamped in red with: "Generalgouvernement / für die besetzen polnischen Gebiete" (The General Government / for the occupied Polish territories). It was massively counterfeited.
A little later the bank division of the Główny Zarząd Kas Kredytowych Rzeszy Niemieckiej was organized. It started to print the Reichsmarks, but later, on 15 December 1939, a decision came to create the new Bank Emisyjny (Emissary Bank) in Kraków, as the Bank Polski officials fled to Paris. It started working on 8 April 1940.
In May 1940, old banknotes of 1924–1939 were overstamped by the new entity. Money exchange was limited per individual; the limits varied according to the status of the person. The fixed exchange rate 1 Reichsmark = 2 złoty was established. A new issue of notes appeared in 1940–1941. The General Government also issued coins (1, 5, 10 and 20 grosz in zinc, 50 grosz in nickel-plated iron or iron), using similar designs to earlier types but with cheaper metals (mainly zinc-copper alloy). 1, 5, 10 and 20 grosz coins were dated 1923 and 50 grosz were dated 1938.
Banknotes were also issued, called unofficially "młynarki" (from the name of President Feliks Młynarski) or "krakowiaki" (from the place of release), in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 złoty. 1000 złoty did not come into public circulation at all, and only reconstructions survive (although shown below). The total amount of them was approximately 10,183 million złoty. An additional 20 million were manufactured by the conspiratory typography of the Union of Armed Struggle. From summer 1943 the Home Army received the złoty produced in Great Britain.
Banknotes of the Bank Emisyjny, by Leonard Sowiński
Date of print
Date of withdrawal
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription, date
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription
1 March 1940, 1 August 1941
10 January 1945
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription, date, a peasant picture
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription, date, peasant on white margin, Doubravka of Bohemia
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription
Denomination, "Bank Emisyjny w Polsce" inscription, date, the saints' pictures, head of a woman
The advance of the Red Army meant the transition to communism, Poland being no exception.
The first monetary reform of post-war Poland was conducted in 1944, when the initial series of banknotes of socialist Poland was released. This was essential for the recreation of the country, so the Polish Committee of National Liberation signed an act on 24 August 1944 introducing the banknotes. The older General Government banknotes were exchanged at par with the new ones. There were limits, however – 500 złoty only for an individual and 2000 złoty for the private enterprises and small manufacturers. The rest came onto the blocked bank accounts.
The banknotes had a very simple design, with no people or buildings featured. They carried the name of the as yet unformed Narodowy Bank Polski (the National Bank of Poland). Printing was completed at the Goznak mint in Moscow. All the new banknotes of the series I (except for the 50 grosz, and 1000 złoty, which were only released later) had a faulty inscription, containing a russianism.
On 15 January 1945 the National Bank of Poland was finally created. Its first monetary action was the printing of 1000 złoty banknote in the newly built Polska Wytwórnia Papierów Wartościowych in Łódź. The first Communist series' banknotes were easy to counterfeit, so additional replacement banknotes were printed in 1946–1948. As 500 złoty banknote was very easy to counterfeit, it was fully withdrawn in 1946.
The new (II and III) series were created from the graphic designs of Ryszard Kleczewski and Wacław Borowski.
Banknotes of Poland, issue 1944–1945 (Series I, also known as "Lublin series")
The IV series banknotes had a longer life. Mainly due to their underdeveloped security features, the first three series were taken out of circulation in line with legislation signed on 28 October 1950, covering the introduction of the new Polish złoty (PLZ). Older banknotes had to be exchanged within 8 days for the new series IV, which had been designed, printed and distributed in great secrecy.
About in the same time, new coins were introduced, which circulated for more than four decades.
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Banknotes of Poland, issue 1948 (Socialist series IV; author of 2-500 zł - Wacław Borowski; 1000 zł - Julian Pałka)
Date of print
Date of release
Date of withdrawal
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms (without the crown)
1 July 1948
30 October 1950
30 September 1960
A peasant on a tractor in a field
31 December 1959
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms (without the crown); portrait of a peasant
Peasants at harvesting cereals
31 December 1965
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms (without the crown); portrait of a woman
In 1950, a new złoty (PLZ) was introduced, replacing all notes issued up to 1948 at a rate of one hundred to one, while all bank assets were re-denominated in the ratio 100:3. The new banknotes were dated in 1948, while the new coins were dated in 1949. Initially, by law with effect from 1950 1 złoty (zł) was made equal to 0.222168g of pure gold (Dziennik Ustaw 50, 459).
As in all the Warsaw Bloc countries, Poland started nationalizing major industrial and manufacturing businesses. The necessary legislative act was signed in 1946. However, smaller enterprises remained in private hands, in contrast to the USSR. Despite this concession, the whole economy was under firm state control. In the agricultural sector, farmers (still the major source of Polish income) received additional lands from the government. These properties were the result of confiscations from the church, wealthy families as well from farmers who were targeted as counter revolutionaries to Soviet Communist rule.
In the late 1940s, Polish currency became unstable. This was largely due to initial opposition to the new Soviet imposed government and made an already difficult economic situation worse. Eventually things changed and the złoty became stronger in 1948–1949.
Beginning in 1950, the Soviet controlled government started implementing communist collectivization policy on a mass scale. Some farmers were grouped into newly created PGRs (State Agricultural Farms). Others supplied produce to the State for distribution and had to comply with obligatory centralized food deliveries (first of cereals, in 1951; and from 1952 on, of meat, potatoes and milk). Unable to compete with advantaged collective farms, privately owned and individually-run farms went bankrupt. The State bought at extremely low prices designed to impoverish private farms.
Agriculture might have been ruined in a few years if not for the death of President and latterly Secretary General of the Central Committee of the PUWPBolesław Bierut under mysterious circumstances in 1956. The new government under Władysław Gomułka began relaxing the earlier years' hardline Stalinist policies. State Farms were reformed, enforced obligatory deliveries were reduced and State buying prices were raised. On the whole the structure was little different from that of 1949: industry was state-owned, while agricultural production was State directed but mostly in private hands.
Serious reforms were proposed in the early 1970s by Edward Gierek, which aimed to improve the situation for ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, the government had inadequate funds to initiate these reforms. This explains Poland's growing financial indebtedness to the USSR and other Warsaw Bloc countries, promoting the view that "the investments will upgrade the Poland's potential, which will be aimed at export, so that the country will pay the interest and at the same time maintain a high industrial production". In fact, although the intention was to create employment, it never happened. Poland's debt burden grew too large, forming the main cause of further financial crisis. After a period of prosperity in 1971–1978, Poland entered into a very deep recession, which worsened over time as Poland was unable to meet debt interest obligations. The crisis was to last until 1994. The first indications of the crisis was obvious by the mid-70s, when there began a period of rampant inflation. Złoty devaluation continued. In 1980 Gierek's government was accused of corruption. He was removed from power in 1980.
The first big strikes started in Gdańsk and GOP (Upper Silesian Industrial Area). These restricted industrial production which by then had become the main economic sector. The Communist government's inability to organize production to balance supply and demand resulted in shortages as well as wasteful surpluses. Debt and currency issuance was used to attempt to smooth over the swings and caused inflation and wild moves in interest rates and borrowing conditions. These chaotic market conditions caused by reactionary policies of Communist controls and mandates led to widespead food shortages and government imposed food rationing. martial law of 1981–83 was then imposed to attempt to oppress the public's outrage and desire for reform.
By the early 80s inflation in Poland crossed into outright currency collapse (hyper inflation) – inflation estimated to be over 100% per annum in 1982, which is equivalent to a halving of the value of the currency over 1 year. It was reduced in the mid-80s to about 15% per annum, but was restarted again in late-80s.
Poor economic productivity and a huge public debt burden did not create any salary and pension increases. By 1981 it was admitted that the situation was beyond management. In an effort to escape such situation, Poland started massively printing banknotes, without backing from increased economic output. Thus, deliberately attempting hyper inflation throughout the 80s to resolve the economic stagnation. Banknotes denominated at 5,000 złoty were introduced in 1982, 10,000 złoty in 1988, 20,000 and 50,000 złoty in 1989, and 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 złoty in 1990. Grosz coins were rendered worthless and coins were mostly made out of aluminum (with the exception of the commemorative ones). The public debt burden doubled over the course of the 80s.
Given the circumstances, the only solution appeared to be the liberalization of the economy. In 1988 Mieczysław Rakowski was forced to accept the possibility of transition of the state enterprises into private hands. In fact, as stated earlier, smaller enterprises were private, and 18% of GDP was made by private sector, additional 10% – by the cooperatives. These were not, however, the Soviet Perestroika cooperatives, but ones with limited experience in the market economy. These were ready to transfer to a market economy. The Communist authorities had to admit they had failed to manage the economy productively, which was another reason to introduce changes.
Leszek Balcerowicz was behind the idea of shifting the economic basis from state-based to free-trade. To achieve this, the following were introduced:
Liberalisation of prices. This allowed prices to seek market value, revealing the very high inflation of the currency supply throughout the 80s (585.5% hyper inflation in 1990);
The state gave free access to all areas of economic enterprise (January 1989 - January 1990);
Fresh budget cuts on the state-owned enterprises and lowering the tempo of inflation by printing less currency and lower public borrowing
New financing and credit policies as well as the attraction of direct foreign investments from the west;
Measures to increase the convertibility of the national currency in all operations;
Liquidation of foreign trade controls (1990).
The worst years of the crisis began in 1988, when the level of inflation rose higher than 60% per annum. Inflation peaked in 1990, characterized as hyperinflation, as the monthly rate was higher than 50%. However, by December 1991 it decreased below 60% per annum, and by 1993 it firmly established below 40%. As a result, the złoty regained the confidence of foreign investors. The remaining issue was the re-denomination of the depreciated złoty.
Polish złoty coins (PLZ)
Coins of People's Republic of Poland (legal tender 1949-1994, stopped issuing by 1990)
Diameter(Ø) shown in mm, mass in grams. 1 - Minted both in Budapest and Warsaw in numbers of 300,100,600 coins.
In 1949, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 grosz and 1 złoty coins were issued. The first two denominations were minted only in 1949, the rest also later.
In 1952, Poland's official name was changed from "Republic of Poland" to "People's Republic of Poland". Coins minted in 1949 featured the former name. The 5 grosz brass coin was withdrawn in 1956. The rest circulated until 1994.
The 2, 5 and 10 złoty banknotes were withdrawn in the 1960s to be exchanged for coins.
The coins from 1 grosz to 2 złoty were quite simple designs but the 5, 10 and 20 złoty coins featured people (5 złoty had a fisherman, 10 złoty had Copernicus, Mickiewicz with Prus on its obverse, and 20 złoty, most notably, Marceli Nowotko), until the 1980s. As the Polish złoty became cheaper over time, older coins were rendered worthless (however, they stayed in circulation), and the simple new coins were released only in złoty denominations. All the PRP and 1990 issued coins were withdrawn in 1994, as a result of the monetary reform conducted at that time.
Coat of arms, year of minting; inscription: "Rzeczpospolita Polska"; denomination
50 years of Warsaw Uprising, soldiers with rifles and ruins
Coat of arms, year of minting; inscription: "Rzeczpospolita Polska"; denomination
70 years of the Bank of Poland rebirth
Polish złoty banknotes (PLZ)
The banknotes issued in 1948 were already stable version. They were taken out of circulation in 1978 completely.
From 1974 the new banknotes featuring "Great Polish people", and comprising the fifth series, were issued. Previous series were withdrawn from circulation. However, the replacement banknotes rapidly lost their real value. New larger denominations were necessary and printed.
In 1982, the 10 and 20 złoty banknotes were released instead of billon.
The last banknote released in Polish People's Republic was 200,000 złoty note, issued on 1 December 1989, which, because of its inadequate security features, was withdrawn from circulation. Starting on 27 December 1989 new banknotes were issued in the name of "Rzeczpospolita Polska", i.e. omitting the word "Ludowa" (People's), and from the coat of arms were altered to show the eagle wearing a crown restoring the situation that existed before World War II.
Banknotes of this series were redenominated at the rate of 10,000 PLZ to 1 PLN (new złoty). All the existing PLZ denominations were legal tender and exchangeable into the PLN until the date of each value's withdrawal. After 31 December 2010, no PLZ banknote could be exchanged into PLN.
From 50,000 PLZ on, there were two versions released: older ones (dated differently) and the newer ones (all dated 16 November 1993). The older banknotes had less efficient security features than the new ones. Newer printings had the denomination printed in red which shone under ultraviolet light instead of the previous grey-blue (which did not).
Banknotes of Poland, issues starting from 1974 (Communist series V, The Great Polish people), made by Andrzej Heidrich
Dates of print
Date of introduction
Date of withdrawal
Date of lapse
Blue to green
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms(without the crown); Józef Bem
1 June 1982
11 June 1982
31 December 1994
31 December 2010
Mainly red to blue
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms(without the crown); Romuald Traugutt
1 June 1982
11 June 1982
Denomination, "The National Bank of Poland" inscription, date, coat of arms(without the crown); Karol Świerczewski
Between 1950 and 1990, a unit known as the złoty dewizowy (which may be roughly translated as the "foreign exchange złoty") was used as an artificial currency for calculation purposes only. It existed because at the time the złoty was not convertible (like most Warsaw Bloc currencies) and its official rate of exchange was set by the government. Additionally several exchange rates existed depending on the purpose of the transaction and who was exchanging; for example, złoty could be exchanged for, say, US dollars at one of several official exchange rates depending on what was to be bought with the hard currency and the entity that was buying. In reverse, it worked when an individual or a business had western currency earnings and wanted (or needed) to convert them into złoty. The exchange rate did not depend on the amount being converted. Visitors from countries outside of the Soviet Bloc were offered a particularly poor exchange rate. Concurrently, the private black-market exchange rate contrasted sharply with the official government exchange rate until the end of communist rule in 1989, when official rates were tied to market rates.
There were special banknotes, denominated in cents and dollars (as the US dollar), which were legal tender only for goods imported to Poland. They were issued by two authorities only: Pekao S.A. (from 1 cent to $100) and Baltona (from 1979 for 1 cent to $20).
From 1 January 1990, Polish złoty became a fully convertible currency, with market-set, rather than state-determined, rates against foreign currencies.
On 17 July 1990 Władysław Baka (the then head of the National Bank of Poland) (NBP) stated that development work upon złoty denomination would start soon. At the same time PLN coins were minted (bearing dates 1990–1994) and released into circulation in 1995. This influenced the further process of money exchange in 1995, as exchanging low-value banknotes became considerably easier.
The banknotes posed a bigger problem. In 1990, a new series of banknotes from 1 to 500 zł was created by Waldemar Andrzejewski, was proposed, but failed acceptance testing due to weak counterfeiting protection features. The designs featured buildings and structures from Greater Poland cities and proofs produced. Additionally 1,000 zł (Kalisz) and 2,000 zł (Biskupin) banknotes were proposed (but not essayed) to facilitate an exchange rate of 1 new zloty to 1000 old zlotys).
Banknotes of Poland, issue 1990, not in circulation (Cities and sights of Poland)
At the same time, to conduct redenomination, the inflation had to be stable and below 10% per annum. Balcerowicz plan helped very much to achieve that in four years' time. On 11 May 1994 the Economical Committee of the Council of Ministers accepted the denominalization project from the NBP. The act allowing the project to come into force was ratified on 7 July 1994 (Dziennik Ustaw Nr 84, 386).
At the same time, new banknotes were printed (dated 25 March 1994), which are still legal tender today. These feature the most prominent Polish monarchs. Their author is Andrzej Heidrich.
Banknotes of Poland, issue 1994, "Sovereigns of Poland" (first version)
These designs were revealed to the public on 21 November 1994. The following day TVP, (Polish television), began publicising the designs on TV in a campaign that lasted until 1 January 1995 when the redenomination took place. 10,000 PLZ became 1 PLN. Unlike previous redenominations there were no restrictions on where the money was or who owned it.
When the new Polish złoty (PLN) was released, it co-existed with the PLZ for two years. All prices had to be indicated in both PLZ and PLN. The priority was to take the low-denomination PLZ to convert them to coinage. After 31 December 1996, PLZ was no longer legal tender. Between then and 31 December 2010, any PLZ banknotes and could only be exchanged into PLN by the NBP, its affiliates, or any bank. The sum for exchange had to be the multiple of 100 PLZ, which were worth 0.01 PLN. As of 31 December 2009, NBP estimate that some 1,748,000,000,000 PLZ (178,400,000 PLN) had not yet been exchanged.
There was one thing that did not change: the official name of the currency. Although the ISO 4217 was altered the relevant legislation made the point that the official name of the currency is still the złoty. New Polish złoty is an unofficial way to address the Polish currency (Dziennik Ustaw nr 50, 459, with later changes).
Polish coat of arms', inscription: "Rzeczpospolita Polska" and the year of minting
the centre diameter: 16
Centre: aluminium bronze
Polish coat of arms', inscription: "Rzeczpospolita Polska" and the year of minting
Issue details of zloty and grosz coins are shown in the table below:
Issue of Polish coins (Note. Coins from 1990-1994 are valid. They were released on 1 January 1995)
In 2012 new banknotes were printed, with added security features. They do not differ greatly from the first version (except for the 200zł note), but may be distinguished by the colour of the field with the watermark on the obverse. In the original banknotes, these correspond to the note's main colour, while they are white on the newer ones. Starting from 50 złoty, the new security features differ from those on the older banknotes. Newer banknotes also have some randomly arranged dots, which are part of the EURion constellation.
A 500 złoty banknote will be also produced in this series, currently scheduled for introduction in February 2017.
Banknotes of Poland, issue 2012-2015, "Sovereigns of Poland"(second version, modernized)
Poland has released commemorative banknotes since 2006. As of July 2018, nine have been issued. On 31 August 2018 the next 20 zloty commemorative note (100th Anniversary of Poland Regaining Independence) will be released by National Bank of Poland. It was also already announced that in 2019 next commemorative note will be released to commemorate 100th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Polish Security Printing Works (PWPW - Polska Wytwórnia Papierów Wartościowych). It will be the first Polish commemorative banknote with an odd face value - 19 zloty.
Curie quotation ("I have detected the radium, but not created it; the glory does not belong to me, but it is the property of the whole mankind."), Instytut Radowy w Warszawie (Radium Institute building in Warsaw); Nobel Prize medal for chemistry.
Marie Skłodowska Curie and electrotype denomination
12 December 2011
Green, brown, yellow and blue
Belvedere Palace hologram; coat of arms with crowned eagle; Commander Józef Klemens Piłsudski wearing military uniform.
Eagle badge of the Polish Legions; Grand Cross (with Star) of the Order of Virtuti Militari; badge of the First Brigade of the Polish Legions; Belvedere Palace hologram.
One of the conditions of Poland's joining the European Union in May 2004 obliges the country to eventually adopt the euro, though not at any specific date and only after Poland meets the necessary stability criteria. Serious discussions regarding joining the Eurozone have ensued. However, article 227 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland will need to be amended first, so it was considered unlikely that Poland would adopt the euro before 2019. Public opinion research by CBOS from March 2011 shows that 60% of Poles are against changing their currency. Only 32% of Poles want to adopt the euro, compared to 41% in April 2010.
The term złoty closely resembles zwoti, although the letter y in złoty is pronounced in a hard manner. The accurate pronunciation is [ˈzwɔtɨ]. There are two plural forms: złote (zwoteh[ˈzwɔtɛ]) and złotych (zwotikh[ˈzwɔtɨx]). The correct usage of the plural forms is as follows:
The rules are the same for larger numbers, e.g. 1,000,000 złotych (milion złotych); 1,000,002 złote (milion dwa złote); 1,000,011 złotych (milion jedenaście złotych); 1,000,024 złote (milion dwadzieścia cztery złote). Fractions should be rendered with złotego[zwɔˈtɛɡɔ] and grosza[ˈɡrɔʂa], e.g. 0.1 złotego; 2.5 złotego, etc. It is customary in Poland to use a space (non-breaking) for digit grouping (the "thousands separator") and a comma for separating fractions from whole numbers (1 000 000 złotych; 0,1 złotego); cf. decimal mark.
Here one can find general rules for the declension of cardinal numerals (among others) in Polish; the classes one, few, many and other are złoty, złote, złotych, and złotego, respectively, for "złoty", and grosz, grosze, groszy, and grosza, respectively, for "grosz".
Рябцевич В. Н. (1995). "Глава VII. Денежное обращение Беларуси в конце XV – 2-й трети XVII века". Нумизматика Беларуси в конце 2-й трети XVII – середине 90-х гг. XVIII в. Мн.: Полымя. pp.173, 687. ISBN5-345-00737-3.