BANKNOTES OF LEBANON
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The Lebanese Pound
The lira (Arabic, ليرة) or livre (French) (English pound, ISO 4217 code: LBP) is the currency unit of Lebanon. It is divided into 100 qirsh (Arabic, قرش) or piastres (French) but inflation has eliminated the subdivisions.
The plural form of lira, as used on the currency, is either lirat (ليرات) or the same, whilst there are four plural forms for qirsh: qirshan (قرشان), qirush (قروش), qirsha (قرشا) or the same. In both cases, the number determines which plural form is used. Note that before the Second World War, the Arabic spelling of the subdivision was غرش (girsh). All of Lebanon's coins and banknotes are bilingual in Arabic and French.
Before World War I, the Ottoman lira was used. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the currency became the Egyptian pound in 1918. Upon gaining control of Syria and Lebanon, the French replaced the Egyptian pound with a new currency for Syria and Lebanon, the Syrian pound, which was linked to the French franc at a value of 1 pound = 20 francs. Lebanon issued its own coins from 1924 and banknotes from 1925. In 1939, the Lebanese currency was officially separated from that of Syria, though it was still linked to the French franc and remained interchangeable with Syrian money. In 1941, following France's defeat by Nazi Germany, the currency was linked instead to the British pound sterling at a rate of 8.83 lira = 1 pound. A link to the French franc was restored after the war but was abandoned in 1949.
Before the war of 1975-1991, 1 U.S. dollar was worth 3 lirat. According to the central bank's data, 1 U.S. dollar has been equal to 1507.5 lira in the entire year 2006.
Lebanon's first coins were issued in 1924 in denominations of 2 and 5 girush (note the different spelling to post WWII coins) with the French denominations given in "piastres syriennes" (Syrian piastres). Later issues did not include the word "syriennes" and were in denominations of ½, 1, 2, 2½, 5, 10, 25 and 50 girsha. During World War II, rather crude ½, 1 and 2½ girsh coins were issued.
After the war, the Arabic spelling was changed from girsh (غرش) to qirsh (قرش). Coins were issued in the period 1952 to 1986 in denominations of 1, 2½, 5, 10, 25 and 50 qirsh and 1 lira. No coins were issued between 1986 and 1996, when the current series of coins was introduced. Coins are currently issued in denominations of 50 livres, 100 livres, 250 livres and 500 livres.
Lebanon's first banknotes were issued by the Bank of Syria and Greater Lebanon (Banque du Syrie et Grand-Liban) in 1925. Denominations ran from 25 girsha through to 100 lira. In 1939, the bank's name was changed to the Bank of Syria and Lebanon. The first 250 lira notes appeared that year. Between 1942 and 1950, the government issued "small change" paper money in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 girsh or qirsh (the change in spelling occurred during these years). After 1945, the Bank of Syria and Lebanon continued to issue paper money for Lebanon but the notes were denominated specifically in "Lebanese lira" (ليرة لبنانية, livres libanaise) to distinguish them from Syrian notes. Notes for 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 lira were issued. In 1964, the Bank of Lebanon took over banknote production. Their notes are denominated in lira and livres. A 250 lira note reappeared in 1978, followed by higher denominations in the 1980s and 90s as inflation drastically reduced the currency's value. Banknotes in current use are 1000 livres, 5000 livres, 10,000 livres, 20,000 livres, 50,000 livres and 100,000 livres.
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Page created: 20 June 2006
Last Update: 7 April 2007
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