The lek is the official currency of Albania. Although they are no longer issued, the lek can traditionally be divided into hundredths as qindarka. The lek was first introduced in 1926 by King Ahmet Zogu. The name of the currency is in homage to Alexander the Great, and the first 1-lek coin displayed a profile portrait of Alexander on one side and a picture of him riding a horse with a raised sword on the other side. Some currency experts, however, believe instead that the word lek is derived from the Albanian feudal lord, Prince Leke Dukagjini, who fought against the invading Ottoman Empire.
Circulation of the Albanian lek is maintained by the Bank of Albania as the issuer of both coins and banknotes. The Bank of Albania also holds all authority over the form, size and design of all coins and banknotes. In addition, this central bank is responsible for drafting and implementing all monetary policies of Albania, including formulating the strategy for issuing currency to meet the demands of the economy.
Banknotes and coins for the Albanian lek were released in two distinct series based on two separate monetary systems, both using the lek. The first series introduced the lek with bronze coins in denominations of 5 and 10 qindarka. Nickel coins were minted for 25 qindarka, 50 qindarka and 1 lek. Silver coins were known as franga ari, with one franga ari equal to 5 leke. Silver coins were minted in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 franga ari. In 1935, 1-qindarka and 2-qindarka coins joined the series. After the Italian occupation of Albania, many coins were minted in stainless steel, and in 1947, after World War II, new coins began to be minted in zinc. The first Albanian lek banknotes were in franga ari denominations of 1, 5, 20 and 100. In 1947, the franga ari denominations were halted and all banknotes began to be issued as leke.
The second lek was introduced in 1965 with aluminum coins in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 qindarka and 1 lek. In 1995, the qindarka was discontinued and new coins were minted in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leke. The second lek banknotes were originally issued in 1965, also. They were in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 leke. The notes were redesigned in 1976 when the country’s name changed to the People’s Socialist Republic. In the 1990s, the current banknote series was issued, and banknotes are now available in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 leke.