The dram is the official currency of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, an independent region in the South Caucuses. The name of the currency comes from the Greek word drachma, which translates into English as “money.” Dram are issued by the Central Bank of Armenia, the sole authority over all Armenian currency.
Both the nation of Armenia and Armenian currency have long histories. The first Armenian coins were minted in the 4th century BC. The first dram coin was minted sometime between 1199 AD and 1375 AD in the Armenian State of Cilicia. The first dram was a silver coin used alongside a diverse range of copper and gold coins. Currency of many other countries was used in Armenia through the centuries until capitalism emerged in the country in the early 20th century. During this time, Armenia was controlled by Russia, and Russian banks built branches in Armenia. In 1920, Armenia became part of the Soviet Union. All existing banks were nationalized, and new Soviet currency was issued in 1924.
In 1991, Armenia declared independence from the Soviet Union, and less than two years later, in March 1993, the Central Bank of Armenia was founded under the direction of Isahak Isahakyan, the first governor of the bank and the former governor of the Soviet National Bank in Armenia. Soviet currency remained legal tender until November 2003. The new dram officially became legal tender on 22 November 1993. The initial value of the dram was set at 200 rubles: 1 dram, but the dram has remained unpegged from any other currency since its introduction.
The first coins introduced were in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 luma, the decimalized hundredth of a dram, and in 1, 3, 5, and 10 drams. All of the first coins were minted in aluminum, but new coins were introduced in 2003 and 2004 in various other metals. The 10-dram coin remains aluminum. The 20-dram coin is copper-plated steel. The 50-dram coin is brass-plated steel. The 100-dram coin is nickel-plated steel. The 200-dram coin is brass, and the 500-dram coin is has a brass outer ring with an inner ring of cupronickel. Armenian banknotes currently in circulation include denominations of 1,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50,000 and 100,000 dram. Introductory banknotes were printed in denominations from 10 to 500 dram, but have since been taken out of circulation.