The forint (sign: Ft; code: HUF) is the currency of Hungary. It was formerly divided into 100 fillér, but fillér coins are no longer in circulation. The introduction of the forint on 1 August 1946 was a crucial step in the post-World War II stabilisation of the Hungarian economy, and the currency remained relatively stable until the 1980s. Transition to a market economy in the early 1990s adversely affected the value of the forint; inflation peaked at 35% in 1991. Since 2001, inflation is in single digits, and the forint has been declared fully convertible. As a member of the European Union, the long-term aim of the Hungarian government may be to replace the forint with the euro, but that does not appear to be likely until some time during the 2020s.
The forint's name comes from the city of Florence, where gold coins called fiorino d'oro were minted from 1252. In Hungary, florentinus (later forint), also a gold-based currency, was used from 1325 under Charles Robert and several other countries followed its example.
Between 1868 and 1892 the forint was the name used in Hungarian for the currency of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, known in German as the gulden or florin. It was subdivided into 100 krajczár (krajcár in modern Hungarian orthography).
The forint was reintroduced on 1 August 1946, after the pengő was rendered almost worthless by massive hyperinflation in 1945–46: the highest ever recorded. The process was managed by the Hungarian Communist Party, which held the relevant cabinet seats. The forint's success was exploited for political gains, contributing to the Communists' takeover of complete power in 1948–49. The forint replaced the pengő at the rate of 1 forint = 4 pengő—dropping 29 zeroes from the old currency. In fact, this was an imaginary exchange rate. With the highest value note being 100 million B. pengő (10 20 pengő), the total amount of pengő in circulation had a value of less than 0.1 fillér. (The "B" stood for an old-style "billion", i.e. a million million.) Of more significance was the exchange rate to the adópengő of 1 forint = 200 million adópengő.
Historically the forint was subdivided into 100 fillér (comparable to a penny), although fillér coins have been rendered useless by inflation and have not been in circulation since 1999. (Since 2000, one forint has typically been worth about half a US cent or slightly less.) The Hungarian abbreviation for forint is Ft, which is written after the number with a space between. The name fillér, the subdivision of all Hungarian currencies since 1925, comes from the German word Heller. The abbreviation for the fillér was f, also written after the number with a space in between.
In 1946, a USD was worth 11.7 forints.
After its 1946 introduction, the forint remained stable for the following two decades, but started to lose its purchasing power as the state-socialist economic system (Planned economy) lost its competitiveness during the 1970s and 1980s. After the democratic change of 1989–90, the forint saw yearly inflation figures of about 35% for three years, but significant market economy reforms helped stabilize it.
In 1946, coins were introduced in denominations of 2, 10, 20 fillérs and 1, 2, 5 forints. The silver 5 forint coin was reissued only in the next year; later it was withdrawn from circulation. 5 and 50 fillérs coins were issued in 1948. In 1967, a 5 forint coin was reintroduced, followed by a 10 forint in 1971 and 20 forint in 1982.
In 1992, a new series of coins was introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and (a somewhat different, 500‰ silver) 200 forint. Production of the 2 and 5 fillér coins ceased in 1992, with all fillér coins withdrawn from circulation by 1999. From 1996, a bicolor 100 forint coin was minted to replace the 1992 version, since the latter was considered too big and ugly, and could easily be mistaken for the 20 forint coin.
Silver 200 forint coins were withdrawn in 1998 (as their nominal value was too low compared to their precious metal content); the 1 and 2 forint coins remained legal tender until 29 February 2008. For cash purchases, the total price is now rounded to the nearest 5 forint (to 0 or to 5). A new 200 forint coin made of base metal alloy was introduced in place of the 200 forint bank note on 15 June 2009.