The leu (sign: L; ISO 4217 code: MDL) is the currency of Moldova. Like the Romanian leu, the Moldovan leu (plural: lei) is subdivided into 100 bani (singular: ban). The name of the currency originates from a Romanian word which means "lion".
Between 1918 and 1940 and again between 1941 and 1944, when Moldova was part of Romania, the Romanian leu was used in what was then the eastern part of the broader Romanian region of Moldavia (Moldova in Romanian). The Moldovan leu was established on 29 November 1993, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of the independent republic of Moldova. It replaced the temporary cupon currency at a rate of 1 leu = 1000 cupon.
In Transnistria, an unrecognized state claimed in whole by Moldova, the Transnistrian ruble is used instead. The currency is not honoured by Moldova or any other state.
In November 1993 the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) issued and put into circulation its first coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 bani made in aluminum and 1 and 5 lei coins made from nickel-plated steel. The 1 and 5 lei coins were later withdrawn from circulation in 1995. In 1997 the NBM announced that it would replace the existing aluminum 50 bani coin with a new one made from brass-plated steel with a new and improved design featuring anti-counterfeit elements such as reeding, a first for modern Moldovan coins. The new 50 bani coins were put into circulation starting January 1998, at the same time the NBM began withdrawing old aluminum 50 bani coins. 1 ban coins remain legal tender but are rarely used or seen in circulation, effectively leading to "Swedish rounding".
In 2017 the NBM announced plans to reintroduce 1 and 5 lei coins alongside with new 2 and 10 lei coins citing "superior durability and cheaper manufacturing and maintenance cost over time compared to banknotes" as the main reason and asking people to submit their designs for the new coins. The design of the new coins was unveiled on February 28th, 2018 featuring elements of both the coat of arms of the Principality of Moldavia on the obverse and the coat of arms of the Republic of Moldova on the reverse, with 1 and 2 lei coins being made from nickel-plated steel and 5 and 10 lei coins featuring a bi-metallic design with elements made from nickel-plated steel and brass-plated steel. The new coins were put into circulation starting February 28th, 2018. All of the new Lei coins are currently intended to be used alongside banknotes of equal value.
Since 1996 several commemorative coins for collectors have been issued. A complete listing can be found here.
There have been two series of Moldovan leu banknotes. The first series was short-lived and only included 1, 5, and 10 lei. The front of all of these notes—and all subsequent notes—feature a portrait of Ștefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great, also known as Stephen III of Moldavia), the prince of Moldavia from 1457 to 1504. The first two lines of the Miorița (The Little Ewe) ballad appear on the back, printed vertically between the denomination numeral and the vignette of the fortress. The Miorița is an old Romanian pastoral ballad considered one of the most important pieces of Romanian folklore. The lines “Pe-un picior de plai, Pe-o gură de rai” translate as “Near a low foothill, at Heaven’s doorsill.”
* On the front side of each banknote only one man is represented - the best-known ruler of Moldavia - Ștefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great).
* The first two lines of the Miorița ballad are written in the white circle on the front side of each banknote.
* On the back side of all the banknotes there are depicted Trajan's Column and The Endless Column.