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Banknotes in the Ottoman Empire

In the later years of the Ottoman Empire, the first paper notes were put into circulation. This bold move was during the Tanzimat era, a time when many reforms of a political, cultural or financial nature were being implemented. Issues of paper money were sorely needed to implement the many reforms during that period.

These first Ottoman notes were issued near the end of the reign of Abdulmecit in 1840 under the name of “Kaime-i Nakdiye-i Mutebere” (we shall call them ‘Kaime’ in this piece) which were IOU’s or Treasury bonds promising interest. These notes were hand-crafted, carrying a stamped replica of the official seal and, as such, were eminently suitable for the attentions of the local master forgers who rose robustly to the challenge, showing commendable skills. But when these unofficial masterpieces were rejected by the bank teller, it caused a crisis of confidence in ‘this untrustworthy money’.

So, the original issue was replaced promptly (well, only after four more hand-crafted issues for the Authorities did not like to suggest they were panicking!) The fifth issue was printed, and, after 1858, all Kaime notes were printed in various forms and amounts throughout the Ottoman Empire until 1876. They gained a resigned acceptance in most quarters although the wealthy put their trust in precious stones and gold, as in days of yore.

The Ottoman Bank, which had been established with English capital in 1856 by Queen Victoria’s Royal Edict, became a state bank as an English-French partnership under the name of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, (or I.O.B.) in 1863. During the frequent periods when the Ottoman State had to borrow money from the European markets, both Britain and France trusted the I.O.B, which was under their own management, above the Ottoman State itself, and preferred to conduct their financial relations through the I.O.B.

The Ottoman State found this attitude irritating but granted the exclusive privilege of issuing banknotes to the Imperial Ottoman Bank for a 30 year-period because it was in their own interests. It was agreed that, within this period the government would not issue notes itself, and, although they must have felt a certain “loss of face”, they also ceded that no other body would make such fiscal issue. So in 1863, for the first time, the Bank issued notes that were convertible to gold on demand and stamped by its own official seal and by the seal of the Ministry of Finance.

Then, in a direct violation of the guarantee given to the I.O.B., the Government issued its own notes ‘in agreement’ with the I.O.B. during the 1876-1877 Ottoman - Russia War to finance war expenditures. It was ‘not fitting’ for the Ottoman Bank to be seen to fatally damage the defence of Turkey and, with it their own customers’ goodwill.

As Europe slipped into the First World War, the Imperial Ottoman Bank ceded its right to issue specie during hostilities. Turkey was part of the Axis against the U.K., so there was little choice. So it was that the Turkish Treasury issued more than 185 million lira banknotes backed by gold and German Treasury Bills across seven series in four years, starting from 1915.
For the people of the Ottoman Empire, the First World War and its settlement were especially disastrous. Indeed, no country involved in the war was jubilant in the long term; as the long recession began, Europe was facing the need to rebuild its basic infrastructures, physical, moral and economic.

The Republican Period Paper Money

Notes that were inherited from the Ottoman Empire remained in circulation until the end of 1927, as the Republic was in no position to issue notes in its early years.

Since paper money is the lifeblood of commercial life, the symbol of independence & sovereignty of a state, the Turkish National Assembly was eager to issue the first Turkish banknotes, approving legal moves at the end of 1925. The contract for printing this issue was awarded to Thomas De La Rue, and the notes were issued at the end of 1927. The old Treasury issue was withdrawn with a redemption deadline of nine months only.
By the end of 1931, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey was up and running, with the exclusive rights to issue notes.

The second issue were banknotes, coming after the establishment of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. All notes printed before the ‘Alphabet Revolution’ were replaced with the new ones printed in the Western alphabet.

These banknotes ranged in nine different values and eleven series, consisting of denominations of 50 Kurus, 1, 21/2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1.000 Turkish Lira.
One denomination of 50 Kurus was printed in Germany (to replace the issue their bombs had destroyed), while the others were from England.

The Second Emission Group, which contains the first issue of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey - the 5 Turkish Lira denomination, was put into circulation during 1937 to 1944. This emission group contains both Ataturk and Ismet Inonu (second President of the Republic) portrayed on different series of banknotes.

Banknotes not issued during the Second World War included the 50 Kurus, 50 and 100 Turkish Lira printed by Thomas de la Rue with President Ismet Inonu’s portrait. The 50 lira was in the English printing room when a German air raid set fire to them.

Both the denominations of 50 Kurus and 100 Turkish Lira, printed in England and having Inonu’s portrait, were damaged on their way to Turkey by an enemy ship and sunk in the Port of Piraeus. Also, the denomination of 50 Turkish Lira never left England due to a German air raid that heavily damaged the De La Rue printing plant in London.

The third issue banknotes, all of which bearing the portrait of Ismet Inonu, were put into circulation between 1942 and 1947 in 7 series and in 6 different values, consisting of denominations of 2 1/2, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Turkish Lira. This group of banknotes was printed in England, Germany and the United States of America.

The fourth issue banknotes, which had the least number of denominations and series in the eight emission groups, were printed in the United States of America in different 2 values, 10 and 100 Turkish Lira, in series three. Both of these banknotes, all of which bearing the portrait of Inonu, were put into circulation in 1947 and 1948.

The Fifth issue banknotes were printed in thirty-two series with 7 different values consisting of denominations of 21/2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 Turkish Lira. They were put into circulation between 1951 and 1971.

Attempts to establish a banknote printing plant in Turkey were started at the end of the 1930s but were postponed due to the Second World War. In 1951, work restarted and by 1958, the printing plant was producing banknotes. Some Fifth-issue banknotes were printed in England; others were printed in the new unit in Turkey group.

The sixth Issue of banknotes were issued in 7 different values and 18 series, consisting of denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 Turkish Lira. They were put into circulation between the years 1966 - 1983. Among these banknotes, all others were in the Banknote Printing Plant of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, except the first series of 20 Turkish Lira, which was printed in England.

The seventh issue of banknotes have been in circulation since 1979, in fifteen different values, in denominations of 10, 100, 500, 1.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000, 50.000, 100.000, 250.000, 500.000, 1.000.000, 5.000.000, 10.000.000 and 20.000.000 Turkish Lira as of 2002. These banknotes were printed in the Banknote Printing Plant of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.

The seventh issue of banknotes were withdrawn on January 1st, 2006 and will lose their value on January 1st, 2016. That might make the highest denominations in the first series and top grade very expensive for collectors.

The eighth was a ‘revaluation’ issue, dropping six zeros, which had become cumbersome. This eighth issue was denominated in New Lira and was printed in the Banknote Printing Plant of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.
All issues before the seventh were to be withdrawn immediately or soon to be withdrawn.

View some notes from Turkey on the site here:

Kate Gibson

Last updated 06/09/2023