Once upon a time in a faraway land by the banks of the river Vistula, natural economy flourished, with goods exchanged by direct barter. It was complemented by commodity economy, with such things as salt, amber or furs. Luckily for the tourist industry, those times are long gone. Can you imagine tourists traveling around with bags of salt and some oxen to pay with?
The Polish monetary history is believed to have begun somewhere in the late 10th century, in the times of Mieszko I and Boleslaus II the Bold. The denar system, which was based on a single metal (silver), lasted over three hundred years.
Before the introduction of złoty, i.e. the current monetary unit in Poland, many systems had been used, including such coins as ducats, thalers and groszy. The złoty first appeared under the rule of Sigismund I, answering the need to consolidate the different systems. The name ‘złoty’ literally means ‘golden’ and initially it referred to all foreign gold coins used in Poland.
After the partitions of Poland, the Polish złoty disappeared, making room for the occupants’ currencies. It was reintroduced in 1924 and one złoty was subdivided into one hundred groszy instead of the earlier thirty groszy.
The Second World War and the soviet influence made the situation of the Polish złoty complicated. The rising inflation made it necessary to introduce banknotes with higher and higher face value. At the beginning of the 90’s, Poles kept banknotes worth one and two million złoty in their wallets, but you could hardly call them millionnaires.
The situation became more stable in 1994 thanks to the denomination. Ten thousand old Polish złoty became one new Polish złoty. That is actually what the international Polish currency abbreviation, PLN, stands for: Polish Złoty New. The Polish currency has since been stable.
Nowadays we have coins worth 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 groszy, as well as 1, 2 and 5 złoty. The banknotes in use have the value of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and lately even 500 złoty (the 500-złoty banknote was introduced in 2017). Many people, especially the younger generation, prefer debit cards and online payment, though.