As Lithuania becomes the latest member of the Eurozone, abandoning its litas in favor of the euro, it’s important to look at its largest economic neighbor: Poland. Currently, and until at least 2019, Poland will still be using its national currency, the zloty. While the majority of international transactions may be conducted in more convertible currencies, such as pounds, dollars, or euros, it is interesting to examine the stories behind national currencies; in other words, what makes a zloty a zloty.
Though the word zloty has been in existence for well over half a millennium, it has only been used in English for a century. The first reference to zloty comes as a historical reference from a publication of the Scottish Historical Society in 1915. However, the first reference to a modern zloty can be found in a March 1923 issue of The Times, which states that, “The Polish Minister of Finance has decided that State loans shall be effected in Polish zlotys (a zloty is equivalent to a Swiss franc), at the current market rate.”
Like many other currencies, the zloty has a relation to a precious metal. Literally, “zloty” means golden (from Russian zoloto, through Polish zloto (gold)). Throughout most of the Middle Ages, with Poland historically being a land-locked nation between Central, Southern, and Eastern European powers, the term was meant to define the multiple currencies that were used in the area of Poland; so, in practice, the widely-accepted Venetian and Hungarian ducats were called zloty. The term didn’t take on a solely Polish identity until a national currency was created by the Sejm in 1496. Following its creation, there have also been 3 other iterations of the zloty: the Second zloty was introduced to deal with inflationary issues following World War I; the Third zloty was introduced following World War II, as Poland entered the Soviet sphere; and the final form, the Fourth zloty, was created after the fall of communism in Poland. Though Polish use of the zloty may be ending, the hope is that the euro will bring stability, but if you’re a Polish euroskeptic, there’s always room for a Fifth zloty.