The leu (ISO 4217 code MDL) is the currency of Moldova. Like the Romanian leu, the Moldovan leu (pl. lei) is subdivided into 100 bani (singular: ban). The name of the currency originates in Romania and means "lion".
Between 1918 and 1940 and again between 1941 and 1944, when Moldova was part of Romania, the Romanian leu was used also in the eastern part of Moldavia. 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 older cupon currency at a rate of 1 leu = 1000 cupon.
In November 1993 coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 bani in aluminium as well as nickel-plated-steel 1 and 5 leu coins were put in circulation.
The aluminium 50 bani,nickel-plated-steel 1 and 5 leu coins were later withdrawn from circulation. Starting January 1998 the aluminium 50 bani was replaced by one in aluminium-bronze. No new 1- and 5 leu coins have been issued. 1-Ban coins were last minted in 2006. They remain legal tender, but are rarely seen in circulation.
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 Ştefan 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 Mioriţa (The Little Ewe) ballad appear on the back, printed vertically between the denomination numeral and the vignette of the fortress. The Mioriţa 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.”