The quetzal was introduced in 1925 during the term of President José María Orellana, whose image appears on the obverse of the one-quetzal bill. It replaced the peso. Until 1987, the quetzal was pegged to and domestically equal to the United States dollar and before the pegging to the US dollar, it was pegged to the French franc as well, since the quetzal utilized the gold standard.
In 1925, coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10 centavos, ¼, ½ and 1 quetzal were introduced, although the majority of the 1 quetzal coins were withdrawn from circulation and melted. ½ and 2 centavos coins were added in 1932. Until 1965, coins of 5 centavos and above were minted in 72% silver. ½ and 1 quetzal coins were reintroduced in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Coins currently in circulation are:
The first banknotes were issued by the Central Bank of Guatemala in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 100 quetzales, with ½ quetzal notes added in 1933. In 1946, the Bank of Guatemala took over the issuance of paper money, with its first issues being overprints on notes of the Central Bank. Except for the introduction of 50 quetzales notes in 1967, the denominations of banknotes were unchanged until ½ and 1 quetzal coins replaced notes at the end of the 1990s.
In the top-right corner of the obverse face of each banknote, the value is displayed in Mayan numerals, representing Guatemala's cultural history.
Allegory of the marimba, the national instrument, Musical score of La Flor del Café by Alcántara.
The Bank of Guatemala has introduced a polymer banknote of 1 quetzal on August 20, 2007. The Bank of Guatemala has also introduced a 5 quetzal polymer banknote on November 14, 2011.
The introduction of banknotes in the denominations of 500 and 1000 quetzals is still pending congress's approval. The design of the new bank notes are presumed to be:
The 500 quetzales bill main theme in the reverse will be an allegory of the Mayan myth of creation from the Popol Vuh and Guatemalan literature, while in the obverse the image of Miguel Ángel Asturias will be found. The dominant color will be gray.
The 1000 quetzales bill main theme in the reverse will be an allegory of the Guatemalan roots. The obverse will contain the images of four people belonging to Guatemalan races, Ladino, Mayan representing 21 of the Amerindian ethnic groups, Garifuna, and Xinca. The dominant color will be ocre.