This is a not-yet-complete set for the coins minted from 1926-1938, first under President Zog, then under King Zog. Proofs are included as part of the collection goal, but not the provas (patterns or trial strikes). Each thumbnail photo can be clicked for a larger view.
1926 5 qindar leku, NGC MS-67 RB
1926 10 qindar leku, NGC MS-67 RB
1926 1/4 leku, NGC MS-66
1926 1/2 lek, NGC MS-67
1926 lek, NGC MS-67
1926 2 franga ari, NGC MS-66
1926 5 franga ari, NGC MS-65, 'no star'
1926 5 franga ari, NGC MS-64, 'star'
1926 20 franga ari, NGC MS-66
1926 20 franga ari, NGC MS-63, Rome mint mark with fasces, *see note
1926 100 franga ari, NGC AU-58, 'one star'
1926 100 franga ari, NGC MS-62, 'two star'
1927 1/4 leku, NGC MS-67
1927 lek, NGC MS-65
1927 frang ar, NGC MS-66
1927 2 franga ari, NGC MS-62
1927 10 franga ari, NGC MS-62
1927 20 franga ari, NGC MS-64
1927 20 franga ari, NGC MS-67, Prince Skanderbeg
1937 100 franga ari, NGC MS-65, Independence Anniversary
1938 20 franga ari, NGC MS-66, Royal Wedding
1938 20 franga ari, NGC MS-65, 10th Anniversary of Reign
1938 100 franga ari, NGC MS-63, 10th Anniversary of Reign
1938 100 franga ari, NGC MS-64, Royal Wedding
Not unexpectedly, the Albanian coinage under Zog shows a clear Italian influence as the majority of the Albanian coins were minted at the Rome mint under the auspices of the mint engraver, Giuseppe Romagnoli, whose name graces several of the designs.
Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel was an avid coin collector and a fan of the Roman neo-classical designs and this was very much reflected in the coinage emerging from the mint at that time, including those developed for other countries such as Albania. For example, the half leku featuring Hercules wresteling the Nemean lion, the full leku with Alexander the Great on horseback, a helmeted female reminiscent of Athena and prow of an ancient ship, recall the ancient coinage. Albanian coins were struck in varying denominations between 1926 and 1938, though not every year (or every denomination within a given year) is represented. There are proof coins of selected issues and several ‘prova’ coins—either trial strikes of designs produced or patterns not adopted for general use. Though Rome was the primary mint employed for producing Albanian coinage, the Vienna and London mints were also commissioned. The mints are indicated by ‘R’, ‘V’ and ‘L’ marks respectively. Vienna had responsibility for a single denomination in 1927 (the 20 FrA featuring the Prince Skanderbeg bust), as well as the ½ and full Lek in 1930. London produced the ½ and full lek in 1931, perhaps coinciding with King Zog’s attempts to build some non-Italian European connections. The basic denominations were based on the ‘leku’/lek’, with its fractions, and the ‘frang/franga’ (franc equivalent) and its multiples. The word lek or leku is derived from Alexander the Great who is called Leka in Albanian.
There are 5 lek to the frang ar, with ‘ar’ or ‘ari’ referring to argent/silver (but is carried over to the larger denominations in gold).
The Albanian word for one hundred is ‘qind’ so ‘qindarke’ (and its variants) are hundredths. 5 qindar leku thus means 5 hundredths of a lek. 1 qindar ar is 1 hundredth of the silver frang ar-- and thus are equivalent in value given the 1:5 value between the lek and the franga. Similarly 10 qindar leku would then equal 2 qindar ari.
Coinage by year
In 1926 the bronze 5 and 10 qindar leku were produced. The other denominations were the nickel ¼, ½ and 1 lek, the silver 2 and 5 franga ari, and the gold 10, 20 and 100 franga ari. The silver 5 and the gold 100 FrA denominations had variations with differing numbers of stars located beneath the bust of Zogu.
The 20 FrA denomination is listed by Krause (and NGC) as having two versions. One with a President Zog bust (see notes below), and the other featuring George Kastriot aka Prince Skanderbeg, a national hero, on the obverse and the Lion of St. Mark on the reverse.
* Of the Prince Skanderbeg bust coins 6000 were produced with the R mintmark. Of this 6000 there were 100 examples reported minted with a fasces mark in addition to the 'R'. And, of those 100, 90 are reported melted. The fasces on the coin was perhaps rejected by Albania as being 'too Italian' to be appearing on the Albanian coins (a banknote was withdrawn from circulation about that time due to a single headed instead of double headed eagle appearing on it, which was not the Albanian style). The result is a mintage of 6000--90 melted, 5900 with the 'R' mintmark, and a reported surviving population of 10 with the fasces included above the R (see photo above).
For 1927 the bronze denominations, the nickel half lek, the silver 5 FrA and the gold 10 FrA were dropped. Added was the silver 1 frang ar. This year both the Zog and Skanderbeg busts were minted for the 20 FrA, with the Skanderbeg busts bearing the 'V' mintmark. As with 1926, there are variations of the 100 franga coin to include those with or without stars under the bust.
In 1930 and 1931 only the ½ and full lek were minted, including proof examples for 1931.
1935 saw the minting of the 1 and 2 ‘qindar ar’ denominations which are numerically equal to the 5 and 10 ‘qidnar leku’ respectively. Also minted were silver 1 and 2 FrA.
1937 coins were minted to celebrate 25 years of Independence. The 1 frang ar had both a regular and commemorative reverse designs. The 2 franga ari as well as the gold 20 and 100 FrA were all of the commemorative style.
In 1938 only gold coins were minted. There were two styles, one to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of King Zog’s reign as monarch (vs. tenure as President), and another to celebrate the Royal Wedding. Both had the 20 and 100 frgana ari denomination, and the sole representative of the 50 franga ari denomination is for the Anniversary.
Coinage by denomination (underlined dates/issues are those not pictured above)
5 Qindar leku: 1926 10 Qindar leku: 1926 1 Qindar ar: 1935 2 Qindar ari: 1935 quarter Leku: 1926, 1927 half Lek: 1926, 1930, 1931, 1931 (proof) 1 Lek: 1926, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1931 (proof) 1 Frang ar: 1927, 1928, 1935, 1937, 1937 Anniversary of Independence 2 Franga ari: 1926, 1927, 1928, 1935, 1937 Anniversary of Independence 5 Franga ari: 1926 (no star, one star under bust variants) 10 Franga ari: 1927 20 Franga ar: 1926, 1927 President Zog (see note below) 1926, 1927 Prince Skanderbeg (with and without fasces in 1926) 1937 Anniversary of Independence 1938 Wedding, Wedding (proof), Anniversary of Zog's rule 50 Franga ari: 1938 Anniversary of Zog's rule 100 Franga ari: 1926 with zero, one, or two stars below bust 1927 with zero, one, or two stars below bust 1937 Anniversary of Independence 1938 Wedding, Anniversary of Zog's rule, Anniversary of Zog's rule (proof)
Krause lists several coins that I'm not sure can be found, specifically the gold 1926 20 FrA with the President Zog bust and the silver 1928 FrA and 2 FrA issues.
During King Zog's retreat from Tirana when the Italians invaded in 1938, it is said he left with the gold coins in the treasury. As pure speculation, it may be that the 1926 issue was not included in the getaway and were left behind to be melted by the Italians. Or, quite possibly, there are plenty in European collections that haven't been on the market in awhile. The 1928 1 and 2 FrA issues appear to only be found as provas, though regular strikes are listed in Krause. The few fellow Albanian coin collectors I have communicated with have not seen these issues either. Nor has an internet search found results from auctions or evidence of grades from NGC or PCGS. Given the number of collectors (including the King of Italy) it would seem that there would be at least a few examples seen if the coins had ever been minted.
The Albanian Mint site does not appear to have fully accurate information (at least on the English page). It does not list 1928 as having ciruclation coins struck or the King Zog bust 1926 20 Fr (but also does not show the Prince Skanderbeg bust version of 1927 which does exist in some numbers). Some coins are misidentified as gold when they are silver, but that may be more a translation issue and referring to trade values.
Krause also lists the 1938 100 FrA Anniversary issue as being restruck in 1938. This is a bit misleading as the 'restrikes' were done privately and are marked accordingly (and reasonably prominently) on the reverse.
Regarding the photos on this page--most were initially done by Todd of BluCC Photos. There have been a few additions to the collection since he did his work and the newer shots were done by me (either cellphone or on a new/old camera). At some point the newer coins will be re-imaged so there is a more consistent appearance.