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For the coins made from 1917 to 1922, see Ethiopian 1 birr coin (medallic).
1 birr
Ethiopia birr coin 2010
2010 coin
General information

Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia


1.00 birr


18952010 (EE1887–2002)

Measurements and composition
  • 28.08 g (1895-1903)
  • 6.82 g (2010)
  • 40 mm (1895-1903)
  • 27 mm (2010)

1.9 mm (2010)





  • coin (1895-1903)
  • medallic (2010)
  • "ሞዓ፡አንበሳ፡ዘእምነገደ፡ይሁዳ" (Mo'ā 'Anebasā Za-'Emenagada Yehudā) (1895-1903)
  • alternating reeded and plain (2010)
  • Lion of Judah, value (1895-1903)
  • Scales, value (2010)
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The 1 birr coin (formerly 1 dollar and 1 talari) is a circulation piece of the current Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and former Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia) that has been issued in three main types. The first type was issued in 1895, during the reign of Emperor Menelik II (1844–1913), and later produced with the frozen dates of 1896 and 1897. A similar second coin was then made under his rule with frozen dates of 1900 and 1903. In 2010, nearly a decade later, a modern 1 birr circulation piece was struck to replace the banknote of the same denomination. In addition to the issued coins, two trial strikes were produced circa 1895, and another was struck in 1897. it equals about a dollar.

The earlier birr coins have been demonetized and no longer carry the status of legal tender. However, the 2010 examples are still valid for their face values of 1.00 birr, and are currently in circulation in Ethiopia.

Pieces introduced under Menelik II were produced at the Monnaie de Paris in France, while those from 2010 were made in Ethiopia at the Addis Ababa Mint and distributed by the National Bank of Ethiopia.


Coins of Menelik II (1895–1903)[]

Ethiopia birr coin EE1889

Coin from EE1889 (c. 1897)

Ethiopia birr coin EE1895

Coin from EE1895 (c. 1904)

The birr was established as the monetary system of the Ethiopian Empire in 1893, during the early reign of Menelik II. In 1895, the first series of coins for the currency, consisting of denominations of , ¼, ½, and 1 birr, was issued by the Ethiopian government. The initial pieces were designed by French artist Jean Lagrange (1831–1908), and the dies were engraved by Austrian sculptors Franz Pawlik (1865–1906) and Anton Scharff (1845–1903). Commissioned to strike the coins was the Monnaie de Paris, the primary mint of France. This first type was then minted with the frozen dates of 1896 and 1897 for a short period afterward. A redesigned example was introduced in 1900 and struck subsequently with the date 1903 into the reigns of Emperor Iyasu V (1895–1935) and Empress Zewditu (1876–1930). Its illustrations were based on Lagrange's original design, but modified by Jules-Clément Chaplain (1839–1909). Like with the first coin, the dies were reportedly cut by Pawlik and Scharff. Both types are composed of .835 fine silver, weigh approximately 28.08 grams, and measure 40 millimeters in diameter. They have coin alignment and are round in shape. The Amharic national motto of the Ethiopian Empire, "ሞዓ፡አንበሳ፡ዘእምነገደ፡ይሁዳ።" (Romanized: Mo'ā 'Anebasā Za-'Emenagada Yehudā), translating as "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah", is inscribed along the edge.

Engraved in the center of both coins is a right-facing bust of a bearded Menelik II wearing monarchical clothing and the Imperial Crown of Ethiopia. This likeness on the initial piece extends from the top to the bottom of the piece, showing more of Menelik's upper torso, and his head is angled slightly downward. On the later coin less of the king's torso is shown, his head is angled more horizontally, and the crown is larger. Inscribed counterclockwise along the periphery of the first piece is the Amharic caption "ዳግማዊ፡ምኒልክ፡ንጉሠ፡ነገሥት፡ዘኢትዮጵያ።" (Romanized: Dāgmāwi Minilik Neguśa Nagaśt Za-Ītyōṗṗyā), which translates as "Menelik II, King of Kings of Ethiopia". The same text, albeit excluding the word separator (፡) between "ምኒልክ" (Minilik) and "ንጉሠ" (Neguśa) and the full stop character (።) at the end, appears on the later dated examples. On both coins the legend is divided at the top between "ምኒልክ" (Minilik) and "ንጉሠ" (Neguśa) by the cross on the king's crown. The text on the pieces commences at the obverse's lower left periphery and extends to the lower right. However, on earlier pieces the letters are taller, thinner, and more rounded, whereas on the later examples they are shorter, thicker, less stylistic, and closer to the rim. The five-digit Ethiopian date of minting appears in Ge'ez numerals at the bottom of the piece, arched counterclockwise along the rim. On earlier examples it superimposes portions of the king's torso, while on later coins it appears below Menelik's likeness.

Displayed in the middle of the reverse is a left-facing rendition of the Lion of Judah, a symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah which appeared commonly on Ethiopian heraldry, especially on the former flag and coat of arms of the country. In the Ethiopian context, the use of the symbol represents the claimed descendance of the Ethiopian monarchs from King Solomon (r. 970–931 BC) of the Judaic House of David. The depiction of the lion on both coins is different, although the illustrations share some similarities. The pieces show the animal holding a cross with a banner tied near the end, standing on land, with its head, crowned with the Imperial Crown of Ethiopia, facing outward. However, on examples of the first type, the lion holds the cross with its left foreleg and the animal is more slender and smaller in size, the crown is smaller, and the banner is larger. In addition, the ground is fairly plain and does not include much design. On coins of the second type, the lion holds the cross with its right foreleg and is much more stylistic; its mouth is open, its mane is more distinct, and its contours are more defined. Also, the banner is much smaller and the ground below the lion is designed with more detail, showing tufts of grass. Inscribed along the upper periphery of the piece is the Amharic caption "ሞዓ፡አንበሳ፡ዘእምነገደ፡ይሁዳ።" (Mo'ā 'Anebasā Za-'Emenagada Yehudā), which commences at the left rim and concludes at the right. On the later-dated coins, the lower of the dots in the word separator (፡) between "አንበሳ" ('Anebasā) and "ዘእምነገደ" (Za-'Emenagada). The font is the same as on the obverse legend, on earlier examples appearing tall, thin, and rounded, and on later pieces short, thick, less stylistic, and close to the rim. Printed horizontally in small print on the first coin type, below the Lion of Judah, is the "LAGRANGE" signature of the artist, flanked to the left by the cornucopia privy mark of the Monnaie de Paris and to the right by the mark of the Graveur général des monnaies at the time of minting, a fasces for Lagrange on coins dated 1895 and 1896 and a torch for Henri-Auguste Patey (1855–1930) on pieces dated 1897, 1900, and 1903. Below Lagrange's signature in a larger font is the "A" mint mark of Paris, followed below by the Amharic face value "አንድ፡ብር" ('Aned birr), meaning "one birr", which appears counterclockwise along the bottom rim. On the second type, the value "አንድ፡ብር" ('Aned birr) is written below the image of the lion, the cornucopia mark of Paris to the left and the torch mark of Patey to the right. The "A" mark of Paris does not appear, and the signature of the designer, "J.C.CHAPLAIN", is inscribed in small print to the right of the lion's hind leg, counterclockwise along the rim.

The rims of both types are raised. However, the earlier examples are decorated with common dentillation, whereas later specimens feature a boundary that alternates between rectangles and small "T" shaped designs.

The first birr was made annually from 1895 to 1897 (EE1887–1889), while its counterpart was made in 1900 (EE1892) and 1903 (EE1895). The total mintage of both coins is at least 1,298,200, including around 438,200 examples of the first type and about 860,000 of the second. A handful of normal proofs were struck during the years 1895, 1900, and 1903, and in 1900 some matte proofs were also coined. In addition, in 1895 two copper trial strikes of the initial Menelikian coin were minted, one non-dated and the other with a matte proof finish, and in 1897 a gold pattern was made for the second piece.

Date Mintage Mark
Ethiopian Gregorian
፲፰፻፹፯ (1887) 1895/1896 20,000¹ Fasces - Lagrange
፲፰፻፹፰ (1888) 1896/1897 200
፲፰፻፹፱ (1889) 1897/1898 418,000 Torch - Patey
፲፰፻፺፪ (1892) 1900/1901 401,000²
፲፰፻፺፭ (1895) 1903/1904 459,000¹
¹ An unknown number of normal proofs were made for this year
² An unknown number of normal and matte proofs were made for this year

Current circulation coin (2010)[]

Ethiopia birr note 1997

The 1 birr note, replaced by a coin in 2010

After Menelik II, Iyasu V, and Zewditu, Haile Selassie I (1892–1975) served as the final Ethiopian monarch before the communist takeover of Ethiopia in 1974. The country remained under a communist system until the collapse of the government in 1991, after which it was followed briefly by a transitional government and then by the current Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 1995.

Since 1945, Ethiopia's citizens had frequently used a 1 birr banknote in common transactions. Around 2010, though, a study conducted by the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) concluded the cost of printing and circulating the note was more than its face value. Although the expense of each birr note at the time was reported to be about Br0.16, its average lifespan, according to the NBE, was only about one and a half years. In response, on September 11, 2010, Ethiopia introduced a birr coin to replace the note which, although costing Br0.77 to produce, the NBE projected would reduce expenses due to having an expected life cycle of between 25 and 40 years. About Br274 million is believed to have been spent in the production of the coins at a minting facility in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The piece is bimetallic, having a nickel-brass center and a nickel-plated steel outer ring. It weighs approximately 6.82 grams and measures approximately 27 millimeters in diameter and 1.9 millimeters in thickness. Its edge alternates between reeded and plain six times, and the piece has medallic alignment and is round in shape.

Displayed in the nickel-brass center of the obverse is a right-facing image of a lion's head, representing the Lion of Judah. Such an illustration is identical in appearance to that appearing on the obverse of all current Ethiopian coins. Inscribed clockwise along the upper rim of the piece, in the nickel-plated ring, is the name of Ethiopia in Amharic, "ኢትዮጵያ" (Ītyōṗṗyā). The Ethiopian date of minting, appears counterclockwise in Ge'ez numerals as "፳፻፪" (2002) along the bottom periphery of the obverse. Such a year corresponds to 2010 in the Gregorian calendar. Scales representing justice are engraved into the middle of the coin's reverse, and the value appears three times in the steel ring. In the middle of the piece it is written as "1 Birr", the numeral, significantly larger than the accompanying word, engraved at the left side of the reverse and the "Birr" engraved at the right. The Amharic "፩ ብር" (1 birr) is inscribed in a clockwise direction along the upper rim of the coin, while "አንድ ብር" ('Aned birr) is printed at the bottom rim in the opposite direction. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are raised and undecorated.

A total of approximately 416,000,000 examples of the 2010 birr coin were produced at Addis Ababa, all business strikes. The piece first appeared in the Standard Catalog of World Coins in the 2013 edition, but in it the existence of two 1 birr coins – one 28 millimeters in diameter (KM# 78) and the other 25 (KM# 79) – is erroneously reported. The latter of the two has been removed as of the 2014 edition.


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