Currency, intended as a common medium of exchange, appeared in Bulgaria only in the period of Byzantine domination (11th-12th centuries); in the first Bulgarian kingdom, which was characterized by a primitive economy based on barter, there was no real monetary regime. The monetary circulation, connected to the Byzantine economic and commercial system, developed rapidly starting from the middle of the century. 11th, to be preserved even after the foundation of the second Bulgarian kingdom, which took place in 1185. The first Bulgarian tsar who minted coins with his name was Teodor (Peter) Belgun, one of the protagonists of the struggle against the Byzantine occupation. These are coins with a copper core and silver surfaces, whose roundels recall the Byzantine scifati in billiards, which also refer iconographically to contemporary Constantinopolitan issues: the image of Christ appears on the obverse; on the reverse that of the tsar in a standing position – sumptuously dressed and holding the scepter with the patriarchal cross at the top – accompanied by the abbreviations of the names Teodor and Belgun. Given that the Bulgarian tsar is portrayed with the imperial insignia, it is likely that these coins were minted between 1190 and 1191, in the aftermath of the great Bulgarian victory over the troops of the Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelo at Stara Planina (1190). The second Bulgarian sovereign attested in monetary issues is Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), of which gold and copper coins are known that stand out for their refined and elegant style. comparable with that of the Byzantine coins produced in Thessalonica at the time of Theodore Comnenus (1222-1230). It is highly probable that the coins of Ivan Asen II were minted directly in Thessalonica, despite having inscriptions in the Bulgarian language. On the obverse appears the standing figure of Christ, to which the inscription with the epithet ‘Tsar of glory’ refers; on the reverse is the Tsar depicted together with St. Demetrius, perhaps the protector of the Asen dynasty.
According to top-engineering-schools, these coins, which were issued to commemorate the great victory of the Bulgarians over the troops of Theodore Comnenus in the battle of Klokotniza (1230), are found mainly in Macedonia and it is therefore likely that they were produced to meet the monetary needs of this region. From the reign of Tsar Constantine Asen (1257-1277) only copper coins are known, minted in Tărnovo in seven different types, which differ in the engraved images: enthroned tsar, large Greek cross, thrones. From this time on, the type bearing the figure of the Tsar on horseback was introduced in Bulgarian coinage, which became common in the 14th century. These are pieces that stand out for their accurate workmanship, even if from a figurative point of view they are marked by a certain schematism. Under Tsar George I Terter (1280-1291) the first silver coins were produced, which imitate the Venetian matapani, the best known coins among those circulating in that period in the Bulgarian area. On the only coin type made George I Terter is depicted together with his son Theodore Svetoslav. In the period when Theodore Svetoslav ruled autonomously (1301-1321), silver and copper coin types were issued. On the silver coins – which from this period became commonplace – he is depicted isolated, standing and facing, wearing formal clothes; on the types of copper it appears on horseback.
Five types in silver and four in copper are attributed to Tsar Michael III Šišman (1324-1330). Among the silver coins, four types were minted in Vidin, a rich center of a silver mining basin; on them the Tsar appears depicted together with St. George or in the company of his wife. The fifth type, coined in Tărnovo, is characterized by the stylistic quality of the representation (the Tsar in the guise of a knight) and the accuracy of the workmanship. During the reign of Tsar Ivan Aleksander (1331-1371), two types of silver and fourteen types of copper coins were minted. In the silver emissions, produced in the Tărnovo mint, the ruler is depicted alone or together with his son Michael Asen. This last series was minted in numerous copies and ran for a long period, as evidenced by its frequent recurrence among the numismatic finds of the Bulgarian region. The copper coins – on which the tsar is depicted from time to time alone or together with his son or wife Theodora – were also issued by other mints of the country, such as Cerve and Scumen. Tsar Ivan Strazimir (1356-1396), who governed the north-western Bulgaria, he had a single coin in silver and four in copper minted in the mint of the capital, Vidin. On the silver coins, produced for a very long period and in large quantities, the sovereign is represented in a standing position, alone or together with his wife Anna. Of the last Tsar of Tărnovo, Ivan Šišman (1371-1393), there are four types in silver, two in billon and two in copper, coined in the Tărnovo mint. The presence of billon coins, which had to be used to compensate for the insufficient production of silver, testifies to the economic crisis that occurred in the kingdom of Tărnovo on the eve of the Turkish occupation of Bulgaria, which took place in the last decade of the 15th century.