In 1871 generals Justo Rufino Barrios and Miguel García Granados led troops into Guatemala from Mexico and achieved the Liberal Revolution, entering Guatemala City on June 30. García Granados became president and held that post until 1873. Rufino Barrios succeeded him and was president until 1885.
In 1871, the fledgling government introduced reforms in the Guatemalan monetary system. The new coins bore the inscription “República de Guatemala,” included a new national seal that, with a few variations, is still used. The seal featured two rifles and two crossed swords with laurel branches against a sky-blue background. The center contained a parchment with the inscription “Libertad 15 de septiembre de 1821,” above which a quetzal was perched, symbolizing Guatemala's independence and sovereignty.
On July 15, 1895, the Banco de Guatemala, a precursor to the Banco Central de Guatemala, emerged as a private institution. Bills of various denominations were printed with specific variations for circulation in either Guatemala City or the city of Quetzaltenango.
In the early 1920s Guatemala experienced difficult economic times, resulting in the First Monetary Reform of the Twentieth Century. As part of that reform, Governmental Accord No. 879 of November 26, 1924, was passed, and this law named the country's monetary unit the quetzal. The law also approved the minting of gold and silver coins. In order to ease the transition from the peso to the quetzal, an exchange rate of sixty pesos to one quetzal was established.
Another accord, this one passed in 1926, created the Banco Central de
Guatemala. The establishment of the bank was the culmination of the government of President José María Orellana, whose reforms consolidated and stabilized the printing of bills and the minting of coins.
On January 26, 1933, the bank released a 50-centavo bill, and from 1934 onwards bills of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 quetzals were developed with new design features.
In the mid-1940s another monetary and banking reform was enacted, making the Banco de Guatemala a state agency. On September 15, 1948, the Banco de Guatemala officially printed the first bills that displayed the quetzal as the national bird, and for the first time on Guatemalan currency, etchings of indigenous peoples and historical events were included. The new bills retained the same colors as the previous ones but featured significant changes in design and size.
In 1983 the Banco de Guatemala began to circulate a new series of bills significantly different from the previous ones in the design of the etchings. The quetzal as national bird appeared in its full splendor, and watermarks in the image of Tecún Umán were introduced into the high-denomination bills as a security measure.