German Emergency Money

War changes many things. The political changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Living in a country that’s at war changes the way you think, it changes your perspective on everything! And when talking about the wars, the World Wars cannot be missed out.

 It’s amazing how quickly these wars changed all the vital aspects of life! How men changed their priorities. How all the focuses of the minds were turned to just one thing – staying alive, whether it was for protecting your own life or giving your life to protect others!

And one such change which every war in history brings with itself is the disastrous plunge of the economy!

In the early years of the 20th century, Germany faced such a wartime coin shortage later followed by a hyperinflation and the collapse of its currency. During this time the country issued a variety of notgeld, a term which refers to money issued by an institution in a time of economic or political crisis or “emergency money.”

These emergency currencies took many forms. The best known notgeld were richly illustrated paper notes. Other types include metal and ceramic tokens, encased postage, playing cards, and strips of leather, pieces of coal, and more.

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The first notgeld are seen with the outbreak of World War I in 1914 as Germany was immediately faced with a shortage of circulating coinage. Without coins, daily commerce becomes impossible. Municipalities began producing notgeld, the emergency wartime currency notes, coins and tokens.

The first notgeld were relatively plain and were generally in lower denominations – such as 25, 50 and 75 pfennig (penny) notes. These notes were typically signed by one or more local officials and would have a short validity period after which they expired.

As the war progressed, notgeld were issued by both municipalities and private businesses and they became an integral part of the war economy. These issues included the notes and coins issued by local governments, as well as the tokens produced by private businessmen and organizers. Some notgeld were also authorized by the Central Bank of Germany, Reichsbank. Some were unauthorized but accepted by the government, while others were produced clearly outside the law.

It is seen that most of the notgeld were made for collection purpose only as they had become an immediate attraction with the collectors as early as in the 1920s. Some were even issued past their validity period. As the time progressed these notes became more elaborate featuring colourful images. The images on the notes featured everything from romantic folklore to social satire, showing the cultural aspect of this period in German history. Some also depict the Anti-Semitic notions of the Nazi Germany.

As in 1923, hyperinflation reached astronomically high and devalued the currency, the German government created a new currency called as the ‘Rentenmark’ and hence the production of notgeld was finally brought to an end.

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