A summary of the German emergency money can perhaps best be viewed through experiences and remarks of two men, one at the beginning of the period when World War I started, and the other at the end, when the hyperinflation inferno was snuffed out.
Dr. Arnold Keller was born in Freiburg/Breisgau, on Jan. 31, 1897. In 1904 his father took a job in Frankfurt/Main and the lad attended schools there. One of his high school teachers was Dr. Carl Hahn, brother of physicist Otto Hahn. Teacher Hahn was a numismatist and showed coins in connection with his lectures. Dr. Keller commented, "During this period the whole school collected coins, but I was the only member of the class who continued collecting after graduation."
In 1915 he attended the university in Munich; later he attended the university in Leipzig, and then returned to Munich. He majored in oriental languages and numismatics. Dr. Keller recalled, "My principal professor was the famous numismatist, Professor Heinrich Buchenau. He gave me the theme for my dissertation, The Coinage Treaty of 1572 between the Rhine electoral dukes and the landgraves of Hesse."
Beginning as a collector of emergency money in 1914, as it was being issued, Dr. Keller later became the editor of a magazine, Das Notgeld, later a dealer and then an author. In 1959 he sold his collection, about 200,000 notes, including paper money of the world, to the Bundesbank of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is now in their museum in Frankfurt/Main. He died in Berlin on Dec. 13, 1972.
Stemming inflation was Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, who survived the war, served Hitler as finance minister and survived the Nurenberg trials to die a free man.
The first emergency money appeared in Germany on July 31, 1914, issued by the Buergliches Brauhaus GmbH, Bremen, valued in one, two and 2.5 mark, produced on heavy paper by the hectograph method. The money had no control numbers and one handwritten signature. The total value of the three denominations was 100 mark.
Dr. Keller described the issues of emergency money as waves, appearing each year of the war and after, but separated at times without issues. Such issues give collectors today special collecting areas of interest, some with their own catalogs.
Several explanations were given for change shortages in the early years of war. Expansion into other lands created a need for change, some said; others blamed the players of the three-hand card game, skat, for hoarding change. A more probable explanation was an increase in the value of silver. Silver coins quickly disappeared from circulation; fewer coins were struck in the mints due to worker and product shortages.
Later nickel and copper coins disappeared into the cauldrons of war, further tightening the shortage. Some large cities hoarded coins for unknown and unforeseen contingencies.
In 1917, postmen were accepting as 5.30 mark, coins totaling five mark.
In 1920 the value of copper had risen to the point where copper coins were hoarded. One and two-pfennig paper notes were issued to replace them, particularly in Bavaria. Many retailers resorted to their own private forms of money.
Various states tried to prohibit local issues of notgeld, by requiring deposit of funds equal to the proposed notgeld issue, to "tacit toleration" to permitting issues only by major cities.
A compact summary of paper notgeld issues was supplied by Dr. Keller, which indicates to the reader today characteristics of notgeld issues, and how the numismatists divided their collections.
In 1914, 452 localities issued 5,500 notes.
Small notes, under one mark value, issued between 1915 and 1922, were from 3,658 places, totaling 36,000 notes.
Large notes, called Grossgeld, one mark or more denominations from 1919 to 1921, were from 579 places, some 5,000 notes.
Inflation notes of 1922, values 100 to 1,000 mark, were from 800 places, 4,000 notes.
The inflation of 1923 saw 5,849 places issue 70,000 notes.
Notes of constant value issued in 1923 and 1924 were from 562 places, totaling 3,660 notes.
Prisoner of War camps saw 600 issuing locations, about 3,000 notes.
In the 1935-1945 period, 20 concentration camps issued 90 notes.
In 1945, 20 places issued 150 notes; 1947-1948, 270 places issued 1,000 notes.
From the German Reichsbank in the World War I period came 300 basic types, 30,000 varieties of notes; and from the German colonies, another 3,800 notes.
One cannot total the number of issuing places above to arrive at the total number of issuing places because of duplication.
As collector demand increased, so too did available note issues, spawned by greed and opportunistic cities.
Abuses learned by the cities included: charges in excess of value; a termination date for redemption which had passed by the time the notes were mailed; mass production of notes engineered by entrepreneurs, such as the 40 communities northwest of Hamburg and the 70 communities of Mecklenburg carrying themes of Fritz Reuter designed by five artists.
If collectors didn't buy them, often the unsold notes were dumped at wholesale prices, only to be later offered at retail, higher then the issuing authority, or eventually, to be sold at face value.
Other issues were from mythical towns or spurious issues, many emanating from Hamburg. Not recognized as genuine issues were notes from Knievesburg, Koenigswinter, and a Boy Scout issue of 50-pfennig, 1948, with Russian text, issued by a Russian in the Buchenwald camp.
Today, collectors care little which notes were spurious, issued to take advantage of collectors, or were less than legitimate in their issues. Many of these notes are in the Keller volume Seriescheine.
Additionally, various groups and societies issued "notgeld" including admission to notgeld exhibitions (we would call them coin shows) described by Keller as "making a mockery of real notgeld," which happened on at least 10 occasions.
As Dr. Keller had followed the development of notgeld from the outset, as a collector, editor and later dealer, he deeply resented the intrusion of fantasy notes.
He handled these undesirable aspects of the hobby in a manner which would make a libel-conscious publisher today throw up his hands in horror. He established "Black Lists" (Schwarzeliste). If a collector had corresponded with another, and was owed some money or the person had made some deceptive trades, all that was needed was that the unhappy collector write Dr. Keller. The culprit's name immediately appeared in Dr. Keller's magazine. If a city bilked collectors by selling their notgeld for too much, the blacklist was waiting for them. For instance, in the October, 1921 issue, Das Notgeld, in the Schwarzeliste, Keller accused the city of Langenschwalback of selling notes with a face value of 50 pfennig for one mark; Lindenberg/A, 1.45 mark face value notes sold for 3.45 mark; and Pyrmont, a note of 75 pfennig, was selling for five mark!
With most collectors of notgeld, paper or metal, the day of reckoning must come when one realizes he cannot collect it all, and must decide to specialize. In a half century of collecting, starting with the first issues in August, 1914, Dr. Keller obtained some 109,860 pieces of an estimated 163,000 total of all German emergency paper money.
Responsible for restoring financial sanity to Germany was Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, born Jan. 31, 1877, in Tingleff, now Denmark. His parents, both German, married in New York City.
Schacht was named Commissioner of National Currency on Nov. 13, 1923, when he was given a free hand in all questions of money and credit. He took the job without pay, to assure a salary for his secretary, Fraeulein Steffeck.
His job was to snuff the candle of inflation that had become a blowtorch. He formulated a plan to return to a mark valued at 4.2 to the dollar, first freezing the inflation at the rate of 4.2 trillion mark on Nov. 20, 1923. At this time one U.S. cent would have bought more German mark notes than the entire German mortgaged indebtedness of 1914.
There is a relationship between the rate of inflation in Germany and reparation payments demanded by France under the Treaty of Versailles. In April, 1921 the reparations bill was assessed at $33 billion. On June 24, 1922, the mark sank to 300 to $1 with news of the assassination of Dr. Walter Rathenau, Germany's foreign minister.
In July, 1922 the mark was 500 to the $1, with the first reparations payment due.
In late October, 1922 with the second reparations payment due, the mark fell to 4,500 to $1.
In January, 1923 the Allies marched in the Ruhr, with the mark standing at 10,200 to $1. And in April, 1923, hyperinflation started!
By the end of November, 1923 on the black market, the rate rose to 12 trillion to $1, but the losers were the speculators who kept the flames of inflation white hot, despite the admonition of Schacht that the official rate was pegged at 4.2 trillion to $1.
Schacht wrote in his memoirs, Confessions of 'The Old Wizard', "theoretically, in circulation in late November 1923 were the old gold mark of the empire; the paper mark; and the Rentenmark."
By simply declaring four percent of public lands, including the railroads, as the backing of a new German monetary unit, the Rentenmark, Schacht exuded a sense of confidence to the public and brought an end to the senseless hyperinflation which was spawned by war and nurtured by reparation demands.
His solution could easily have gone the way of the old mark, but desperate Germans were clutching at straws. Two enemies had to be overpowered: The black market and the emergency money floating around.
For a short while there was a redemption period when 4.2 trillion inflated mark would bring $1 or 4.2 Rentenmark. The black market speculators were wiped out in one fell swoop.
The Rentenmark was introduced as a legal measure, but was not legal tender, and Rentenmark loans were distributed through the Reichsbank to give confidence to that institution.
Schacht became president of the Reichsbank, appointed for life on Dec. 22, 1923. He served until 1930; and again, from 1933 to 1939. He served with the German central bank into the Hitler era. A famous photograph showed Schacht walking at the side of Hitler. He was a conspirator in the plot to assassinate Hitler with a bomb.
Schacht was imprisoned by the Gestapo on July 23, 1944, remained a prisoner for two years, was then held by the Allies for two years, and placed in 32 prisons in that time. The Nuernberg tribunal sentenced him to eight years in 1946, but he was later acquitted and released Sept. 2, 1948. He wrote, "I was imprisoned for hating Hitler. After Hitler was dead I was imprisoned for aiding him." Schacht died on June 4, 1970, in Munich.
Metal tokens did not appear until 1916, issued by cities and private firms; also they were used in prisoner of war camps and firms employing prisoners.
Later, as shortages continued, metal gas tokens, street car tokens and encased and unencased postage stamps were used for money.
While more than 20 firms have been reported as having struck metal pieces, the bulk of these were struck by L. Christian Lauer, Kugel and Fink, Heinrich Arld, Carl Poellath, Wilhelm Meyer and Franz Wilhelm, B.H. Mayer, and C. Balmberger.
In many cases, the reverse of the piece carried the value; the obverse carried the name of the town and coat of arms. Hence, it was required to only make a die for each new obverse and use a standard "house" die as the reverse.
One must struggle with the classification of these metal pieces. The private issues and POW pieces are irrefutably tokens. But according to the American Numismatic Association definition of a coin: "Usually a piece of metal, marked with a device, issued by a governing authority and intended to be used as money," requires that the city-issued metal pieces be called coins, since they are issued by a governmental body.
Contracts calling for the purchase of metal notgeld were interesting; the sale was not by number of pieces but by weight, a certain number of kilograms. So size, metal and thickness of a planchet would help determine the number struck per kilogram. In cases where mintages are reported, they are more likely to have an odd number rather than a nice round number.
For the collector with patience and a magnifying glass that divides a millimeter into tenths, endless hours of pleasure can come by picking out varieties with die differences.
A collection of metal notgeld from more than 600 places, over 3,600 coins, is possible for the municipal issues; a similar number of private issues is feasible.
One volume of Dr. Keller's work, titled Notgeld Besonder Art, was devoted to objects, other than paper or metal, which passed for money.
Included were linen, silk, leather, wood, porcelain, coal, aluminum, aluminum foil, cotton, playing cards, celluloid and gelatin.
But more bizarre, and showing the economic tenor of the times, were paper notes denominated in products of constant value, such as wood, water, wheat, rye and electricity.
Less successful was the sham of the "goldmark," denominations based on the 4.2 mark to the dollar of 1914, which, despite the name, were not actually backed by gold.
Even Dr. Keller, before all the notgeld was issued, said no one could collect it all. Thus, the collector must define his parameters and work toward limited goals. As targets are achieved, the goals can be expanded.
Among choices are collecting the notes from one state, perhaps Bavaria or Brandenburg. One note from each town would be a beginning.
Another method is by topics shown on notes: maps, ships, animals, sports, Christmas, windmills, musical instruments, guns, trains, or a theme, such as the plebiscite issues.
An interesting display would be examples of notes in denominations from one pfennig to 10 mark, showing as many values as possible.
The collector seeking one note from each issuing place will encounter little difficulty in the first 500 towns. The towns up to number 1,000 will be a bit slower, and after that the gains come slowly.
In this area, one is working to a goal of about 3,600 towns, both in the metal series and in paper. For this reason, early on the collector should set his collecting areas, and decide to collect municipal issues or private issues, from a single area or a particular theme.
Literature from various countries, price lists from early dealers, periodicals from clubs devoted to collecting notgeld and contemporary newspaper accounts would all contribute to exhibits of either metal or paper notgeld.
Notgeld collectors have available to them today several segments of literature, each with its own individuality. More than 30 volumes were written by Dr. Keller. Some were revised several times, between 1920 and 1962.
His early works began as catalogs in Das Notgeld, and once a book was published, revisions appeared in the periodical. An extension of his works appear in the reprints and revisions undertaken in the 1970s by Albert Pick and Carl Siemsen, published by Battenberg Publishers, Munich.
Through the efforts of Hans Meyer, Manfred Mehl, Heinz Jansen and others, Berlin publisher Erich Proeh released a series of books which detailed the metal and paper issues, province by province. This series was supplemented by a monthly publication, Das Geld, and briefly for paper money collectors only, Das Geldscheine. The publication effort was later sold to a firm in Braunschweig and the series stopped.
Beginning in 1982 Meyer and Hartmut Schoenawa commenced a new series of books, arranged by provinces. In 1982 they issued Das Papiernotgeld der Mark Brandenburg und Berlin; Das Papiernotgeld von Niedersachsen und Bremen was issued in 1983; and in 1984, Das Papiernotgeld der Provinz Sachsen und Anhalt.