Ain’t No Inflation like German Hyperinflation

By 1923, hyperinflation in Germany was causing money to decline in value literally by the hour. Workers might be paid twice a day so they could bring money home at lunch for wives to spend on necessities before prices rose yet again.

People would bring baskets of money to the store to buy common goods like vegetables. Eventually, people started burning paper money because it was cheaper than buying wood. (For photos of such craziness, check out “Burning Money: Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic.”)

The government couldn’t produce money fast enough to keep up with demand, so a variety of other entities started putting out coins and banknotes known as notgeld, meaning emergency money. This particular one was made by the city of Hamburg. It’s worth a 200,000 million Reichmarks and is made of aluminum.

Obverse of 200,000 mark coin, indicating Hamburg as it’s origin.

By the end of 1923, there were coins worth at least millions and banknotes in the trillions, and they had very little buying power. Eventually, the government gave up entirely and declared the Reichmark worthless. They replaced it with the Rentenmark and tied its value o the value of gold.

In the meantime, notgeld continued to be issued in ever more creative ways. Instead of it being work marks, notgeld might be denominated in units of goods such as wood, coal or wheat.

If you want to read more about the craziness of notgeld, check out Wikipedia’s Notgeldarticle.


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