Even though I’ve tried to condense the information in this blog it will be issued in two parts. This is Part one:
If you have visited our website recently then you may have noticed the growing addition of German Notgelds. After sitting in a bag for over a year we finally got around to sorting them out, and boy I’m glad we did. These little colorful notes are quite amazing – and while we actually only have about 20% of the stock listed (it takes me so long because I can’t stop looking at them all – but sooo much more to come!) I wanted to write a blog on the Notgelds. And while other countries have issued Notgelds I am going to focus on Germany (Mostly 1914-1923) – which is probably the most popular and most diverse.
First thing is first: what is a Notgelds? Notgelds or “not-money” were emergency issued notes by entities other than the national government mostly cities and towns.
July 28th 1914 commemorates the outbreak of WWI and therefore set in motion the need for these “emergency notes” that were called Notgeld. The outbreak of war coincided with Germany getting off the gold standard at the beginning of August 1914 –resulted in Germans hoarding their gold and silver coins. This act, practically overnight, removed all currency from circulation. Now with no money being circulated there was a need for a solution, for an emergency issued currency to be released. So to deal with the disappearance of the coins, notes were printed. This, therefore, started the production of Notgelds.
One of the earliest Notgeld notes was issued August 2 1914 in Allenstien (which is now Poland). Allenstien was the second city to issue their own note (which was printed on cardboard). These early issues from 1914 are extremely rare. The first issuing of the Notgelds appeared rather plain and simple and were released out of sheer necessity.
Within the first few years of Notgelds circulation cities and towns were noticing that not all notes were being brought to the banks to be exchanged or deposited, and therefore realized people were collecting them. This of course became a much needed revue idea for these areas, so cities and towns started printing notes in an excessive surplus. Even though at this time the German government had started issuing coins back into circulation (made from zinc and iron instead of gold and silver) the increase of towns and cities printing their own Notgelds started to increase.
By 1917 Notgelds were starting to be issued in exciting colors, with beautiful artwork and in increasing numbers to supply collecting demands. However, these Notgelds were still being distributed and used. In early 1918 you can see higher denominations of Notgelds being created. These notes were also slightly bigger in size. To fill up the larger area, artists were hired to design and create scenes for the notes to depict war time patriotism (you may see lots of notes from this time with the eagle or crosses) or local themes unique to the towns.
In late 1918 as the war came to an end Germany was suffering through critical financial turmoil. While America was entering the booming growth of the roaring twenties, Germany was in bleaker times. It was in this post WWI area when the issuing of Notgelds came into full swing. These notes from the 1920’s are some of the more common Notgelds (and most of what you can find on our website). During this time Notgelds were not issued so much out of necessity, but produced as historical and artistic documents and collections of the time. These Notgelds depicted poverty, post-war scenes, and even humorous themes making fun of the predicament Germany had found itself in. In a lot of these Notgelds though you can see hope and determination that good times will follow.
This is the time period where series notes first appeared. Towns and cities would issue notes that told stories and were meant to be collected together. Series ranged from serious issues to folk tales and whimsy stories. The main purpose of these notes was to gain revenue for the cities and towns. They tried to make these notes as attractive and collectible as possible in order to make money from these otherwise “worthless” notes. The outcome? Well, that would be the world’s first banknote collecting craze!
To see our full collection on Notgelds: Click here
For part two of the story: Click here