Notgeld Categories, Vol. 1: Notgeld of 1914 / 1915

In order to begin making sense of the complicated world of German Notgeld, it helps to first get acquainted with the various categories of notgeld that one may encounter while collecting. This is the first in a series of seven posts where we will describe each primary category of notgeld, provide some historical context, share some examples, and provide some tips on how to identify and differentiate one category from another.

Notgeld of 1914 / 1915

Notgeld began to be issued in 1914, even before Germany entered WWI. The need to issue these notes was largely the result of the hoarding of coins by the German people. These were truly examples of emergency money, and as such were typically fairly plain-looking (especially compared to later issues
of notgeld), used handwriting, stamps and simple printing methods, and were often crudely made using whatever materials happened to be available (even scraps of paper, old documents, receipts, calendars, playing cards, postcards, textiles, ration cards and more).

The very first notgeld was a set of three notes (1 Mk, 2 Mk, and 2.5 Mk) issued by a brewery in Bremen on July 31, 1914 named Bürgerliches Brauhaus GmbH (The Bourgeois Brewery).

By the end of 1914, the shortage, and the need
for notgeld, was mostly resolved when the Reichsbank began to issue new paper notes in small denominations and new coins made of cheaper metal. This means that notes dated 1915 are generally more scarce than those dated 1914.

Many of the these notgeld were issued in towns on both the eastern and western fronts during the early months of the war. They were also issued by private businesses like factories, who would make their own company-issued notgeld in order to pay their employees’ salaries.

The print runs for the Notgeld of 1914 / 1915 were typically in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand pieces, but many were much lower. Unlike the notgeld that would be issued in the years to follow, these notes often show signs of being heavily circulated, canceled, reissued, torn, hole-punched, cut and more.

To learn more about this category of notgeld, check out the book Das deutsche Notgeld von 1914/1915 by Hans-Jürg Alfred Dießner.

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