This is the sixth 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.
1923 Inflation Notgeld (Hyperinflation)
By the time July 1923 rolled around, hyperinflation was in full effect and the Reichsbank had lost all control over the economy. The government commissioned more than 130 companies to print an unprecedented amount of the increasingly inflated banknotes on a daily basis, but even then could not keep up with demand.
Notes that fit within the 1923 Inflation Notgeld category were first issued in June 1923 and continued until November 1923 when the value of the Papiermark hit an all-time low—an exchange rate of 4,210,500,000,000 (over 4.2 trillion) marks to the US dollar.
Notgeld production and distribution began to surge in August 1923. Any city, town, community, private business, public organization, club, local bank,
or factory with access to the necessary printing equipment began to issue their own notes in an attempt to keep up with the soaring prices.
Despite the majority of these notes being issued during a pretty narrow four month window of time (Aug. - Nov. 1923), 1923 Inflation Notgeld are by far the largest category of Notgeld, with an estimated 6,000 localities issuing over 70,000 different notes. Compare this to the category of Series Notes, or Serienscheine—an enormous category of Notgeld itself—with nearly 1,500 localities and less than 9,000 different notes, and the scale and complexity of these 1923 Inflation Notgeld become apparent.
The physical size and design style of these notes is similar to the 1922 Inflation Notgeld, but feature much higher denominations, along with an increased number of earlier notes with larger overprinted face values and later dates. Face values of these notgeld range from 100,000 mark up to 200 trillion mark.
One important thing to be aware of is that the German words for various denominations can be very confusing for English speakers. Here is a list of translations for German denominations:
To add to the challenge of collecting this category of notgeld, the only catalog available today was published way back in 1958 by Dr. Arnold Keller.
The book itself is an impressive achievement considering the technical limitations of the time, and the enormous amount research and knowledge that was able to be compiled on such a complicated topic. However, unlike all of Keller’s other notgeld catalogs, there has not yet been a modern version published. The content of the book is written on a typewriter, there are no images or illustrations to provide visual aid, descriptions are often vague, and the valuations are based on data from 65 years ago.
I’ve heard rumors that a new catalog has been in the works for these 1923 Inflation Notgeld, which I’m sure many are very eagerly awaiting! In the meantime, your best bet is to grab a copy of the book Das Notgeld der deutschen Inflation 1923 by Dr. Arnold Keller.