Mark (1871)

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The mark sign,

an M in Latin

1 mark from 1905, value side, designed by Johann Adam Ries ( Scheidemünze (!) In silver)
1 mark from 1905, reverse

The Mark ( Mk or ℳ, M in Latin script ), retrospectively as " Goldmark called," was the unit of account and the Münznominal of one-third gold-backed currency of the German Empire from 1871 ( "rich gold currency"). One mark was equivalent to 0.358423 or 10002790 grams of fine gold . Golden Kurant coins of 5, 10 and 20 marks were minted. The name on bonds and stocks of this time was "Mark - German Reich currency". According to the resolution of December 4, 1871, it was the valid currency under the first Reich Coin Act . In August 1914, with the beginning of the First World War, the sale of gold coins denominated in Marks through the public coffers was stopped.

The name Mark is derived from the original Germanic unit of weight Mark , which was later transferred to the Mark as currency , especially in the northern German Hanseatic cities (→  Mark Courant ).

The term Goldmark was created after 1914 to distinguish it from the currency mark denominated in Mark, especially banknotes (" paper marks "), which were devalued by inflation . Goldmark was printed on emergency notes with US dollar reference from 1923 and was later used in the official language of the Weimar Republic . Colloquially, gold marks often only refer to the gold coins of the empire denominated in marks. To this day, the term appears in property and property matters that are related to time before the First World War.

Occasionally the German Reich currency mark is referred to as "Reichsmark". What is meant then is a mark currency that is uniformly valid throughout the German Reich. The real Reichsmark was not introduced until 1924.



In the negotiations on the Dresden Coin Agreement (under the umbrella of the German Customs Association ), Saxony made the proposal in July 1838 to make the third part of the new Saxon (= Prussian) thaler at ten Saxon new groschen = 100 new pfennig the new club coin. However, this was rejected by the other thaler and guilder countries, so that the only decision was that two thalers in the Prussian 14 thaler coin foot = 3½  South German guilders in the 24½ guilder foot as the common association coin of the "contracting states". This club coin of "2 Taler = 3½ guilders" was legally valid in every Zollverein country - regardless of who the respective issuer of the club coin was. This coin equivalence was subsequently carried over in practical monetary transactions to the simple taler and gulden coins and their Kurant parts, although these were not specially marked as "club coins" in the mint.

It was difficult in the small payment transactions with the different pfennig, kreuzer and groschen -scheidegeld in the respective other country-specific conversion (gulden or talerland), as well as with the partly still valid regional coins, some of which came from the end of the 18th century . These were - albeit at reduced rates - still fully circulable in the respective country, mostly even until 1876. For example, older copper one- penny coins performed the function of lighter coins , since in many guilder countries - except Bavaria until 1856 - half-pennies or pennies were no longer minted . The proverbial German coin confusion therefore basically only related to the divisional coins before the founding of the empire in 1871. From 1839 onwards, larger cross-border financial transactions were almost always based on the common club coin, even when the talk was of guilders or thalers. A reference to the Hanseatic mark currency or the Bremen gold money was less common.

Beginning around 1840, there was a slow mixing of (coarse) taler and guilder coins in the neighboring customs union countries. Some of the banknotes were not circulated outside their country of issue. The banknotes of Prussia ( Prussian Bank ) made an exception, as they were also widely accepted outside of Prussia in the Zollverein.

After the Vienna Mint Treaty of 1857, the Prussian Talermünzfuß was officially minted in the form of its own double (and single-thaler coins) but in the respective country-specific design - also in the guilder countries (including Austria and Liechtenstein). The "Greater German" coin unit was almost created, but then failed in the war of 1866 . The common golden club crown created in 1857 did not establish itself as the basis of a gold standard currency.

At the German Trading Day in 1869, a memorandum by Adolf Soetbeer demanded that “a uniform German, decimally divided currency in marks and pennies” should be created as a quota for a “state gold coin ” and that this should join the Latin Coin Union . The metric system and decimalization had already been agreed in 1868 by the North German Order of Measure and Weight , but this did not come into force until 1872. With regard to coins, she referred to the Vienna Mint Treaty. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 prevented the introduction of a “German franc”, so that the new currency “Mark” from 1871 was based on a third of the Zollvereinstaler.

Definition of the gold content of the mark

Various considerations have gone into defining the gold content of the mark. First, the mark should have a simple relationship to the most common German silver coins at the beginning of the last third of the 19th century, the club thalers of the German Customs Union . Second, the mark should be based on the value of the Kurantmark used as the unit of account in northern Germany (Hamburg, Lübeck) . Since three Kurantmarks contained roughly as much silver as one Vereinstaler, the ratio of Vereinstaler to Mark was set as 1: 3.

Thirty club thalers were minted from a 500 g inch pound of silver. A club thaler thus had a fine silver content of 16.667 g. In a ratio of 1: 3 to Mark, the calculated silver equivalent for the Mark is 5.556 g. Since the mark was a currency according to the gold standard, the silver content had to be converted into a gold content. The value ratio of gold to silver was 1: 15.5 around 1871. This results in a gold content of the mark of 0.35842 g fine gold.

Even with a gold alloy with a high copper content, a single-mark piece of gold would hardly have weighed a gram. Therefore, no individual “Goldmark” pieces were minted. The Einmark pieces were actually made of 900/1000 silver. Their fine silver content was not 5.556 g, but only 5 g; the silver coins of the mark were divisional coins . Even the minting of five-mark pieces ("half crown") in gold was discontinued after a few years. 10 ("crown") and 20-mark pieces ("double crown") were retained.

Part of the international gold standard

With the introduction of the mark, the previous thaler and guilder customs union currency changed from the silver to the gold standard .

Due to the trust in the secured gold backing of the currencies of the leading industrialized countries, there were largely fixed currency exchange rates between 1871 and 1914 when physically exchanging gold coins of full weight, which were based on the respective legal gold parity with one another. The trust in gold cover was also carried over to the banknotes and current accounts of leading trading houses and industrial companies in the main industrialized countries in commercial trade with one another. At that time one could almost speak of a uniform (gold) world currency. Examples of the nominal exchange rates based on gold parity are given below and the real maximum fluctuation ranges on foreign stock exchanges for the mark in 1913 are shown in italics :

1 franc or franc , lira , drachma , lev , leu , peseta , dinar , markka of the Latin monetary union and associated countries
= 0.81 M (Paris 1913: 0.80825 ... 0.81450 M)
1 pound sterling ( sovereign ) = 20.43 M (London 1913: 20.410 ... 20.545 M)
1 Austro-Hungarian gold crown = 0.85 M (Vienna 1913: 0.84300 ... 0.85025 M)
5 (gold) rubles = 20 francs = 16.20 M
1 US dollar = 4.19 M (New York 1913: 4.1875 ... 4.2200 M)
1 Danish krone = 1 Norwegian krone = 1 Swedish krone = 1.125 M.
1 Dutch guilder = 1.69 M (Amsterdam 1913: 1.6880 ... 1.6965 M)
1 piaster or 1 quran (see fonduk ) = 5.715 M

When physically changing the coins and banknotes of the less solvent countries, there were additional discounts in addition to a change fee compared to the gold coins of these countries. For example, discounts were requested for paper money from Spain, Bulgaria, Russia and later Greece. To differentiate z. B. spoken of the gold ruble in contrast to the paper or silver ruble.


Ordinance concerning the introduction of the Reich currency. 22 September 1875

In Germany , the law of December 4, 1871, established the gold content of the new common currency “Mark” with the Reichsgoldmünze, and the Coin Act of July 9, 1873 applied this currency to all national currencies. The mark was introduced on January 1, 1876 throughout the entire Reich. It gradually replaced the total of six or seven (including the franc system in Alsace-Lorraine) national currencies in Germany with various types of coins such as thalers , guilders , cruisers, etc. A silver club thaler , as already mentioned, corresponded to exactly 3 marks. With the exception of the single thaler valid until September 30, 1907 and the Austrian two-thaler piece valid until December 31, 1900, the mark was the only legal tender from January 1, 1876 , the double club thaler became "German mint" on November 15, 1876 out of course. Since the two-thaler piece was inadvertently referred to as “German style” when the two-thaler piece was suspended, the Austrian two-thaler piece of all things remained valid. The Austrian one- and two-thaler pieces were only put out of circulation in Germany on January 1, 1901.

The silver coins in Hamburg and Lübeck, denominated in “Mark lübsch Courant” and “Mark hamburgisch Courant”, were also confiscated. One mark courant was worth 1 15  marks. The first gold coins were minted as early as 1871 with the Prussian 20-mark issue ( Coin Act ). For this purpose gold from the French reparations of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 was used as well as gold that was offset against silver on the London precious metal market.

The official entry into force of the new Reich currency (marks and pennies) was set on January 1, 1876 according to the imperial ordinance of September 22, 1875.

Up until 1878, however, a large number of older regional coins were still in circulation parallel to the new mark at officially set rates, e.g. B. 16  thalers Saxon (50 Saxon new pfennigs each) = 50 new (Reich) pfennigs or the simple southern German (association) guilder, which was 1.71 M and was in circulation until December 31, 1875. One after the other, from 1873 onwards, various imperial laws proclaimed the suspension of all former national coins and the French currency in the imperial lands of " Alsace-Lorraine " and the ban on the circulation of valid foreign coins throughout the entire imperial territory. From the middle of 1876, the new Reich currency had been implemented practically everywhere in Germany, with a few exceptions. Only the already mentioned single thaler coins in the 30 thaler foot and the older ones in the 14 thaler foot including those in free minting back to the year 1750 (!) As silver "Kurant coins" remained. In the regulations of the Reichsbank there are instructions that the different types of talers are to be wrapped in their own coin rolls. The Austrian one-thaler piece was also valid in the 30 thaler foot from 1857 ... 1867 to 1900 as a 3 mark piece in Germany. As a Bavarian peculiarity, the old 1 Heller coins ( 18  Kreuzer) from the former (association) guilder currency with a value of ½ pfennig of the new Reich currency remained valid for some time beyond 1878 in Bavaria because of the beer tax . The "non-out-of-course setting" of the Bavarian Heller was expressly laid down in Reichsgesetzblatt 31 of December 10, 1875. The circulation of the Bavarian Hellermünzen then ceased in the 1880s, so that no later law was passed to put them out of circulation.

The Bavarian Hellermünzen were suspended no later than October 11, 1924 with the entry into force of the Coin Act of August 30, 1924, as this law also suspended all earlier coins not mentioned. At that time (1924) the retail trade was counting on half a pfennig and would therefore have wanted the Heller to be reintroduced, but this did not happen.

From the very beginning, the fundamental financial goal of the new empire was to keep gold money domestically in its own state coffers or Reichsbank coffers and thus to prevent it from flowing into private accumulation or even abroad. In addition, the cover regulations for the banknotes stipulated a certain gold reserve. A transition to a pure gold core currency , which would no longer have any gold coins in circulation that could be seen by everyone, would have been detrimental to the international reputation of the mark at the time.

The Reichsbanknotes became legal tender only from January 1, 1910, i.e. H. with "unlimited debt-discharging acceptance obligation" like gold coins "provided". So theoretically nobody had to accept this paper money beforehand. However, since 1871 there has been a limited acceptance requirement for silver coins up to an amount of 20 marks and for pfennig coins made of copper or copper-nickel alloy up to 1 mark. For the retail trade this was of course of no practical importance and was never practiced.

The precious metal value of the silver Vereinstaler in circulation until 1907 - Kurant coins that are fully valued under the silver standard - fell with the falling silver price. They sank to divisional coins, which in 1905 had an intrinsic value of only 1.37 marks with a value ratio of silver to gold of around 1:34. From a monetary constitution called the “limping gold standard” around 1871, a pure gold standard had actually developed.


The conversion rates of the most important previous silver coins were set in the Coin Act of July 9, 1873 (Art. 14, § 2). Basically, a conversion in the ratio of the fine weight to silver was used.

Vereinstaler - Gulden - Mark

From January 24, 1857 (see Vienna Mint Treaty ), 30 Vereinsthalers (30 thaler feet) were minted from a pound of fine silver (500 g ) . It applied

30 thalers = 52½ gulden = one pound fine
2 thalers = 3½ guilders = 6 marks
1 thaler = 3 marks
1 guilder = 1.71 marks
Thaler after the 14 thaler foot

From 1750, 14 Prussian thalers were minted in Prussia from the Cologne mark (weight mark of 233.855 g fine silver). From July 30th, 1838 (see: Dresdner Münzvertrag ) 7 double thalers (2 thalers) = 3½ guilders were minted from the same “fine mark”  and mostly labeled with both currencies.

7 double thalers = 24½ guilders = one fine mark
1 double thaler = 3½ guilders
Mark Lübscher and Hamburg currency
1 Mark Kurant 1 = 1 / 5 Mark
Fine weight comparison
1 thaler in 14 thaler feet: 16.704 g fine silver at 22.272 g gross weight (fineness 750 thousand parts)
1 thaler in the 30 thaler foot: 16.667 g fine silver at 18.519 g gross weight (fineness 900 thousand parts)
3 Mark piece (minted from 1908): 15,000 g fine silver at 16,667 g gross weight (fineness 900 thousand parts)


20 Mark, February 19, 1914
100 Mark - red seal, April 21, 1910
100 Mark - red seal, April 21, 1910
1000 Mark - red seal, April 21, 1910
100 Mark - green seal, post-war edition
100 Mark - green seal, post-war edition
1000 Mark - green seal, post-war edition

The Reichsbank, the Reich debt management and a few other privileged private central banks issued banknotes denominated in marks . The banknotes of the Reichsbank had nominal values ​​of 20 Marks, 50 Marks, 100 Marks and 1000 Marks, the Reich cash notes of the Reich Debt Administration had nominal values ​​of 5 Marks, 10 Marks, 20 Marks and 50 Marks with a relatively low number of issues. The Reichsbank was a central bank; it had a number of preferential rights over the “normal” private central banks.

Up to 1914 and in some cases beyond that, banknotes were not only issued by the Reichsbank , but also in the countries initially by 32 private central banks (e.g. Saxon Bank in Dresden , Bavarian Central Bank in Munich) and by the Reich Debt Administration as Reich Treasury notes and, when the war began, by the so-called "loan kassen" as (irreversible) loan coupons.

Imperial and private banknotes had to be covered by at least one third with gold. Furthermore, in addition to discounted bills of exchange, government government receipts were also sufficient for this later. This meant that Reichsbanknotes were at least partially covered with Reichskassenscheine - that is, paper was covered with paper.

The Reichskassenscheine were state paper money without a compulsory rate and originally intended to replace the old country banknotes in thaler or guilder currency. Initially, they were used for payments within the state institutions, but later found their way into general payment transactions via the salaries of officials and were then practically on an equal footing with the Reich and private banknotes.

Since Reich Treasury bills were accepted in unlimited amounts for tax payments to the state, for example, they were accepted by the public even though there was no obligation to accept them. This was "formally" not the case for Reich and private banknotes when making payments to the state, but it was not always done that way.

The private central banks had been limited to banknotes with a value of at least 100 Marks since 1873 and with the Banking Act of 1875 they had to limit their activities to their respective federal state or submit to the Reichsbank. On January 1, 1939, they finally lost the right to issue their own banknotes. German, undamaged private banknotes were, however, usually exchanged for Reichsbanknotes at the tills of the Reichsbank, as they were usually only accepted by the public in the vicinity of the respective private bank.

While gold coins were relatively common from 1871 to around 1900 and banknotes were rarely found in daily circulation, this began to change slowly from around 1906 onwards, due to the simultaneous increase in the number of notes issued by the Reichsbank to 20 and 50 marks. In addition, the creation of money by the banks and the movement of deposit money increased immensely. (→  Fiat Money ) These then new types of money increasingly replaced gold coins from practical payment transactions. If you had a choice in choosing the means of payment, paper, divorce or bank money was more likely to be issued than “good” gold money ( Gresham's law ). The gold coins were increasingly retained by the public from around 1910. One of the Reichsbank's ulterior motives, namely that by issuing the small Reichsbanknotes at 20 and 50 marks, it was easier to get the gold 20 and 10-mark pieces in circulation and thus to store them for the Reich's war treasure, was only partially fulfilled. In spite of this, the notes corresponded to a general need for medium-sized means of payment, which the previous relatively low issues of Reich cash notes of 5 to 50 marks could not meet. The general increase in the gross national product absorbed these Reichsbanknotes without a significant surge in inflation.

All Reich and private banknotes (in contrast to the Reich treasury and later loan notes) were assured until 1914 that they would be converted into legal tender at any time, i.e. gold coins or, more precisely, according to the Banking Act of March 14, 1875, § 18, to be able to exchange “courseable” German money. For example, on contemporary Austrian banknotes, they were promised to be redeemed in "metal money" on request.

Example of a printed assurance: "The Reichsbank main cash register pays 100 Marks to the consignor of this banknote without a legitimation check" .

In practice, however, this could mean, in addition to gold coins, up to 1907 club thalers, cutting coins and possibly also Reich cash receipts when exchanging. An express obligation to redeem Reichsbanknotes only in gold coins cannot be found in any contemporary document. There was an "announcement" by the Chancellor of December 19, 1875 that this had to be done in the Reichsbank main coffers in Berlin, Koenigsberg, Frankfurt and Munich at the request of the public only for silver coins with a minimum amount of 200 Marks or Pfennig coin coins from 50 Marks . Otherwise, gold coins could only be exchanged for banknotes at the banks and savings banks if expressly requested at the cash desk - depending on the respective cash situation - otherwise from the general circulation of money. When new gold and silver coins were first issued, there were long queues of coin collectors at the ticket counters and you might have the chance to get a freshly minted gold coin for a banknote at a rate of one to one. As early as 1893 there were complaints from the public because of the relatively high amount of circulating coins. H. Conversely, gold coins were apparently no longer too common in general payment transactions at that time, which was not yet the case around 1871 to 1890.

Note on 100 and 1000 marks Reichsbanknotes: Reichsbanknotes with a green Reichsbank seal and numbered printing are backdated notes that were apparently printed shortly after the end of the war according to an announcement of December 3, 1918. Only notes with the red seal are genuine pre-war editions.

Here is a reference to banknotes with a green Reichsbank seal based on the reference by Jürgen Koppatz, p. 45 mentioned below:

"[...] Copies with green self-adhesive., Kst. and green ktz. was put into circulation from the beginning of December 1918. The reason for this is that the German government had to undertake in the armistice treaty of November 11, 1918, to redeem the German banknotes that were in circulation in the western occupation areas at the pre-war rate. This mainly concerned the 1000 mark banknotes. Speculators bought the notes, which had already been heavily canceled in Germany, with a premium and brought them to France , Belgium and Luxembourg . From there they were presented to the German government for redemption. The Reichsbank therefore temporarily withdrew the banknotes with red identification features and put those with green ones into circulation. "

End of the gold-covered mark

Loan slip for 2 marks

At the beginning of the First World War , the issuing of a new type of banknote , the loan cash register of the Reich Debt Administration, began in September 1914 . These were "irredeemable in metal money" and were based on the fact that instead of gold, the state could now grant pledges, i.e. loans, on goods and securities from its possession, which loan offices had to monitor within the framework of the Reichsbank. From the beginning of July 1914, however, many citizens already suspected the coming war and began to convert their banknotes and accounts into gold or at least into silver coins or paper money as quickly as possible. From the beginning of July 1914 to July 31, the day of the declaration of the "state of imminent danger of war", when the exchange of Reichsbanknotes and coins for gold and silver money was almost immediately stopped, the Reichsbank had a considerable outflow of this coinage as well also recorded on banknotes. Especially on the days around July 31, 1914, newspaper articles across the empire called for citizens not to withdraw their money from banks and savings banks because their assets were safe, and at the same time emphasized the "equivalence" of gold coins with Reichsbanknotes and Reich cash bills.

However, this apparently did not prevent citizens from closing many normal savings accounts at private banks and from terminating many private loans ahead of time and pressing for immediate repayment of the remaining amounts. With the cash withdrawn from the banks, "hamster purchases" of food and consumer goods were often made in July and August 1914 - which of course immediately triggered price increases, so that the Reich government also spoke out against it through press calls for propaganda and law. In some cases, the dealers did not want to return any change of coins when buying goods with larger amounts of paper money in August. At the beginning of August, the official exchange of foreign banknotes, e.g. B. the Russian ruble notes in Mark banknotes on all German banks, so that many foreigners staying in Germany no longer received German means of payment and therefore could no longer pay their hotel costs and other expenses and thus had considerable difficulties with their departure from Germany.

The "imminent danger of war", beginning as early as June, also had a considerable influence on international securities trading, which saw massive price falls worldwide and thus almost came to a standstill, as the respective price lists on the stock exchanges were less and less foreign securities and securities every day Show exchange rates. International commercial payment transactions between the warring states from August 1914 also came to a standstill, since mutual debts were no longer serviced and foreign bank branches of "hostile countries" were blocked in their payment transactions and the governments issued a legal ban on the export of goods "essential to the war".

The German "obligation to redeem banknotes in metal money" was only to be suspended during the war and then reintroduced "after the war was won". In fact, the free gold standard was finally abolished in Germany after 1918. On July 31, 1914, the Reichsbank stopped exchanging banknotes and coins for gold. An "abolition of banknote redeemability" practiced by the Reichsbank since July 13, 1914, was reflected in an amendment to the Coin Act of August 4, 1914 and other financial war laws. All public coffers have been released from their obligation to redeem by law. The Coin Act ensured a de facto abolition of gold money.

The outflow of metal money in July and the gold and silver coins retained by the citizen were later to be recovered through the “ I gave gold for iron ” campaign and the war bonds, which was only partially achieved with gold money. From August 1914, there were almost suddenly no more silver mark coins in circulation, so that this circumstance was countered with hastily printed loan slips for 1 and 2 marks, which were not intended for redemption in metal money. Around the autumn of 1914 and in 1915, however, medium quantities of silver dividing coins previously retained by the population reappeared, when the "confidence of victory" was "credibly" assured by the state for propaganda purposes, which was also reflected in the initially lively participation in the private and commercial subscription of war bonds expressed. In addition to the procurement of funds for the war economy, the war bonds were initially based on another ulterior motive - namely, the reduction of freely available means of payment among the population in order to make the "black market trade" more difficult, since the money invested in the war bonds could no longer have an effect on demand. But when the iron and aluminum pfennig coins became scarce towards the end of the war around 1918, the big time of the “small” town emergency money began , where there were even regional 1-pfennig notes that are still collected today.

After the national bankruptcy and the subsequent currency reform of November 1923, the gold coins of the empire were expressly permitted again as legal tender within the framework of the new Rentenmark or Reichsmark with the law of August 30, 1924 , because they obviously wanted to lure them back into circulation. On the part of the state, however, one never seriously thought of having new gold coins minted again, but of being able to collect them better this way ( Versailles Treaty ). But that didn't work. They remained formally legal tender until 1938, when the government suspended them and explicitly required them to be offered to the Reichsbank for purchase, which was also extended to the silver 5 and 2 Reichsmark coins at the beginning of the Second World War . Since August 1914, however, gold coins had long since disappeared from circulation and were kept in many families - alongside silver coins - as a reminder of a better time.


The period of the "Goldmark" from 1871 to the end of July 1914 is considered to be relatively stable in monetary value. One of the reasons for this was that paper money inflation was initially slowed down by the “gold anchor”. However , from around 1900 onwards this was increasingly undermined by the credit creation of banks and the increase in book money . On the other hand, consistent adherence to or transferring the “gold anchor” would also have created deflationary effects with regard to money creation , as the available gold coin volume rose much more slowly than the other goods and services due to general industrialization. The averaged inflation index from 1871 to 1895 was around zero percent (with relatively large price fluctuations, however); In 1895 the Goldmark had the same purchasing power as 24 years earlier. From 1896 to 1914 there was some inflation. One of the reasons for this were some tax increases and the introduction of new taxes for Germany's military rearmament (e.g. sparkling wine tax 1902); Another cause was price fixing in industry and commerce (especially where there were monopolies, trusts or cartels).

Debt from bonds and debt interest expenses

  • for 1877: 16 million / 2.3 million M
  • for 1888: 721 million / 28.7 million M
  • for 1911: approx. 4 billion / 171 million M

In addition, from around 1900 there was a great demand for raw materials on the world market, which had its cause in general industrialization and in armies and navies.

The phenomenon of rising prices, especially for food, began noticeably around 1896. Contemporary literature attempted to attribute the rise in prices to the fact that food production could not keep up with the combined effect of increased population demand for meat products with a simultaneous population explosion. According to another theory, gold production had increased sharply and with it the general circulation of money. The visible circulation of gold coins had actually decreased after the introduction of the small Reichsbanknotes at 20 and 50 marks from 1906. From today's point of view, this was more due to the increase in book money, which was not bound by any gold coverage regulations, as well as the price agreements and tax increases already mentioned. In several amendments to the law, the amount of cash per inhabitant for coins per inhabitant was increased from 10 to 20 marks per inhabitant, which also increased the demand for goods. However, it can also be said that the rise in the general standard of living of broad sections of the population, which undoubtedly took place up to the First World War, tended to promote inflation.

However, this included partial bitterest poverty in the rural population, z. B. in Mecklenburg , which led to the rural exodus to the big cities up to the emigration from Germany . Overall, in the literature according to Jürgen Kuczynski, the price increase between 1871 and 1914 is estimated in long price comparison series from 100 to around 145%. Incidentally, this price increase was not limited to Germany. It also affected gold standard countries such as France, Italy, Great Britain and the USA with similar causes. In France and other countries, inflationary tendencies were expressed by the fact that the 1 and 2 centime coins almost completely disappeared from circulation after 1900 despite high minting numbers and many retail prices were therefore rounded up to 5 centimes, which in Germany was the case with the 1 and 2 pfennig coins but this did not happen. Food prices (especially meat products) and rents rose disproportionately in Germany; Mass manufactured goods became cheaper. This can be clearly seen in the annual reports of German consumer associations . There are reports of price increases from around 1896.

Coins of the German Empire

Kurant coins

Gold coins of 20 marks with the portraits of Emperor Friedrich III. or Wilhelm II.

Gold coins with a fineness of 9001000 , the rest is copper , hence the red color ( red gold ):

  • 20 Mark, Total weight 7.9649 g (7.1684 g Feingold) double crown also Goldfuchs called / diameter about 22.5 mm
  • 10 marks, rough weight 3.9825 g (3.5842 g fine gold) crown / diameter 19.5 mm
  • 5 marks, gross weight 1.9912 g (1.7921 g fine gold) ½ crown / diameter 17.0 mm

The names crown for the 10-mark piece and double crown for the 20-mark piece were introduced for use by the imperial authorities through the Supreme Order on the uniform naming of imperial gold coins of February 17, 1875 (RGBl. 1875, 72) .

The respective mint numbers of the individual gold and silver coin types (from 2 to 5 marks) of a state were based on a population key, so that large states such as B. Prussia , Bavaria or Saxony much higher coinage numbers than smaller countries such. B. the principalities of Reuss had.

According to Kurt Jaeger, the German gold coinage amounted to a total of 5,366,465,000 M from 1871 to 1914/15, which would correspond to around 1930 tons of fine gold - without taking into account the exchange of worn coins.

Each state was allowed to design the obverse , and to mint coins. As a rule, the image of the respective ruling monarch could be seen there. The free cities of Bremen , Hamburg and Lübeck stamped the city arms on their coins. The reverse, the lapel , however, was uniformly decorated with the imperial eagle , but the design was changed twice. First, the initial abbreviation M. for Mark was abolished in 1874 and the word Mark was spelled out in order to anchor the new currency more firmly in the consciousness of the population, then in 1890 the small imperial eagle with a large Hohenzollern shield - a symbol of the supremacy of Prussia - became a large one Imperial eagle with a small shield. After taking office in the " Dreikaiserjahr " in 1888, Wilhelm II wanted to set an example and emphasize German unity after the empire had been established and consolidated. Otto Schultz from Berlin designed the new coin eagle .

The 5-mark gold coins minted in 1877 and 1878 are also significant in terms of coin history . Because of their small size with a diameter of 17 mm and a weight of just under 2 g, they were very often lost and therefore could not establish themselves in the population. They kept flowing back to the Reichsbank , which is why the minting was discontinued after two years. On October 1, 1900, they were suspended.

The Prussian 5-mark gold coins, minted in Berlin in 1877, reached their highest mintage with over a million copies. It is estimated that a maximum of 10% of the originally minted five-mark gold coins still exist. A high proportion of the items offered today are counterfeit (see Schmidt-Hausmann forgeries ).

The emissions of all 20 and 10 mark pieces are roughly 3: 1, which today is usually expressed in a relatively higher collector's price for the 10 mark pieces.

This may lead to the conclusion that the state suspected that ordinary citizens were more likely to put a 10-mark gold piece on the “high edge” than a 20-mark piece. To make this more difficult, the number of 10-mark pieces issued was simply noticeably reduced in favor of 20-mark pieces, which made it more difficult for ordinary citizens to accumulate due to a lack of 10-gold-mark pieces.

The gold coins of the empire still in existence today are only fractions of the original mintage. The two world wars, consumption for industrial purposes, exports, etc. have reduced real stocks, in some cases drastically. It is estimated that around 10% of the 5-mark gold coins are still preserved. About 40–50% of the 10 and 20 gold mark pieces are still present.

The more common 20-mark gold coins from Prussia (Wilhelm I., Friedrich and Wilhelm II.), Hamburg (city arms) and also some years from Bavaria (Otto) and Württemberg (Karl and Wilhelm II.) Are now used as investment coins at bank counters and sold in precious metal trading in the usual banking condition with a small premium to the current precious metal price. In Germany in particular, double crowns are popular investment products alongside sovereigns , Austrian ducats as well as crowns and 20 francs from the Latin Coin Union .

Divisional coins

Small coins of the German Empire: in the top row pieces of copper, cupronickel and nickel, below the silver coins.

In contrast to the time before the founding of the empire, the smaller values ​​made of silver with a fineness of 9001000 were merely dividing coins , so their metal value was lower than their legal value. The one mark coin corresponded to exactly 5 g of fine silver; accordingly, 2-mark coins corresponded to 10 g of fine silver, 3-mark coins to 15 g of fine silver and 5-mark coins to 25 g of fine silver. In accordance with the precious metal cover, the fine silver content for 1 Mark coins would be 5.56 g (11.12 g for 2-Mark coins, 16.67 g for 3-Mark coins and 27.78 g for 5-Mark coins) must comply.

The pieces of 2, 3 and 5 marks had, like the gold coins, country-specific obverse sides and the unified reverse side of the empire. The small coins up to 1 mark were designed uniformly across the empire. The three- and five-mark pieces bore the marginal inscription GOTT MIT UNS, like most Prussian club thalers, the smaller denominations had a fluted edge. From 1901 on, commemorative coins were minted on special occasions that corresponded to the course coins in terms of rough and fine weight.

The Vereinstaler corresponded initially exactly 3 marks a fineness of 16.67 g of silver and was as such until 1907 as a coin 3 Mark in circulation. In 1908 the 3 mark coin was introduced and at the same time the thaler was suspended. Many thalers were already heavily used in circulation, since the last simple thalers were only minted until 1871.

The concept of taler was then carried over to the 3-mark piece until the Weimar Republic. The 5-pfennig piece was still called "Sechser" in the Berlin area up to our time, as half a silver groschen in Prussian currency was worth six pfenni (n). The term "groschen" for the 10-pfennig piece should still be well known.

The 20-pfennig coin made of silver was very small and filigree with a fineness of 1 g and accordingly wore out quickly, so that the coin was minted for only 5 years (1873–1877). Nevertheless, it was very popular with the population and had some nicknames , such as "Siebnerl", because it was exactly the value of 7 kreuzers of the southern German predecessor national currency  .

Dividing coins made of silver

  • 5 marks - fineness 25 g
  • 3 marks - fineness 15 g, minted from 1908, still often called thaler .
  • 2 marks - fineness 10 g
  • 1 mark - fineness 5 g
  • ½ mark - fineness 2.5 g
  • 50 pfennigs - fineness 2.5 g
  • 20 Pfennig - fineness 1 g, minted only until 1878

Dividing coins without precious metal content

Made of bronze and nickel alloys as well as pure nickel (25 Pfennig):

  • 25 Pfennig in Art Nouveau design
  • 20 pfennigs
  • 10 pfennigs (often called groschen )
  • 5 Pfennig (sometimes also called "six" in the Berlin area, since the previous half silver groschen was 6 pfennigs)
  • 2 pfennigs
  • 1 pfennig

During the First World War , coins made of aluminum , steel and zinc were minted.

Selection of mints

See also Münzprägeanstalt The mint is still stamped as a capital letter in every coin.

character Issue time Stamping point
from to
A. 1871 today Berlin
B. 1872 1878 Hanover dissolved in 1878
C. 1872 1879 Frankfurt am Main dissolved in 1880
D. 1872 today Munich
E. 1872 1887 Dresden
1887 1953 Muldenhütten dissolved in 1953
F. 1872 today Stuttgart
G 1872 today Karlsruhe
H 1872 1882 Darmstadt out of service since 1883
J 1875 today Hamburg
T 1916 1917 Tabora , German East Africa
Emergency coinage during the war

See also


  • Louis Rothschild: Handbook of all commercial science for older and younger merchants, as well as for manufacturers, traders, traffic officials, lawyers and judges. Edited by M. Haushofer et al., Verl. Für Sprach- u. Commercial Science, 1. – 4. Edition Berlin 1889 ( online edition: Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main 2002 ).
  • Arthur Suhle: The coin. From D. Beginnings up to modern European times. Koehler & Amelang publishing house, Leipzig 1970.
  • R. Telschow (Hrsg. :): All business dealings with the Reichsbank. A manual for the public. Verlag Dürr'sche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1893 (11th edition, Leipzig: Gloeckner 1912).
  • Reinhold Zilch: The history of the small Reichsbanknotes to 20 and 50 marks. National Museums in Berlin, Münzkabinett, No. 7, 1979.
  • Georg Obst: Money, banking and stock exchange. 1st edition. 1900; 32nd edition. Poeschel, Stuttgart 1948 (40th, completely revised edition), ed. by Jürgen von Hagen and Johannes Heinrich von Stein, Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel, 2000, ISBN 3-7910-1246-0 .
  • Friedrich Heinrich Schloessing: The merchant up to date. C. Regenhardt, Berlin 1908.
  • Heinrich Kaufmann: Annual report of the central association of German consumer associations for 1912 (including years). Verlagsges. German consumer associations, Hamburg 1913 (including years).
  • Kurt Jaeger: The German coins since 1871: with embossing numbers and ratings. 19th, adult Edition. Edited by Helmut Kahnt; H. Gietl Verlag, Regenstauf 2005, ISBN 3-924861-97-8 (reviews with current market prices; with all German euro coins).
  • Wolfgang Trapp , Torsten Fried: Handbook of coinage and money in Germany Reclam, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-15-010617-6 .
  • Jürgen Koppatz: Bank notes of the German Empire. Transpress, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-344-00300-3 .
  • Georg Bresin: On the coming national bankruptcy! Financial Reform or Financial Revolution? One way z. Reconstruction. Verlag Volksppolitik, Berlin-Wilmersdorf 1919, p. 17: “Zinsschuld Dt. Reich until 1911 ”.
  • "Reichs-Gesetzblatt" (different years from 1871 to 1890), Imperial Post Newspaper Office.
  • F.-W. Henning: The industrialization in Germany 1800 to 1914. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn / Zurich, 9th edition. 1995, ISBN 3-8252-0145-7 .
  • F.-W. Henning: The industrialized Germany 1914 to 1992. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn / Zurich, 8th edition. 1993, ISBN 3-8252-0337-9 .

Web links

Commons : Coins of the German Empire (1871–1918)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Mark banknotes of the German Reich  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Goldmark  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. RGBl. 1871, pp. 404-406 of December 4, 1871
  2. Coin Act and RGBl. 1873, pp. 233-240 of July 9, 1873
  3. RGBl. 1875 p. 303 of September 22, 1875
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 13, 2005 .