Printing money: collecting million mark notes from the Weimar Republic


In Germany between the two world wars, inflation rose to such a point in the early '20s that a loaf of bread cost a million or more marks. Cities and townships printed their own money in a desperate attempt to work around this hyper-inflation. They were known as notgeld, or emergency money.

With Zimbabwe experiencing a similar rise in inflation (according to this report, a 100 billion Zimbabwe dollar note will not buy a loaf of bread today) and worries about our own U.S. inflation, it bears thinking about what happens when governments start printing money willy nilly to meet its debt obligations, much like our own U.S. Treasury is sometimes accused of today.

It's too early to say whether the U.S. Greenback will ever become as worthless as the Weimar era German Mark or the Zimbabwe dollar (and given the outrageous, anti-free market moves our esteemed Republican administration has engaged in, anything is possible, I suppose.) But in the spirit of the times, I celebrate the beauty of "emergency money," in whatever form it takes.

German Notgeld are beautiful pieces of paper money, often small works of art, featuring Expressionistic renderings of the given locale and its traditions. They're collected in Europe as practical yet lovely relics of a difficult time. There's not a large market for them in this country yet, as far as collectibles go, but that could change, if old money collectors start feeling like tapping into current events.

I wonder what this country's unemployed graphic artists could do, given the opportunity to design a local currency. A San Francisco $10 million note (good for two cups of espresso)? Think of the design possibilities!