Notgeld (“emergency” or “necessity money”) refers to money issued by cities in Germany and Austria during the 1920s, a period of rapid and rabid inflation. On the national level, Marks and Pfennigs in Germany and Heller in Austria were virtually worthless in the marketplace. But on the local level, banks and other institutions could establish rates of worth based on common consent and issue ersatz currency.
Notgeld notes were exchanged for goods and services. They were also imaginatively designed by local artists and letterers as the examples below show.
As the issuing bodies realized their worth as collectables, they continued to issue the notes beyond their economic necessity. Bills that were issued in 1920 and predominantly in 1921 were usually extremely colorful and depicted many subjects, such as local buildings, local scenes and local folklore/tales.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →