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When Money Was Just Dough

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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