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Folio: Wenzel Hablik's Notgeld

When hyperinflation gripped Germany in the 1920s, Notgeld replaced the official currency as the German Mark plummeted – worth more as children’s play material than the monetary value printed on it

50 pfennig note 1921 wenzel hablik collectors item itzehoe plan folio architectural review

50 pfennig note 1921 wenzel hablik collectors item itzehoe plan folio architectural review

50 pfennig note 1921 wenzel hablik collectors item folio architectural review

50 pfennig note 1921 wenzel hablik collectors item folio architectural review

During the First World War, the Reichsbank in Germany was physically unable to print enough money. Notgeld (‘emergency money’) was unofficially issued by city authorities in its place. After the initial economic necessity had passed at the end of the war, Notgeld was printed as collectors’ items, such as this 50 Pfennig note designed in 1921 by Wenzel Hablik, an Expressionist artist and designer. A plan of Itzehoe, where Hablik lived, is integrated into its design. From 1922 onwards, however, as hyperinflation took hold and the Mark plummeted in value, Notgeld was reintroduced and denominations rocketed – into the trillions by November 1923. At this point, the Mark was declared valueless, finding more worth as play material and building bricks for children.

German children playing with valueless marks 1923 hyperinflation gettyimages folio architectural review

German children playing with valueless marks 1923 hyperinflation gettyimages folio architectural review

Source: Albert Harlingue / Roger Viollet / Getty Images

This piece is featured in the AR September issue on money – click here to purchase your copy today