The Real Value of Money
A One-Million Mark note issued in 1923 during the period of hyperinflation
These images help to illustrate the state of the German economy between the two world wars. Following the end of the Great War (1914-18) and the punishing of Germany under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the country fell into a very deep economic recession. The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It was signed on 28 June 1919. Although the armistice signed on 11 November 1918 ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the to the peace treaty conclude.
Article 231 of the Treaty blamed Germany solely for the war and much of the Treaty set out how much Germany would have to pay to the Allies.
The total sum of war payments demanded from Germany was 226 billion Reichsmarks in gold (around £11.3 billion). In 1921, it was reduced to 132 billion Reichsmarks (almost £5 billion). It was estimated that it would take until 1988 for Germany to finish paying this sum to the Allies.
As a result of these reparations the German economy came close to bankruptcy and inflation soared to unprecedented levels, what is often described as ‘hyperinflation'. As a result of this the Reichsbank was forced to print larger and larger denomination notes as the Mark became worth less and less. Before the war one pound (£1) was equivalent to approximately 5 German Marks. After the war the German bank began to issue notes in denominations of 10,000 (ten thousand) marks, 20,000 (twenty thousand) marks, 1,000,000 (one million) marks and eventually a note as large as 5,000,000,000 (five billion) marks. To save printing more money the Reichsbank often took issued notes such as a 1,000 Mark note and re-issued it with "1,000,000,000 Marks" stamped across it.
This did not mean that the people of Germany had become suddenly rich - quite the opposite. Stories spread across Europe of German people needing to take so much money to the shops to buy basic provisions that they would have to carry it there in a wheelbarrow. By 1923 German currency notes had become so worthless people began to use them as wallpaper.
In the same year a medal was issued, commemorating Germany's hyperinflation. The engraving reads: "On 1st November 1923 1 pound of bread cost 3 billion, 1 pound of meat: 36 billion, 1 glass of beer: 4 billion."
The notes in these attachements were mostly issued in by the German Reichsbank in 1923 at the height of the 'hyperinflation' when the value of the currency plummeted to the point that a loaf...