Cold, Hard Notgeld: “Es dreht sich alles um die Benjamins”

In these trying economic times, when money is harder to come by, a lot of us wish we could simply print our own. I was reminded that I’m not the first to come up with this not too long ago. Walking through a flea market I came across some German paper notes that struck me as not exactly legal tender but more official looking than any “play money” I’ve seen. The vendor selling it didn’t seem to have an idea what they were. They appeared to be from the 1920’s or 30’s. I bought 12 (always a  surreal transaction to buy money with…money) of them.  Eventually I  showed them to Nora Krug, a colleague at Parsons (a talented illustrator) and my connection to all things German. Nora identified it as Notgeld, German inflation money. And passed on some links.


(Above) Some of the Notgeld I came across at a flea market.

Notgeld was German paper currency issued in small denominations to replace coins due to a metal shortage during and after WWI. It was produced from 1914 -1923. This “Emergency money” was not issued by the federal government , but by local towns, cities or even large private businesses, and was usually only accepted in that particular town. The notes were done in a variety of artistic styles and depicted numerous subject matter. Local legends, anti-semitism, famous people, cartoons about money (collecting taxes) or being poor…

(Below) The Golem, a subject close to my heart has appeared on Notgeld


I’ll leave the comprehensive lists of genres and subject matter up to the expert sites. Notgeld became collectible almost immediately, thereby furthering their value. At some point the notes were produced based on their collectibility alone and were not intended to be circulated. There are a number of sites with notgeld galleries ( for one), and they show up for sale on ebay every so often.

lesnotgeld2(Above) My first attempt at creating a Notgeld note. I can’t really say who the gentleman is on the front. An eastern potentate? An earlier version of this note was palmed off on Nora for her birthday.


ponzitendollarblogIn the spirit of inflationary 20’s Germany, I propose we institute the following emergency notes (see above), the five and ten denomination Ponzi. Charles Ponzi , is of course, the patriarch of modern day financial swindlers (patron saint?). His name is  synonymous with financial pyramid schemes, and I believe he deserves recognition for his continued involvement in our economy. I personally will be purchasing loaves of bread with my ponzis (Pz) as fast as I can print ’em up. Have no fear though, our engraving dept. is hard at work on larger denominations (the Madoff) too for those bigger ticket luxury items . Please rest assured that when you pay for goods or services with a ponzi, that the note is backed by the full weight of our fiduciary institution and is kept stable through worldwide, state of the art electronic monetary/payments, and can be exchanged for a lesser or equal amount of ponzis which are normally freely convertible into pre-set, fixed quantities.


2 Responses

  1. Nice!!!

    Weimar (Thuringen), 1000000 Mark, 1923
  2. Jeff, the flickr page you left has a wonderful collection of Notgeld. Really striking designs! Thanks for coming across with the url. Your expect an extra million marks in your next paycheck.

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