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Borrowed Money, Loan Notes Of The Great War: 5 Marks (Imperial Germany, 1917)-Article

Updated: Apr 8

This WWI banknote represents the 2nd version of the 5 Mark Darlehenskassenscheine, issued by Imperial Germany. Darlehenskassenscheine (lit. Loan-Cash Certificate) were a special currency, that paralleled the wartime Papiermark and Goldmark. The notes were backed by loans on industrial and agricultural goods. In accordance with the Loan Fund Act of August 4, 1914 (RGBl. P. 340).

These notes were issued during WW1 (1914-1918) and the early Weimar Republic (1919-1923). For most Germans they were considered a de-facto currency. Until the introduction of the Reichsmark (Imperial Mark), in 1924. Which also paralleled the Retenmark (Mortgage Mark), introduced in November 1923. (Read our article "On the Financial Brink, Germany", for additional details on post-war Papiermark.)


The ornate observe notably features an illustration of a young woman, along the note's right. In the young women's hair we can see decorates of wheat and flowers. This is a symbolic connection the fertility goddess Freyja, associated with spring (flowers) and the harvest (wheat).

The right of the observe somewhat forms its own section, complete with ornate borders. At the corners of the illustration's frame we can see small number "5"s, representing the note's 5 mark value. Below the illustration is a large number "5", resting on a large multilayer floral guilloché pattern.

Moving toward the center-right is the note's header. It reads "Darlehenskassenscheine" (Loan Note), notifying the bearer the note is not a standard banknote. Above and below this header are a pair of borders displaying number 5s in sequence. To the left is the Reichsadler (Imperial Eagle), symbol of the German Empire.

Moving below we see the note's main text, stating the note's "Five Mark" value. The text below states the note was produced in Berlin 1 August 1917, by the Imperial Debt Administration. Further below is a set of signatures from various officials.

At the note's footer is a warning to would be counterfeiters. Threating no less than two years of imprisonment, for falsifying or knowingly procuring falsified debt notes. To the left is an additional number 5, on a guilloché pattern.


"Debt Note"
-Header Text-
“Five Marks"
"Berlin, 1 August 1917"
"Imperial Debt Administration"
-Main Text-
"Whoever falsifies or counterfeits debt notes, procures falsified or counterfeit debt notes, and bring them into circulation, will be imprisoned for no less than two years."
-Sub Text-


The reverse features a highly ornate illustration, with the Staatskrone (State Crown) at its center. This imagine displays a degree of engraving expertise. The German State Crown rest on a shield decorated by oak leaves. On close inspection small intricate details can be made out on the crown.

Below the beforementioned shield is an ornate 2 layered backing, in addition to the note's underprint. The first layer integrates into the top and bottom of the note's outer frame. Notably this layer has a somewhat "Celtic" design. Alternating number "5"s and floral guilloché pattern can seen along the rounded sides of the frame.

The layer beneath integrates into the top and bottom of the note's outer frame. Presumably this section was printed as a base layer with outer frame and underprint. On close inspection this underprint appears as diamond-shaped sections. Which feature alternating microprint of the Reichsadler and a orb-shaped embellishment.

Moving toward the frame we can see "5"s on each corner, reinforcing the note's 5 Mark value. Additional "5"s can be seen in regular intervals along the remainder of the frame. Each of these numbers is flanked by additional embellishments.

Finally we can see the last of the note's overprinted elements. In black ink we see the header "Darlehenskassenscheine" (trans. Loan Note). This is followed the note's value "Fünf Mark" or Five Marks", reinforced by the large number "5" below. Flanking this large number "5" are Imperial Debt Administration logos.

Notably at a quick glance these logos may be mistaken las being the same image. Although they are a form of security stamp. The style of wrap around text differs between longs. The left logo is printed as a positive (printed letters/unprinted backing), while the right is a negative (unprinted letters/printed backing).

Completing the reverse is the dual serial number (U*9938788), printed in red ink on the lower left and upper right. Much like the beforementioned overprint, in black ink. This serial number is latter added to a complete note blank. Serving the basic purpose of documentation and deterring counterfeiters. As some counterfeiters will used repeated or wrong serial numbers.

This serial number is reinforced by a watermark, along the surface of the note. This particular note features number "5"s, split by long wave-like curves.

Example: This 5 Mark Darlehenskassenscheine (1914) displays a "5 and wave" watermark. These Loan Notes were issued as an alternate currency during WWI.
Watermark Example: 5 Mark Darlehenskassen. (1914)


"Debt Note"
"Five Mark"
-Primary Text-
"Imperial Debt Administration"
-Left/Right Stamps-

Additional Notes

  • The note's dimensions are 125 x 80 mm or 4.92 x 3.15 in, shorter than a US Dollar.

  • The note's text is printed in a type of Gothic script, known as Fraktur.

  • Fraktur can be difficult to read for some people, due to its stylized letters.

  • Darlehnskassenschein were based on earlier Prussian notes, issued from 1848 to 1851.

  • Prussian Darlehnskassenschein were exchangeable for silver Thalers, from 1852-1855.

  • German Darlehnskassenschein were legally not exchangeable for Goldmarks.

  • This prohibition extended to all other alternative German currencies.

  • While not formal banknotes, all state treasuries were obligated to accept them.

  • WWI Papiermark are marked as Reichskassenschein (Imperial Banknote).


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