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Borrowed Money, Loan Notes Of The Great War: 50 Marks (Imperial Germany, 1914)-Article

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

This WWI banknote represents the 5th denomination Darlehenskassenscheine (1914), 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 observe features a dual image underprint, including a pair of seals. The left seal features a pair of crossed scepters, overlaid by a Zweihänder great sword and the Staatskrone (State Crown). While the right seal features Imperial German Coat of Arms. the underprint also includes a pair of number "50"s. Moving note's header, it reads "Darlehenskassenscheine" (Loan Note). Notifying the bearer the note is not a standard banknote.

While a peripheral design, the beforementioned Zweihänder has great significance in German culture. As the iconic weapon of the Landsknecht mercenaries, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519. These great swords were noted for their great weight, requiring two hands to wield. In addition to their false edge, which allowed an extra grip for fighting close-in at "half sword".

Moving below we see the note's main text, stating the note's "Fifty 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. These signatures are flanked by a pair of Imperial Debt Administration stamps.

Unlike most notes, this notes features a dual footer, not to be confused with split text. This footer is a warning to would be counterfeiters, threating no less than two years of imprisonment, For falsifying or knowingly procuring falsified debt notes.


"Debt Note"
-Header Text-
“Fifty Marks"
"Berlin, 5 August 1914"
"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 highly ornate mirror illustrations, of a crowned figure bearing a scepter. Presumably this figure represents a young version of Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941). Both of these images are divided by an ornate frame. Features floral embellishments at the frame's joints.

Over this frame and illustration is ornate Gothic-style script. We can see the note's header, it reads "Darlehenskassenscheine" (trans. Loan Note), reinforcing the note's type. This is followed the note's value "Fünfzig Mark" or Fifty Marks", reinforced by the large number "50" below. The note's dual serial numbers (R*Nr 4911328) can be seen at the lower left and upper right.

This serial number is reinforced by a watermark, along the surface of the note. This particular note features the Imperial German Coat of Arms, running in sequence along the observe right.

Example: This 50 Mark Darlehenskassenscheine (1917) displays a Reichsadler watermark. These Loan Notes were issued as an alternate currency during WWI.
Watermark Example: 50 Mark Darlehenskassen. (1917)


"Debt Note"
"Fifty Mark"
-Primary Text-

Additional Notes

  • The note's dimensions are 150 x 100 mm or 5.91 x 3.94 in, larger 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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