Emergency Coins Of Imperial Germany: 10 Pfennig (City of Coblenz, 1918)-Article

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

This WWI coin is a privately issued kriegsgeld (trans. war money) coin, issued by the City of Coblenz. Due to persistent war time shortages of coinage, Imperial Germany granted cities, municipalities and large firms the ability to issue their own private currency. Coins such as this, acted as a temporary substitute for Reichsbank (German Imperial Bank) issued coinage. (SEE: A Brief History of Notgeld)


Unlike many provisionally minted coins, this notmünze (emergency coin) is relatively detailed. The coin is a smooth-edged design made of iron and weighs 3 g. Its dimensions are 22.2 mm (0.874 in) wide and 1.25 mm (0.049 in) thick. Making it slightly small than a US Quarter (24.26 mm/0.955 in), in size.


Observe

The observe is practical in it's design, featuring a large number "10" at its center. This number 10 simply represents the coin's 10 Pfennig value. As list by the coin's wrap around text. The upper section list the as a "KRIEGSGELD" (war money) coin, produced in 1918. While lower lists the currency type, "PFENNIG". A pair of 6-point stars divide the upper and lower text.


Notably while it may seem redundant to list a currency type. Particularly during a time of immense shortage, such as late war Imperial Germany. It should recognized not tokens historically had a monetary value. Such as coin's employed for material exchange, such as rye or wheat grain.


Reverse

The reverse although somewhat pitted has some interesting details. At the center is the Coblenz Coat of Arms. A three pointed crown on a shield, bearing a cross. This detail is more important than might to be initially apparent. As the coin can only be redeemed for standard currency by the City of Coblenz. Much in the same way siege coins were used in previous centuries.


Another notable feature is the wrap around text. The top section simply states the coin's issuer, "COBLENZ". While the remainder sets the terms of the coin's redemption. Translated as "VALID UP TO 1 YEAR AFTER DECLRATION OF PEACE".


A Brief History of Notgeld

This 50 Pfennig notgeld was issued by the City of Brauschweig. The illustration is titled "Eulenspiegel as a lover".
A 50 Pfennig notgeld issued by the City of Brauschweig.

Notgeld has it's origin in 15th-18th century siege money. Which served as a temporary means of payment for besieged soldiers and labors alike. This time tested European tradition was later resurrected, by the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Due to panicked German and Austrian citizens hording silver coinage and banknotes, at the outbreak of WWI (1914-1918).


For the general collector, German notgeld can divided in to 4 distinct periods. The 1st period beginning with the outbreak of WWI. It featured very simple voucher/notes, issued by cities and municipalities. Notmünze (notgeld coins) of this era were typically tokens made of base metals, such as zinc/iron. In contrast to Reichsbank issued coins, which continued to use copper/nickel.

This 10 Pfennig notgeld coin was issued by the City of Coblenz (1918)..
A 10 Pfennig coin issued by the City of Coblenz (1918).

This 1st period was succeeded by a 2nd period, spanning from 1916-1921. Notably this period extended throughout the "late war" (1916-1918), German Revolution (1918-1919) and the early Weimar Republic (1918-1921). This period can be broken into distinct eras, "late war"(1916-1918) and "post-war" (1918-1921).


During the late war, notmünze were occasionally made of exotic materials. Such as porcelain and compressed coal dust. Notably some "late war" voucher/notes were made of cardboard, linen, and silk cloth. During this period Reichsbank coinage was debased to zinc, similar to early notmünze.

This 50 Pfennig notgeld was issued by the City of Kahla . The illustration features Friedrich "Muck" Lamberty and the "New Flock" youth group.
A 50 Pfennig notgeld issued by the City of Kahla (1921).

In regard's to the post-war, notgeld saw similarities to the late war. Although with some improvements, in regards to quality. Some notmünze in the post-war began utilizing brass. which were corrosion resistant. Unlike previously issued zinc/iron coins, that that had a shorter circulation life. Notably voucher/notes of this period range from simple text to elaborate illustrations. The latter driven by increasing demand from collectors.


As for the 3rd and 4th periods, notgeld was mostly issued as voucher/notes. Playing mostly a speculative/collector role, rather than an emergency measure. The expectations being a July 1922 strike at the Reichsdruckerei (Imperial Printing Press), causing a brief banknote shortage. And in August 1923, to address shortages caused by hyperinflation. These 2 events lead to the start of the 3rd and 4th periods. Notably lower value notes (25/50/75 Pfennig) of this period are very elaborate


Additional Notes

  • Notgeld refers to all forms of emergency currency issued in Germany/Austria.

  • The term "notgeld coin" is often colloquially used by some collectors for notmünze.

  • Kriegsgeld (war money) refers to all wartime notgeld, despite it being marked almost entirely on late war notmünze.

  • While not explicitly listed, this coin was minted by Gebrüder Kugel & Fink of Lüdenscheid.

  • While not widely known, Gebrüder Kugel & Fink was a prolific producer of notmünze.

  • Kriegsgeld was only redeemable for standard currency, after a set period after peacetime.

  • By 1918, base metal (zinc/iron) coinage had became scarce due to hording, due to the anticipation of German defeat.

  • Base metal shortages lead to the creation of porcelain and compressed coal dust coins.

  • Notgeld collectors will occasionally include WWI-era POW camp tokens in their collections.

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