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Emergency Coins Of Imperial Germany: 50 Pfennig (Imperial Germany, Unknown)-Article

This large WWI coin is a privately issued notmünze (trans. emergency coin). It represented the 4th denomination of the provisionally minted "Werth Marke" (token). Due to persistent shortages of coinage, Imperial Germany granted cities, municipalities and large firms the ability to issue their own private currency. Tokens such as this, acted as a temporary substitute for Reichsbank (German Imperial Bank) issued coinage. (SEE: A Brief History of Notgeld)

Like many provisionally minted coins, Werth Marke coins feature a simple design. The coin is a smooth-edged design made of iron and weighs 4.16 g. Its dimensions are 25.5 mm (1.0 in) wide and 1.2 mm (0.047 in) thick. Making it roughly similar to a US Quarter (24.26 mm/0.955 in), in size.


The observe is simple, with a large number "50". This number 50 simply represents the coin's 50 Pfennig value. The text above reads "WERTH MARKE", it simply translates to "token". Below the number number 50, is a counterstruck stamp. It reads "THW", representing the tokens issuer.

Unfortunately finding the meaning of these initials has proven difficult to identified. Although notably this stamp will vary based on issuer. This feature is simply added to a mass produced blank, rather than having the final issuer produce the coin themselves.

Additionally the coin features some beading. Below the counterstruck stamp are 10 beads in a row. This feature will vary based on denomination, which use a similar design although differ in size. Although worn, the inner rim features beading along its length.


The reverse is relatively blank only featuring a large number "50", repeating the coin's 50 Pfennig value. Notably the reverse is often left without a counterstruck stamp. Just as the observe the reverse features a beaded inner rim.

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.

  • 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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