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On the Financial Brink, Germany: 20000 Mark (Weimar Republic, 1923)-Article

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

This Weimar-era banknote represents the 4th denomination of the 2nd Issue “Papiermark”, or Paper Mark. Formally known as either the “Republic Treasury Notes” or the “Weimar Republic Reichsbanknote”. Papiermark were first issued on 4 August 1914 and have their origin in World War I (1914-1918) Imperial Germany (Kaiserreich, 1871–1918). This particular note was first issued on the 20 Feb 1923, ending with the abolition of the Papiermark.

On 15 November 1923 Rentenmark was introduced and in theory replaced the Papiermark. Although the last Papiermark were issued, as late as 15 Mar 1924. In 1924 the Weimar Papiermark was fully replaced by the Reichsmark. The Reichsmark circulated from 1924 until 20/23 June 1948, in East and West Germany respectively. (Note: The Rentenmark continued to circulate along side the Reichsmark, throughout its entire history.)


This banknote is double-side, unlike some Papiermark denominations. Which are single-sided “coupon” style leaflets. The observe prominently displays the note's "20 000" value. The primary text list instructions regarding how to redeem the note. Listed is an option to redeem the note in “exchanged for other means of payment”.

Below the main text are the signatures of the directorate's administrative staff. The signatures are flanked by 2 Imperial Bank Directorate seals. To the note's left is secondary text, located on a small island. Warning to counterfeits and illicit distributors of counterfeit currency. It explicitly states a minimum of 2 years of imprisonment for offenders. This warning is flanked by 2 references to the note's "20000" mark value.

The observe outside of the beforementioned text island and main text area is left unprinted. The main text area is surrounded by an ornate border, printed in dark black ink. The background of the main text area is multi-shade, transitioning from lime green to a reddish orange. Partially obscured by the main text is a large ornate guilloché pattern.

This guilloché pattern serves as the center point, for the color shift. The ink will shift orange-red as one moves from the center. The remaining underprint appears to be simply a doted pattern. Although is in fact, formed from overlapping lines, created by a guilloché lathe. Making it more difficult for counterfeit to properly copy the banknote.


"Imperial Bank Note"
"Twenty Thousand Mark"
"The Imperial Bank head office in Berlin, pays this banknote to the consignor. From 1 July1923 the banknote can be called up and exchanged for other means of payment. Payment withdrawable from Berlin, on the 20 February1923."
"Imperial Bank Directorate"

-Primary Text-
“Anyone who counterfeits or falsifies banknotes, or distributes counterfeit or falsified banknotes, will be imprisoned for no less than two years.”
-Secondary Text-


The reverse shares some similar features to the observe. A large main text area and text island, with the remain note left unprinted. In regards to text, the reverse relatively sparse. The "text island" simple reads "REICHSBANKNOTE", or Imperial Banknote.

Despite this the main text area is highly ornate. Featuring the observe's multi-shade underprint, with its lime green to a reddish orange color shift. Although featuring a bold "20000" at its center, instead of the observe's guilloché pattern. This reverse pattern is far more ornate than the observe. Made almost entirely of precisely placed, overlapping guilloché patterns.

To the extent that even the border is composed of guilloché patterns. Unlike the observe, which features an overprint. Which is applied during the printing of the the main text and serial number (M-MN 967989). The only overprinted area of the reverse is the text "ZWANZIGTAUSAND" and "MARK". Which simply lists the note's 20000 Mark value, in text.

Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 160 x 95 mm or 6.30 x 3.74 in, larger than a US dollar.

  • It's advisable to use large note protectors, when preserving this note.

  • The German word 'Reich' directly translates to “realm”, although can be translated to “empire”. This article uses the empire definition, as it best fits the given context.

  • The majority of Papiermark feature only text, with some traditional engraving. Although some notes feature more intricate artwork, with portraits of historical German figures.

  • The highest Papiermark denomination was a 100 Trillion Mark note, issued on 15 Feb 1924. It features Renaissance-era humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530).

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