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Collecting Notgeld

Updated on September 10, 2014

Buying and Collecting Notgeld Banknotes

Notgeld, also known as emergency money, is a fun and inexpensive collection to make. This page will focus on the banknotes, although Notgeld were also issued as coins. These banknotes are colorful and feature many interesting topics for collectors. Their popularity has increased over the last 20 years but they are still affordable. I am a collector (I collect mostly the Serienscheine) and will show you some of my collection as well as some pointers and basic information for those who want to collect and buy Notgeld. I am not a specialist, but you will find many links to the resources and websites.

Unless otherwise noted, all the banknotes photos on this page are from my collection.

Halloween Themed Notgeld

Obviously not issued as an Halloween commemorative piece at the time, these can certainly appeal to Halloween collectors.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thale Notgeld: bacchanalsThale Notgeld: witches worshiping the devilThale Notgeld: bacchanalsThale Notgeld: witches on broomKahla Notgeld: witchcraftIlsenburg Notgeld: witch and owl
Thale Notgeld: bacchanals
Thale Notgeld: bacchanals
Thale Notgeld: witches worshiping the devil
Thale Notgeld: witches worshiping the devil
Thale Notgeld: bacchanals
Thale Notgeld: bacchanals
Thale Notgeld: witches on broom
Thale Notgeld: witches on broom
Kahla Notgeld: witchcraft
Kahla Notgeld: witchcraft
Ilsenburg Notgeld: witch and owl
Ilsenburg Notgeld: witch and owl

You don't Need to Speak German to Enjoy Collecting Notgeld

It sure help when it comes to know more about the little verse on the banknotes, but in this age of internet you can find all the information you want with a little search on the net.

Deutsches Notgeld.
Deutsches Notgeld.
Comes in 2 volumes, 900 pages, over 4000 illustrations, lots in color, prices in euros, alphabetic listing. Covering the period: 1918-1922. This is an excellent reference book, a good investment in long term.

A Good Notgeld Catalog Is Always Useful

I do not have one currently, but will eventually invest in one. Just because a good Notgeld catalog provides handy information and helps in keeping tracks of what you have and what you want. If you are only starting, a catalog is not necessary. Interesting yes, useful certainly, but not absolutely necessary. Please also keep in mind also that the good ones are in German.

This is the one I will eventually buy:

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Hameln) - 2 colorful and fun set from my collection

Hameln notgeld
Hameln notgeld

Zu Hameln war einst grosse Not.

Viel Ratzen gab's und wenig Brot.

Sie frassen alles gross und klein.

Das macht die Bürgern grosse Pein

Once upon a time, the town of Hamelin had a huge problem.

Too many rats, too little bread!

The rats fed on everything large and small

causing the townsfolk a great deal of harm.

You can learn more about this legend here:The Pied Piper Of Hamelin

Pied Piper notgeld
Pied Piper notgeld
German Notgeld: Saint George slaying a dragon
German Notgeld: Saint George slaying a dragon

What Is A Notgeld

Notgeld literally means "necessity money" (or emergency money). In Germany, during World War I, metal was needed for weapon and war effort so the central bank gave authorization to towns and local industries to issue paper money to face shortage of metal. These banknotes were to be use locally.

"Notgeld was mainly issued in the form of (paper) banknotes. Sometimes other forms were used, as well: coins, leather, silk, linen, stamps, aluminium foil, coal, and porcelain; there are also reports of elemental sulfur being used, as well as all sorts of re-used paper and carton material (e.g. playing cards). These pieces made from playing cards are extremely rare and are known as "Spielkarten", the German word for "playing card"."Wikipedia

These first ones were so colorful and interesting that they became popular among collectors. So, as good business entities, the German towns continue to print these even after they where no longer needed, from 1918 to 1922. Sets upon sets were produced to fill the collector's demand. Collecting them is nothing new!

Bad Lippspringe Notgeld
Bad Lippspringe Notgeld

Types of Notgeld

Serienscheine: issued between 1918 and 1922. These are found in mint condition and often were made as sets. They were not meant for circulation, but for collectors. They will mainly depict a city`s cultural heritage: famous people, architecture, lore and legends, historical highlights. They are the colorful ones.

Verkehrsausgaben and Grossnotgeld: these were issued for circulation. The ones under 1 Mark denomination are called Verkehrsausgaben and those over 1 Mark are the Grossnotgeld.

Inflation 1922 and 1923: your chance to own a banknote with a face value of 1 million to 1 trillion! Now talk about inflation.

Halle Zoologischer Garten - From my collection: Halle zoo

Halle Zoologischer Garten notgeld
Halle Zoologischer Garten notgeld

This set was bought on an online auction, in a bidding war. Really a beautiful set of 5 banknotes, depicting some residents of the Halle zoological garden.

Lubeck notgeld
Lubeck notgeld

Where Can I Buy Notgeld

Most of my collection has been bought online. I never bought anything from a "real" store nor at collector's shows because most of the time I know I will get a better deal online. As for all collection, you have to know what it's worth before buying anything, unless of course you really want to have it and price is not a problem. I don't have a catalog (I will invest in one eventually) but I do research prices online before bidding or buying. Unless it's a piece I really really want, in that case I can bid whatever it takes for me to have it.

If you are starting to collect, you may want to start by buying some small lots to get you started. If like me you prefer to buy banknotes on particular topics, you can browse the internet to find what is available on your favorite subjects. I buy the following topics: animals, witches, Christmas scenes and anything that is unusual or with an interesting design. Or you can also specialized in a particular region. The main thing is collect what you like.

Buying Notgeld Online

Here`s a few online stores and collectors selling them

Hamburg Zoo Notgeld Set - Set from my collection

Hamburg zoo notgeld: A beautiful set from 1922, great saturated colors, very nice!
Hamburg zoo notgeld: A beautiful set from 1922, great saturated colors, very nice! | Source

The Art of Notgeld

These banknotes are little piece of art. Many designs are from the Art Deco and Arts and crafts movements. Although some are very simple, many are tiny piece of workmanship featuring lots of small details: column, friezes, arabesques.

The topics are various, each town wanting to show off its more interesting aspects. Among topics often depicted:

-Architecture, notable buildings

-Famous people

-Industry and crafts


-Demon, devils, witches

-Historical events

Here`s an interesting read:

Notgeld depicting Red Cross - Helmstedt Rotes Kreuz

Helmstedt notgeld red cross
Helmstedt notgeld red cross

Buy Notgeld Serienscheine on Auction - The colorful sets

Price on Serienscheine depends on 2 factor: rarity (obviously) and also topic. Some topic attracts collectors from various niche. One good example is Christmas. Christmas themed banknotes attract, along with banknotes collectors, those who collect either Christmas or religious paper ephemera. Same goes for many other topics.

Are You a Notgeld Collector?

See results

© 2008 Nathalie Roy


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