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Take a look at Weimar German coins
By Fred Glueckstein
May 17, 2017

The Weimar Republic is the name given to the German government between the end of the Imperial period in 1918 and the beginning of Nazi Germany in 193). It was so named because the assembly that adopted its constitution met at Weimar from Feb. 6 to Aug. 11, 1919.

At the opening of the first session of the German National Assembly, Friedrich Ebert, the first president of the Weimar Republic, addressed the gathering. Representing the hope of many, Ebert said in part: “The German people are free, and will remain free henceforward for all time. This freedom is the only hope which remains to the German people, the only way by which it can extricate itself from the quagmire of the war, and of defeat.”

When the Weimar Republic came into being, my father Joseph, born in Kitzingen, Germany, was seven years old. In 1936, three years after Adolph Hitler became German chancellor, Joseph now 24 years of age would have observed a change in the design of German coins by the Third Reich.

This article reviews the design of the coinage of the Weimar Republic beginning in 1919 up to 1933, when the Nazi rise to power brought it and German parliamentary democracy to an end. 


The First Weimar Republic Coins

During 1923-1924, the monetary system of the Weimar Republic had 100 Rentenpfennig equal 1 Rentenmark, which was tied to industrial and agricultural resources rather than to gold. Commencing in 1924, 100 Reichspfennig equaled 1 Reichsmark, a monetary unit pegged to gold.

The first mark coinage minted by the Weimar Republic was the 50 pfennig in 1919. On the obverse, the denomination appeared above the date. The reverse depicted a sheaf behind the inscription embossed in Germanic scrip “Gich regen bringt Gegen,” which has been best translated to “hard work brings its own reward.” The mintmark appeared below the sheaf. The 50 pfennig was struck in aluminum and was minted in Berlin, Munich, Muldenhutten, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Hamburg. The 50 pfennig was minted through 1922.

The other mark coinage minted was the 3 mark, 200 mark, and 500 mark and were issued only in 1922 and 1923. On the obverse, each had the denomination above the word MARK and was followed by the date and mintmark. The reverse showed an eagle. Each was struck in aluminum.


Rentenmark Coinage 1923-1929

During the period from 1923 to 1929, the Weimar Republic issued itsrentenmark coinage. It included the 1 rentenpfennig and 2 rentenpfennig in bronze, and the 5, 10 and 50 rentenpfennig in aluminum-bronze. The 5 and 10 rentenpfennig displayed the denomination within a square; an oak leaf entwined each side of the square. The 50 rentenpfennig also displayed the denomination within a square. The reverse showed six grain sprigs forming a center triangle above the date.


Reichsmark Coinage 1924-1938

In 1924, the Weimar Republic replaced the aluminum rentenmark coinage with reichsmark coinage struck in bronze, aluminum-bronze, nickel, and silver. The coinage was circulated into 1938, and these coins exemplify an outstanding array of monetary designs that reflect a history of Germany. It also is a superb variety of coins to collect as many are available and affordable. It should be noted that some of the Weimar coinage cited below was minted early into the Nazi period.

The reichsmark coinage included: the reichspfennig (1924-1936 bronze), 2 reichspfennig (1923-1936 bronze), 4 reichspfennig (1932 bronze), 5 reichspfennig (1924-1937 aluminum-bronze), 10 reichspfennig (1924-1936 aluminum-bronze), 50 reichspfennig (1924-25 aluminum-bronze), 50 reichspfennig (1927-38 nickel), mark (1924-1925 silver), 2 reichsmark (1925-1931 silver) 3 Mark (1924-1925 silver), and 5 reichsmark (1925-1932 silver). 

The most interesting reichsmark coinage minted by the Weimar Republic was the 3 and 5 reichsmark commemoratives struck in silver. The reverse of the 3 and 5 reichsmark displayed artistic subjects on the commemoration pieces, which included the 1000th Year of the Rhineland; 700 Years of Freedom for Lubeck; 100th Anniversary of Bremerhaven; 400th Anniversary of Philipps University in Marburg; Death of Albrecht Dürer; Waldeck-Prussia Union; 10th Anniversary–Weimar Constitution; Death of Goethe, and the Liberation of the Rhineland.


3 and 5 reichsmark of the Graf Zeppelin

The 3 and 5 reichsmark of the Graf Zeppelin is another beautiful example of the commemorative issued by the Weimar Republic. The Graf Zeppelin, a passenger-carrying hydrogen filled airship, was commemorated on the coins for its Round-the-World flight in August 1929. The flight was made in five legs. The Graf Zeppelin left Lakehurst, N.J., on Aug.  7, 1929. It traveled to Friedrichshafen, Germany, and then to Tokyo, Los Angeles, returned to Lakehurst, and traveled to Friedrichshafen again on Sept. 4, 1929.

On the obverse of the 3 and 5 reichsmark of the Graf Zeppelin coins is a large portrayal of an eagle, which is centrally displayed. Circling the eagle is the wording DEUTSCHES REICH 1930. Below the eagle reads the denomination of 3 or 5 REICHSMARK. The reverse has the Graf Zeppelin shown across the center from edge to edge. Behind the Graf Zeppelin is a globe representing its world flight. The wording at the top reads: GRAF ZEPPELIN. The bottom reads: WELTFLUG [WORLD FLIGHT] 1929; above it the mintmark appears such as A [Berlin]. An inscription can also be found around the rim of the coin.

The rise of the Nazis would soon destroy the Weimar Republic and German governmental democracy. On Aug. 12, 1933, The Wall Street Journal reported from Berlin: “The 14th anniversary of the promulgation of the Weimar Constitution, founding the German republic, went unnoticed Friday. While there was no formal ban on observance, it was plainly indicated celebrations were unwelcome.”

By 1936, the Nazis began to change the design of German coinage. Its obverse now depicted an eagle perched on a wreathed swastika. For those interested in world coins, and German history prior to the Third Reich, collecting the coinage of the Weimar Republic from 1919-1933 is definitely worth bearing in mind.

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